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Setting Goals for Children

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“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”
—Thomas Edison

Goal setting is an important part of achievement and growth and is an essential skill to learn early in life. Goals help motivate us to achieve our dreams and act as catalysts for us to accomplish more than we expect from ourselves.

Teaching children to set goals for themselves helps to improve their self-image, build upon strengths, identify weaknesses, and learn visualisation techniques. In the case where goals are achieved, this experience boosts confidence and provides an example of the success that children can draw on. Read on to discover how to successfully set goals for your children. 

1. Write clear and measurable goals

The feeling of accomplishment when a goal is achieved is priceless. Achievement takes hard work, determination, and a plan - that is where goal setting comes in. Creating a plan provides direction, it helps children to clarify what is important to them, and what they should focus on.

The first step is to write clear goals that can be measured. Help your child with this step by brainstorming what is important to them for the term or the school year. 

Once you have some ideas on paper, start to distil a clear goal, and begin thinking about how it will be measured. When setting goals with younger children, try to set a single goal for one area of their life at a time, rather than having multiple learning goals at one time.

It might be beneficial for your children to set smaller learning goals, to begin with, as accomplishing a small goal will help them to gain confidence and foster a positive attitude towards goal setting. An example of a first-time learning goal might be to go up a reading level at school.

Once the focus on the goal is set, start to track progress by thinking about how it can be measured, then set a target end date, and a plan for progress check-ins. You might also consider offering a reward or celebration for achieving the goal.

E.g. ‘I will graduate to the next grade level and reading group by the end of term four.’

Setting a wide range of goals that are important to your child and align with what they want to achieve allows them to take a more active role in building their future, and keeps them accountable to themselves.

2. Create a specific action plan for goal setting

Once you have a set range of goals, create an action plan for each one. Each action plan will look different, but in most cases, the plan will involve studying or practising a skill or activity at frequent intervals.

If it is a learning goal, the action for effective learning strategies should include dedicated time to studying towards the goal. Using the reading level example, an actionable plan for primary school  students might look like this:

  • 30 minutes of independent reading each afternoon
  • 15 minutes of reading with a parent before bed
  • Reading a challenging book once per week

When a plan is in place, the actions will become part of the child’s daily routine, and goals will eventually become daily habits. If motivation is an issue, write down the daily tasks as part of a to-do list, which the child can tick off as the tasks are completed.

3. Review and visualise own goals

Two of the most important factors in achieving goals are regularly reviewing your goals, and visualising yourself accomplishing them. Make sure when setting goals with your child that they are written down and placed somewhere they will see them every day.

A blackboard in the kitchen or living room or a sheet of paper stuck to the fridge are good options. This helps serve as a reminder of the personal achievement goals they have set for themselves and keeps them accountable.

Visualisation is another technique that helps children achieve their own goals too. By visualising themselves having attained their goal, whether that is being accepted into a competitive sports team, levelling up in class, getting better grades in tests, receiving an award at school, or swimming the length of a pool, they will begin to see the possibility of accomplishing the goal, stay motivated towards achieving it and gain confidence.

4. Reflect on progress to see if they are on target

At the time you set a goal with your child, set regular check-ins on progress. This might be a weekly or monthly review, where you sit down to look at their progress, and how they have gone in executing their action plan.

These check-ins will help identify if they are on target with their goals if they have been regularly working towards their goals, or if the action plan needs to be adjusted. Having a weekly or monthly review of all goals also helps to keep children accountable and reminds them of why the goals were set.

5. Celebrate accomplishments

When a goal is achieved, be sure to celebrate! 

Whether the goal is large or small, it is important to celebrate when it is achieved. The celebration or reward should align with the goal, so if it’s been a long time in the making, or was a stretch goal, acknowledge the achievement with something special.

Make time to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment with your child, before setting a new goal that builds on their past goals.

Teaching children how to set challenging goals and extend themselves is fundamental to their achievement and confidence, as they navigate the world. Setting and tracking goals can be rewarding and transformative for children. We all start as beginners in all things we try.

As daunting as it can be to set goals that challenge us, it is how we grow and eventually become masterful. Start the goal-setting process with your children, and consider setting goals alongside them. 

If your child is ready to set learning goals and level up in maths and English, get in touch with our team today. Our results-based tutoring is personalised to each child’s learning goals and focuses on building confidence in young learners.

We help children set academic goals, and coach them along the way, through 1-1 tutoring in a supportive environment that celebrates success. Contact your local centre to learn more, or book a free assessment for your child.

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