We set goals for ourselves both professionally and personally, don't we? Then why not start the habit early with kids, so it becomes second nature to them?
Oh, that's so boring and stressful we hear you say. You may be right, but it depends how you do it. You can make it fun and delightful. You can make it simple and easy.
Spending 5-10 minutes discussing your little one’s goals at the beginning of the year can save you hours of tough conversations and tantrums!
When our twins were 4, we talked about it and one child’s goal was to try to eat more vegetables as he knew they were good for his body. And the other one’s goal was to not lose his temper as often when things didn’t work out his way. Talking about their goals in advance took the pressure out of many mealtime and sibling ‘situations.’ And we have thousands of examples like this...
As a start, begin with these 5 steps.
1. What's something you really enjoy doing or want to try more of?"
Keeping the conversation simple and positive really helps our little feel comfortable sharing thoughts. For older children, goal setting can feel like a chore and we don’t want that. We use a framework of "Something for the Body, Something for the Mind and Something for the Heart" in our home. You can create your own.
2. "Okay, let's make a list of things you'd like to do or get better at.
Come up with ideas together. It could be playing a new game, reading more books, or even learning to tie their shoes.
3. Instead of saying 'read more books,' we can say 'read one new book each week.'
Keeping the ideas achievable will help your little one feel like it’s easy to do and less likely to give up.
4. "How about we make a fun chart or drawing to track your progress? We can use stickers or colors to mark each time you read a new book / tie your shoelaces by yourself / remember to brush your teeth at night.
Our little ones need visual reminders. Out of sight is usually out of mind. It also helps show them how close they are getting to their target.
5. “When you remember to brush your teeth every night for a whole week, we can celebrate with an extra bedtime story.
It can be demotivating if we put in effort and don’t see the results. So, celebrate the small wins.
Watch out for these hiccups and navigate them.
“I don’t know what I want” - Our little ones can’t think of any goals that they want to set. They’re not sure what exactly we want them to do. Offer examples and ask open-ended questions to help them clarify their desires.
"Is there something you really enjoy doing? Maybe learning a new game or sport? Let's think about what you'd like to do more of."
“I want to read 100 books this month.” Our little ones may set goals that are too ambitious or unrealistic. Guide them toward setting smaller, doable steps that lead to the larger goal.
"Wanting to read 100 books this month is fantastic! How about we start with one book a week? That way, it's a fun challenge and easier to keep track of."
“I’m bored. I don’t want to do this anymore.” It’s natural for our little ones to lose interest quickly or get distracted. They have short attention spans. Incorporate elements of fun to keep them engaged.
"Let's make a colorful chart together! Each time we do something towards your goal, we can add a sticker. What do you think the chart should look like?"
“My little one hates making plans. If I tell her to do something, she’ll do just the opposite.” Some little ones may resist the idea of planning and prefer spontaneity. Keep it light and flexible. Let them lead the way but gently introduce the idea of a simple plan.
"We don't have to plan everything, but having a little plan can be like a treasure map, showing us the way to the fun things we want to do. What adventure do you want to plan first?"
“I don’t want to learn to tie my shoes.” - Our little ones often fear not being able to do a task or finding it too difficult and feel discouraged. Emphasize the learning process and celebrate small victories along the way.
"You weren’t able to tie your shoes today, and that's okay! We're learning and having fun. The more you practice, the easier it will get.”
“I want to draw, not read.” Our little one’s interests can change frequently. Be adaptable and encourage exploration. It's okay to adjust our goals based on evolving interests while still encouraging them to pursue the first one.
"If you found something new you want to learn, we can always change our goals but let's do a little bit of this first... What else would you like to try along with this?
Hope you enjoyed this! Find the most helpful Goal Setting Activity Kit here.