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The Importance of Goal Setting for Children

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Why Goal Setting is Important

As teachers and parents, we are always encouraging children to make and reach goals; whether it’s a child taking his tentative first steps to a preschooler’s success at tying his shoes. 

Teaching children to reflect and set goals is an important lesson that needs to be taught starting at a young age.

Preschool and early childhood education teaches young children the core social skills that prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. These skills boost children’s confidence, increase their ability to build healthy relationships with others, and help them as they adapt to new environments and rising expectations. Both parents and teachers want our children to succeed in life. We want them to be effective problem solvers. We want them to set goals and achieve them.

Having something to focus on and work towards helps us to be productive human beings. It is our responsibility to teach these skills to children. Setting goals and working towards them teaches children perseverance. Early learning centers understand that perseverance is a very important skill in a child’s life and one that they will use throughout their lives.

Goal setting for children is important because it gives them a sense of purpose that can improve their confidence and build their self-esteem. It also helps them to focus and make better decisions. Along with this, goal setting can be used to motivate children by ensuring that they achieve smaller goals on a regular basis.

Kids who have goals will do better in life than kids with no plan at all. Teach your children the necessity of goal setting and how to go about it.

How to Set Goals

Goal setting may be something new to kids, but just like brushing their teeth or studying every day, we want goal setting to become a habit for them. So, since they’re just starting out, it’s important to keep in mind that the emphasis should be on the process itself, not just on the end result, which is the achievement of goals.

The idea with goal setting for kids is to get them started in the life-long frame of mind of thinking, planning and taking action in order to achieve results.

Achievable and effective goals for your children are ones that:

  • Are realistic;
  • Force them to grow as they strive to achieve desired results;
  • They want to achieve;
  • They believe they can achieve; and
  • Are within their skills and abilities to achieve.

Goal Setting Steps

Children are naturally great goal-setters. They all know what they want to be “when they grow up” and this makes for the beginnings of goal setting.

Teach this simple goal-setting formula: “Goals usually start with, ‘I will’ and have two parts – what you want to accomplish and when you hope to accomplish it.”

Follow these steps for goal setting success:

1. Identify a goal. Discuss with your kids their dreams and aspirations and write them down. Reread the list and help each child select one or two wishes. The goal must be within your child’s ability and be realistic. If it’s not, you might want to help your child choose another goal. Then help him frame it using the goal formula, stating what he will do and by when – say, “I will get at least 9 out of 10 spelling words right on my spelling test this week.”

2. Establish a time frame that is realistic for your child. For young children, goals should be kept simple and easy to achieve. Once they understand goal setting and have experienced the positive results of reaching their goals, they will be eager to set more difficult goals. Some children need to set even shorter-term goals to the end of the hour or a day, such as finishing a simple school project, reading a page a night, cleaning a closet, raking leaves, picking up toys or making a bed without reminders.

3. Think through the steps to success. The next step is to help your child think through how he will succeed. It helps if kids write down or draw their course of action. Help your child write or draw on sticky notes the tasks he must do to achieve his goal. After he’s finished, help him put those tasks in the order of when he will do them. Staple the notes together. Then have him tear off a note as each task is completed until none remain. Then have your child identify all thepeople or things required for goal attainment.

4. Track goal progress and celebrate success. Hang your children’s goals on a wall to remind them of their intentions. Pointing out their efforts will motivate them to keep trying: “Look how much closer you’re getting to your goal!” And if the goal is too hard, too easy or a step or resource was overlooked, just revise the plan so attainment is possible.

5. Talk about your goals. The task of setting goals affords a good opportunity to share thoughts and feelings with your children. Tell them about goals you had when you were younger and about your goals now. Describe how you overcame obstacles, how you felt as you achieved goals and/or how your goals changed. Also talk with your children about the time when you did not reach certain goals.

Your child may not always achieve his goals. However, he will have learned a few valuable lessons about planning and goal setting and should have noticed measurable improvements along the way. More importantly, he has probably learned some very worthwhile things about himself.