By Julie Kucks
Setting goals is important. Research over the years has proven that setting goals improves self-confidence, instills a growth mindset, and builds skills in young students that are helpful in future career building.
Some young students may be daunted at the idea of setting goals. This may come from a fear of failing to reach those goals or a difficulty envisioning future success. Whatever the reason, it is helpful for students to remember that goals are simply actions that they want to take.
But goal setting, while simple, does not come naturally. It is a skill that needs to be taught.
One of CHP’s personal goals is to foster self-determination and self-direction in students. Goal setting personalizes a student’s academic process, ensuring their academic journey is driven by their desires and motivation. Rather than stressing students with rigid expectations for success, we believe it is empowering to help them determine their own success based on personal goals.
CHP loves to work on this with your children at school. But we also need the help of all our parents! We thought it’d be useful at the start of the school year to supply some ideas for how you can encourage a goal setting habit in your elementary and middle school aged children at home.
“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things”
Goal Setting for Middle Schoolers
Journaling SMART Goals
Students do not live in an academic bubble. It is important for them to realize how their academic life harmonizes with their life in other areas and how goal setting in one area can assist in setting goals academically.
Have your middle schooler pick out a special journal just for this purpose and write down these 6 different life areas.
- Screen Time
Next, have your child create 1-2 SMART goals for each area. SMART is a common goal setting guideline and stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound. For instance, a specific goal in the health arena might be “I want to increase my flexibility.” Measurable goals might be, “I will practice 6 different stretches every other day for 15 minutes.”
Once they set their goals, have your child journal about their progress in each area. You can begin this journaling practice at the start of the school year and have your child check in on their progress at significant periods throughout the school year – at grade releases for instance. This practice not only helps them grow self-awareness and the ability to self-evaluate progress, it also helps them organize and plan.
This journaling also establishes that setting goals is not a one-time activity. Consistency and checking in and recreating goals are all part of the process. Goals are like seasons – they change over time as does your child’s progress.
Sharing Goals with Others
Accountability and visibility are huge when it comes to helping your child maintain their goals. Having the transparency to share what they want and how they’re working to attain it allows others to support them, which makes achieving goals feel more enjoyable and also feel more attainable.
Make space for your child to share their goals. Create a dedicated time at mealtimes or whenever you and your child spend time together to have them share with you about their goal setting and progress. Encourage them to share with their friends. Ask their teachers about including a goal-sharing time in study periods or classes. The more open and honest they feel they can be about their goals, the more empowered they will feel to achieve them.
Encouraging a Goal Setting Mindset
Action is always prefaced with thought. Following are a few mental states that are helpful in creating a goal setting lifestyle.
- Do not think “I will try.” Think “I will do.” Urgency lends to action.
- Create a mindset intent on finishing everything. Stick to your plans – prove to yourself that your plans are worth it.
- Never downgrade goals, always upgrade yourself.
- Create self-patience and self-love.
- Don’t let the goals keep you from being present with the journey.
Inspiring quotes are a great way to instill mindset. Post quotes on sticky notes or flashcards around the home where your child will see them to encourage their mindset building. Have your child come up with their own motivational quotes.
“A person who is happy is not because everything is right in his life; he is happy because his attitude towards everything in his life is right.” –Sundar Pichai
Goal Setting for Elementary School:
Communicate Why Goals are Important
Elementary-aged children are learning a lot of new things every day. In order to help them attach to learning, it is important to help them understand the “why” and “where to” – why is this important and where will it help me go?
When explaining goal setting to your child, help them understand that goal setting is like making a treasure map – they are the steps to take to get the gold which is what your child wants. Impress on them that there may be traps or distractions along their route but, if they have clear goals, they won’t get lost.
Make a visual treasure map with your child to impress this lesson. Get creative – come up with some “distractions” that are true to life and help your child identify what their “treasure” is. Once the map is finished, have a treasure hunt around the home, ending with your child discovering the gold! Make sure their treasure is something understandable and attainable.
Use SMART Goal Cards
Brainstorm with your child a number of things they want to have happen in the future that they can actually achieve. Then, have them put a star next to the ones that they feel most strongly about. This teaches prioritization and realistic planning.
Next, create a SMART goal! As a guide, we really love these SMART goal cards created by a teacher featured on the What I Have Learned blog. Print these out and utilize them to help your child clarify and visualize their goals. Hang them up around the house or on your child’s desk at home to remind them of what they want to achieve.
Create Possibilities for Success
Investigate with your child what actions to reach goals make them feel good – what will work most organically for them to achieve their “treasure.” It is important for young people to identify how they feel and what sorts of actions makes them feel good and capable. Be sure you are leaving open space for your child to gravitate toward the steps that are attractive to them.
Help them pick their actions and then lock in 1-2 actions they can take daily. Create a song or a mantra with your child voicing these actions so it is in their thoughts. Having various ways of getting somewhere makes your child see the freedom they have and the choices they get to make.
“The biggest secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.” –Oprah Winfrey
Goal setting takes practice. Try to find ways to make the practice fun and frequently be reminding your child that they are setting goals and creating steps so they can achieve what it is they want.
Goal setting is not drudgery – it helps us all achieve our dreams!