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Setting Goals with Your Children the Right Way

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There’s a saying: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” In other words, if you want different results, you need to change your actions. It’s true for everyone—even kids! Even they need a fresh start sometimes—a chance to move past old mistakes or tackle the challenges we all face with renewed optimism. This can be done by setting goals with them.

Your child could likely benefit from taking a new approach in some area of her life like school, extra-curricular pursuits or everyday goal setting. A new plan may be just the thing your child needs to tackle things with confidence and do their best! One of the most effective methods for setting goals is the acronym S.M.A.R.T. According to Paul J. Meyer, effective goals must be:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Action-oriented

R – Realistic

T – Time Bound

When helping your children set goals, whether it is to bring up a grade in math class, improving their baseball skills, or choosing a college, walk through the S.M.A.R.T. method with them.


Many times we make the mistake of generalizing our goals. For example, instead of saying, “I want to improve in math,” encourage your child to use the S.M.A.R.T. method to set a detailed goal: “I want to improve my math grade from a C- to a B- by the end of this semester by studying one extra hour each week and having Mom quiz me before tests.”


You will notice in that example the goal was to move from a C- to a B-, which shows the second part of the method. The goal needs to be measurable. General goals of “just wanting to improve” are not good enough. “Improving” can mean a lot of things and will make it easier to quit. Having a measurable goal helps them know when an improvement has been made. Then when a measurable goal has been met it can be celebrated and a new higher goal can be set.


When setting goals with your child make sure you think through and assign activities that will help him/her reach the goal. For example, if the goal is to improve a grade from a C to a B then an action-oriented goal could be to study every night for at least an hour. Another action-oriented goal could be to always work on and complete homework before dinner (if possible). After you have helped your children set their goals, create the steps to attain them. Include checkpoints of progress, such as having them talk with their coach or teacher.


Goals also need to be both challenging and realistic. While goals will help instill motivation in your kids, setting unrealistic goals will only create frustration. Make sure their goals are attainable and beneficial — not only in the end result but in the process as well.

Time Bound

Finally, set a time schedule when the goal needs to be met. This puts a sense of urgency around the goal. Without this restraint, goals tend to go unmet. Teaching your kids how to set effective goals will not only benefit them now but will prove to be a valuable skill when they are adults.

Tell us! What are some goals you have set with your kids lately?


What are your goals for school this year?

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