Three Factors to Consider When Setting Goals with Children

Just like adults, children can take charge of their lives, and make positive change by setting goals.  Although children tend to have shorter attention spans, they can still reach long term goals. You as a parent can help by providing a little bit of structure and guidance to help kids set good goals, and can help your children make working on long term goals part of their daily routine!
 
The best place to start with helping kids set the right goals for them is for parent and child to talk about WHAT YOUR CHILD WANTS to achieve, and just as importantly, WHY YOUR CHILD CHOSE THAT GOAL.  The emphasis is on three things here. “What”, “Why”, and “Your Child”.
 
What
What does your child want to achieve? Goals exist to achieve specific things, so what does your child have their sites on? Take the time to talk with your child about what it is they want to achieve, and what is involved with pursuing that goal.  Especially with younger children, goal setters often don’t know the full scope of what more ambitious goals entail.  Help them understand what exactly it is they are pursuing, and how they will get there.
 
Why
As importantly, why does your child want to reach that goal?  To reach a long-term goal, you need to have a passion for the project.  Something needs to keep you coming back day after day.  Talk with you kids about their goals so you both better understand why they want to do what they are setting their mind to.  When you both understand why a goal is important, it help children be more motivated, and maintain their motivation longer, and parents are better able to support their children when they know what is motivating their child!
 
Your Child
This is really an extension of the why question.  It is important to understand if the child is motivated by an internal desire to achieve a goal for their own reasons, or if they are considering some external motivation, such as impressing or pleasing friends, teachers, or parents (shudder to think!), and putting this desire ahead of their other wants and needs.  Sometimes the reality of childhood is that parents and teachers are the primary providers of motivation, and left to their own devices would not be capable of or inclined toward certain projects, but the point here is to make sure even if someone else is suggesting the goal, that the child sees the goal as their own, and that they are doing it for themselves, not simply to please another.
 
By working with your child to explore these three important factors, you will ensure that time spent working on goals will be well spent, and as rewarding as possible for you and your child.  Having a clear understanding of what your child wants to achieve, and how you as a family will be able to go about it prevents goal from floundering when unexpected things happen.  Understanding the why clues us in on the motivation behind a goal, which allows us to work with passion, stay focused, and avoid wasting time on goals children are only pursuing half-heartedly.  The why element is especially important since children live in a world where the expectations of teachers parents and friends often carry more weight than the adult world, but still would not be enough to carry them to a year-long goal they felt lukewarm on to begin with.  Looking at that more positively, understanding motivations allows you to engage with your children on a goal in the ways that will be most inspiring and motivating to them!
 
Greg Bing, M.Ed., Certified Personal Trainer
KareBoost Health
 
Come Check out our New YOU Resolutions Workshop Series.  Our dietitian and Parent Coach will talk about Stressing less at Family Meals on Tuesday January 31, 2017 at 6:30pm