How to Help Your Kids Set—and Achieve—Goals

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God loves it when we set and achieve good goals.

Paul’s entire ministry was centered on one goal: “To win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 NIV). And Proverbs 21:5 (ESV) tells us, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.”

If the Bible outlines the value of goals, then you want your kids to understand the value too, right? But your kids weren’t born knowing how to set and achieve good goals. As their parent, you have to show them.

There’s no time to do that like the beginning of a fresh, new year, when you’re already in the goal-setting mind-set yourself. So lead your kids in their own goal setting—this month, and all year long! Check out these five tips to help guide them.

1. Help your kids identify good goals.

Believe it or not, all goals aren’t created equal. Good goals share five characteristics. They’re specific, measurable, your own, time-sensitive, and written down. Let’s see how this applies to a child’s goals.

Let’s say your teen wants to earn enough scholarships to be able to attend their dream college, so they set a goal to do better in school. Your preschooler wants to find their toys faster, so their goal is to keep a neater room. Those goals are okay, but they don’t meet all the criteria for good goals, so your child might quit before they accomplish them. Better alternatives? “I will earn an A in math and English next semester” and “I’ll make my bed every morning for a week.”

They meet all the criteria of good goals:

    • They’re specific, identifying exactly what needs to happen.
    • They’re measurable, allowing your kids to track their progress.
    • They’re your kids’ own goals, because there’s an internal motivation to accomplish them.
    • They’re time-sensitive with an end point in sight, so achieving them feels possible, and your kids are more likely to persevere when the going gets tough.
    • Finally, they’re written down (for a small child, maybe drawn in a picture—or for a teen, maybe posted to social media). Written goals feel more real and create accountability when we have others watching us. And kids—especially younger ones—often are visual learners, so any kind of map, chart or picture that tracks their progress is great!

2. Make sure their goals are just out of reach.

If a goal is too easy, your kids won’t learn resilience or perseverance. If it’s too tough, they’ll become discouraged and quit. Help them find the sweet spot in the middle.

But what if their goal is enormous? Don’t discourage them, just break it down into smaller goals. Say they want to be a professional musician. That’s huge! Just create smaller goals to get there: Complete one month of music lessons. Practice three times a week for 30 minutes. Save up $250 in a year to purchase their own instrument. You get the idea. If the passion for that goal sticks around, your job is to encourage them to stick to the plan. But if their interests change . . .

3. Be flexible.

Goals can change—and that’s okay! Going with the flow is a valuable lesson for kids to learn. It’s not the same thing as giving up just because they feel like quitting, either. It’s recognizing that people and their interests evolve.

Imagine if everyone who wanted to become a teacher when they were young, but then decided they couldn’t stand to be around kids eight hours a day, still became a teacher just for the sake of accomplishing the goal? Exactly! So help your child rethink their goals if their interests truly have changed. Eventually, they’ll find a goal that sticks.

Related: How to Set the Wrong Goals

4. Empower your kids to own their goals.

Remember how one characteristic of a good goal is that it’s your child’s own? That’s important, so help them come up with a goal or two they’d like to work toward. What would they love to have, do, learn or win?

Don’t insist they make goals you want for them, push them too hard to achieve their own goals, or be disappointed if they fail. The most important thing is they’re learning the skills of setting and achieving goals. What’s not as important is what those goals are—or if they succeed every time. You want them to develop enough self-motivation to succeed someday when you’re not there to cheer them on.

5. Set an example as a family.

Kids learn best by watching you set an example yourself. So while you’re helping them set their goals, you should be modeling the practice by setting and striving for some of your own.

Let them see you succeed and fail, struggle and persevere. Make it a family activity, and whenever anyone—you, your spouse or your kids—succeeds, celebrate!

Remember, the most important part of learning goal setting isn’t the goals themselves. It’s the journey your kids travel to achieve them. That journey is where all the lesson-learning and character-building experiences take place. That’s where they’ll learn responsibility, self-confidence, time management, resilience and perseverance. Your kids are never too young to start learning those skills and qualities—so start goal setting with them today!

parenting | @ChrisBrownOnAir