Goal setting for kids is as important (or even more important) as goal setting for adults. Goal setting is a significant part of your child attaining some independence by realizing he has control over his own life.
When your kid begins to decide for himself what he wants to accomplish, he will be motivated to complete tasks for his own satisfaction, rather than that of others or even for tangible rewards.
Goal setting for kids should start at a young age. Children interpret goals as dreams.
If you watch children mimicking courageous police officers saving people that are trapped in fire, you will notice that these are their favorite dreams and they aspire to be the same when they grow up.
Children who set and achieve their goals, be it in academic, personal or sporting are most likely to perform better in life compared to children without any meaningful goal in life.
Benefits of goal setting for kids
Below are some of the benefits of goal setting for kids
1. Develop motivation
Kids develop internal motivation when they achieve goals in life. Goals are always meaningful and personal. They are closest to your child’s heart and soul. The internal motivation helps children reach their desired goal. It also gives them energy, strength and encouragement to achieve whatever they desire in life.
2. Grow a sense of purpose
Developing a sense of purpose in your kid helps him improve his self-esteem, self-belief and self-image. This will in turn greatly enhance his self-confidence.
3. Develop focus
Setting goals helps children to stay focused. Focus helps children to begin acting towards reaching their goals. Focus can be compared to a dartboard where one can throw darts on a bull's eye.
Is goal setting for kids different than goal setting for adults?
Goal setting principles are similar for both adults and children, although there is one major difference. Kids are less cognitively or emotionally developed than adults. While adults’ focus is to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) and break long-term aspirations to short-term ones using goal setting templates, setting goals for kids involves setting dreams that are more tangible and smaller. Goal setting should be adapted for the kid’s age!
The bottom line is that goal setting activities for children should be FUN. It is this fun that will hook your child interested in this life changing skill.
Research studies prove the importance of goal setting for kids
A study carried out by Bogolin, Harris, and Norris in 2003 determined that kids struggle to draw long-term goals. This research study showed that kids who attempt to set academic goals end up setting up unreasonable goals. They cannot foresee their future and, then, can’t set long term goals. They rely on the teacher to make decisions for them and set their goals. By doing so, these children are not taking ownership of their goals.
School children who set and track their own goals become better achievers and more goal-oriented. They will be able to see the progress and use that information to set more goals. Students who witness the success of their own goals have the highest levels of self-worth and self-efficacy. This gives them the confidence that leads to higher student achievement.
In 1994, Fulk and Montgomery noted that when students get involved in setting their own goals, graphing and recording their own data, and have the opportunity to reflect on their own work, they are more likely to develop motivation. This process develops intellectual capacities and self-esteem of the children. They become independent thinkers and responsible students.
Another study at Northwest Missouri State University Missouri (Department of Educational Leadership) was published by Kristin Wilson in 2012. This study investigated if there was a difference in student achievement when students were setting and monitoring class goals. The study compared the achievement between the students that decided to set and monitor goals and those that did not. The research study revealed that the students who set and monitored their goals had significantly higher levels of achievement. It was clearly demonstrated that goal setting had a positive effect on student achievement.
How to help your child be a goal setter?
1. Share your own goals
To help your child feel comfortable talking about their goals, parents need to share their own aspirations. Therefore, take some time to share your dreams and aspirations like taking that cooking class, losing those extra pounds, learning to text. Whatever!
2. Help your child create his “dream list”
Let your kids know that “goals begin with dreams.” Then create time to discuss their own dreams, aspirations or wishes. Next, let them draw and write those dreams down. Reread the list and assist your children choose only dreams they can actually achieve.
3. Tailor the goal to your child
First-time goal-setters are always looking for some immediate success. Have your young one set a goal that he or she can achieve at least within one week.
4. Help your child think of the steps to success
Once your kid identifies and is aware of his overall goal, they need to think of the steps to success.
Having small goals along the way will help your child feel that he is on the path to achieve the overall goal. The more they can think through their aspiration and identify what is needed to achieve success, the greater their chances of success. Help them choose the steps that will work best for them. Some kids need to draw or write all the steps while others can process it in their heads.
5. Track your child’s goal progress
You can track your child’s goal progress by writing the goal on paper and tracking it on a bulletin board or refrigerator. Mark the kid’s effort every time he works towards achieving his dream. Helping your children see their goal progress will motivate them to keep trying.
6. Have your child stay accountable
Goals mean nothing if they are not executed. Have your child keep a well-documented list of the things they want to do and make sure they do them. Instill important values in them, and always remind them that they owe it to themselves to carry out what has been mapped, outranking in rewards for success and accounting for any misstep or failure.
Resources available to help parents teach goal setting to their kids
1. Free resources
Below are some free resources that you can use to teach your kid about goal setting.
Elli the Ant: This is a story about some ant who knew the benefits of finishing his task and tried so much to overcome many distractions in order to reach his goal. The book motivates children to work towards achieving their dreams despite the circumstances surrounding them. You can download the PDF format of the book and read with your kid.
Women's and Children's Health Network website also gives free lessons to children on goal setting for kids.
You can also check Character.org for a goal-setting activity that uses the “Amazing Grace” story to discuss goals, obstacles as well as ways of overcoming those obstacles.
2. Paid resources
“Go for Your Goals” for kids
This program was developed by Winsome Coutts, a mom, grand-mom and teacher. She holds a teacher’s certificate in education and is the author of hundreds of articles on self-development. She brought together a team of illustrators, self-help experts, curriculum developers and children’s writers. This team created a set of three e-books that guides kids in creating their own reality using goal setting activities and visualization based on the principle of the Law of Attraction.
“Go for Your Goals” was specially designed for kids. It is a great and special program that engages the imagination of your child and speaks to him in words he can understand. Natural skills, such as dreaming and pretending, that your child already have are used. Your child will learn how to turn wishes into goals and how to strategize to achieve his goals. This well-thought process will help him stay motivated along the way to achieving his goal.
Goal setting is important to children in various ways. It helps them learn about accountability and responsibility. Children get to learn that they are the vehicles that drive their own failures or successes. A child who is able to set and implement their own goals will experience so much happiness as they will be able to realize a life-long achievement.