By Beverly K. Bachel, author of What Do You Really Want?
Worried that your kids will get bored this summer? Or spend too much time playing video games?
If so, now’s an ideal time to help them get goaling.
Why is knowing how to set goals important? Research shows that kids who develop the goal-setting habit:
- Get better grades
- Concentrate better
- Are more motivated
- Have greater self-esteem and self-confidence
- Have less stress and anxiety
What’s more, goals help kids develop long-term perspective. The ability to picture ourselves in the future is a great predictor of upward mobility. In fact, it’s more important than family background, education, race, intelligence, or connections.
Why? Because people who can see themselves 5, 10, even 15 or more years in the future make better decisions about how they spend their time today. Think about it this way: Long-term thinking improves short-term decision-making.
The Thrill of Skill
Just like your kids learn other skills, such as pitching a tent or playing the flute, they can learn how to set goals. And you can help.
Start by revving up your kids’ dreams. Try these conversation starters:
- What matters to you more than anything else?
- When you grow up, what would you like to do?
- What countries are you interested in traveling to?
- Is there a cause that’s important to you?
- What gets you excited?
Then, ask them to think of a goal they’d like to accomplish, write it down on a sheet of paper, and share it with someone they trust. These are the three essential steps of goal-setting. However, if your kids are ready for more, follow these steps:
Step 1: Get SMART
Help your kids set goals that are SMART. That means they are:
- Savvy—easy to understand and meaningful to the individual.
- Measurable—clearly defined, stating exactly what’s going to be accomplished.
- Active—featuring “do it” verbs that tell your kid what action he or she needs to take, such as listen to music, call two friends, hit one bucket of golf balls.
- Reachable—realistic based on the child’s skills and experience.
- Timed—including a clear date when your child will be able to say, “I did it!”
|Not-So-SMART Goal||SMART Goal|
|“Help out around the house.”||“Clean my room each Friday so it will look nice if my friends come over.”|
|“Get better at basketball.”||“Shoot 50 free throws each weekend.”|
|“Feel better.”||“Get 8 hours of sleep each night.”|
|“Get 100 percent on my driver’s test.”||“Pass my driver’s test.”|
|“Get a new bike.”||“Buy a new bike by August 31.”|
Step 2: Create a Goal Ladder
Imagine eating an apple in one bite. That’s what going for goals can feel like to your kids if they don’t first break their goal into smaller chunks, called action steps. Think of each action step as a rung on a goal ladder. As your kids complete each step, they climb up a rung and move closer to their goal.
Step 3: Take Action
With their plan in hand, there’s only one thing for them to do—get goaling! Even something as small as finding a pen to complete a job application will move them closer to their goals—and release feel-good endorphins.
Step 4: Celebrate
When your kids accomplish their goals—and complete important milestones along the way—help them celebrate. Keep the size of their rewards in proportion to the size of their goals and make them meaningful to them.
The author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Got for It! A Guide for Teens, Bev Bachel has introduced thousands of teens and their parents to the power of goal-setting.
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