We frequently set goals for ourselves; parents set their sights on goals for their children and therapists identify skill areas to build upon for the children they work with. There is a reason why we make a new years resolution with each year that passes- it is motivating to set your sights on something new. Goal setting can be fun; encourage kids to join in!
Make goals less of an obligation and more of a motivation by encouraging children to speak for themselves. You will be surprised with what they come up with. As children are not usually asked to set goals themselves (and in fact it is quite an abstract question at that), below is a framework for discussing goal-setting with children.
How To Goal Set With Children:
- Present goal setting as a form of “wish list” for children. These wishes can be as big as they would like them to be, such as what a child wants to be when they grow up, getting a pet that they have been desperately asking for or earning more of an allowance each week. This makes a goal tangible and relevant to every child.
- Get more specific by organizing these wishes into certain areas of life. Examples are listed below:
- Personal- practice piano 30 minutes per day.
- Social- limit phone calls to 30 minutes on school nights.
- Family- plan a family activity at least every two weeks.
- Academic- clean out my backpack before bed every night.
- Physical – learn to pass the ball to teammates during soccer practice.
- Set short-term goals that are to be attained before reaching larger, more long-term goals. Short-term goals should be a part of an action plan (a specific description of what a child must do to get to the ultimate goal).
- For example, before a pet joins the family, a child must show responsibility by independently making their bed and sorting their laundry.
- Make these goals measurable so that a child knows “when” and “how” this goal is achieved.
- Mark progress! If a child remembered to do laundry 3 days out of the 5 days, this is a HUGE improvement from before the child started doing laundry- celebrate it.
- Think of how exciting that trip to the scale was when you’ve lost your first few pounds- it keeps you going. Help your child keep going by celebrating baby steps.
- Charts, stickers, announcements via white-board or at the dinner table serve to encourage children and keep them on track.
Including a child in setting their own goals can lead to greater outcomes through increased motivation and personal investment in each goal. It empowers kids and changes the conversation from “you have to do” to “what do you want to do? How can you make it happen?” Keep in mind that goals can be individual or family-wide. Take advantage of this New Year to start healthy and fun habits at home by setting goals that require the whole family to work together.