Big Results from Little Steps
When your child has identified a goal they are interested in pursuing, the next step is to help them break that big goal into the smallest, constituent pieces possible. For instance, if your child wanted to try out for a soccer team, you could imagine that between now and then, they would need to get plenty of exercise to keep their conditioning up, practice their skills, eat a healthy diet to keep their health and energy up, etc. etc.. Even these smaller goals could be broken down further, and those new goals yet further. Now at some point you have to settle on a goal, and it will prbably need to be more challenging than “Put my shin guards on’ (though not necessarily), but the point here is that big goals, on their own, are a recipe for failure. This bigger a departure from a child’s normal routine, the truer this becomes.
When we are trying to adopt new behaviors, at first it takes a fair amount of mental energy to both remember, and carry out the new behavior. When that new behavior is something drastically different than normal, for instance a novice who desires to play competitive soccer, it takes a great deal of energy, and carries an extremely high risk of failure. Approaching a goal in such a fashion can be discouraging for anyone, especially a child. The key is to support children by helping them identify the tiny, incremental steps they can take to help them reach bigger, more fantastic goals.
Taking smaller, incremental steps carries huge benefits. The first is simple arithmetic. Imagine achieving one big goal. Imagine feeling the pride and satisfaction of working hard and pulling of something spectacular. Wow! what a great feeling! Now imagine the same big goal, but now with ten smaller goals that lead up to it. These smaller goals are things you would have done anyway in pursuit of the main goal, but when we take the time to acknowledge the incremental steps we get 10 extra chances to feel the satisfaction of success! Celebrating 11 small victories, rather than one large one, helps children better think of themselves as successful, capable people. This helps them stay confident and motivated, and the confidence carries over into all areas of life. Conversely, one huge failure can be extremely demoralizing, but break the task into smaller, easier parts, and you’re going to have more positive outcomes. This is in addition to the simple reality that practicing the constituent skills and behaviors of a big, fancy, challenging task, makes it a lot more likely that you will have success on the big goal!
As a parent you want to support your children as much as possible. Helping them realize that there will be many steps on a journey leads them to the challenge better prepared, and helps them take the time to savor the smaller victories along the way!