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Tips for Goal Setting

Setting Back to School Goals

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Tips for Goal Setting

What are your child's goals? Learning to ride a bike?

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr/Creative Commons

Related Activities: Making a Goal Board

Goal: To help your child learn to how to identify short-term and long-term goals as a way to become a more self-directed learner and to become more self-motivated.

Skills Targeted: goal setting, learning life skills, independence

Getting ready to go back to school involves more than just going through a checklist and making sure your child has all the right supplies. It also involves making sure your child has the right mindset and some idea of what it is he wishes to accomplish during the school year. Setting back to school goals can help your child become a more self-directed learner.

The Importance of Setting Goals

Setting goals is an important part of your child gaining some independence and realizing he has some control over his own life.

Once your child starts deciding for himself what he wants to accomplish, it starts setting the stage for him to be motivated to complete things for his own satisfaction and not for the satisfaction of others or for tangible rewards.

Tip #1: Define the Word "Goal"

It will be hard for your child to set goals if he doesn’t know what a goal is. He may know that in soccer or hockey a goal is when a player gets the ball into the net, so that’s a good place to start the explanation.

Let your child know that when a player gets a goal it’s the end result of a lot of hard work. It took a lot of trying and maneuvering for him to reach that goal. Using that idea as a base, you can help your child understand life and learning goals. You can say something like:

The goal is where the soccer players wants to get to in the end. The word "goal" can be used to describe where you want to get to or what you want to get done, too. Setting a goal means to plan something you want to be able to do better or understand better.

Tip #2: Don’t Just Talk, Listen

If your goal in having your child set goals is to have him decide for himself what’s important for him to achieve, it’s more important to listen than to talk. You can give your child some example of goals you’ve set for yourself.

You can also provide some observations about what he does well and where you see room for improvement, but let him tell you about himself. Ask questions like: Is there anything you’re worried will be hard for you? I noticed you’ve learned how to ___________. What would you like to do next with that skill?

Tip #3: Provide the Language for Goal-Setting

Teaching kids how to talk about their goals is key in getting them to understand their goals. The language of goal-setting can be broken down almost into a formula:

I want to [do this] by [when]. I already know how to [related skills].

Tip #4: Help Refine Unrealistic Goals

Sometimes your child may have lofty goals that you’re not sure they’re going to be able to meet. Instead of telling them you don’t think they can do it, you can help to refine these goals into smaller, related goals.

For example, if your child says he’s going to learn how to play ice hockey and doesn’t know how to ice skate, you may want to suggest he makes learning how to skate an initial goal.

Tip #5: Break Down the Steps to the Goal

Goals aren’t achieved in one fell swoop. They take time and there are many steps to achieving a goal. Help your child break down his goal into the smaller steps (or skills) that are needed to get to the bigger goal.

Tip #6: Create a Visual Reminder of Goals

A visual reminder can take many forms. For kids who need to focus on the steps, it can be very helpful to use a worksheet that has a goal on top and a ladder on which to list the steps to the goal. (Print a PDF version of a Goal Ladder worksheet.).

You can also use other goal-setting worksheets or help your child make a goal board--one that looks like a soccer goals is a great visual-- or you can simply ask him to write down his goals.

Tip #7: Note Progress and Success

Help your child keep track of how he’s coming along toward his goals. Take a look at the goal ladder with him and mark off any steps he’s accomplished. When the goal itself is achieved, take it off the goal board or list and celebrate!

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