If you’ve ever met someone who is wildly successful, you’ve met someone who knows how to set goals. Setting goals is an art form. To some, it comes naturally, to others it is learned. Luckily, anyone can learn how to set goals that will lead them to success.
We’ve already covered setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for adults, but how do you teach a kid to make a S.M.A.R.T. goal?
It’s actually fairly easy! But first, three highly important rules.
- Let the kids make their own goals. I don’t care if their goal is to obtain 5 new Pokemon cards, their goals need to be meaningful to them. At this point, the goal itself is not important. Achieving the goal is important. Learning how to set a goal and achieve it is much more valuable than having an amazing goal. You can lead them to a good goal but, in the end, they have to set a goal that motivates them, not you.
- Don’t do all the work. As parents, we are here to guide our children, not make all the decisions! When they pick their own goal, let them also determine the steps needed to achieve that goal. If they get stuck, absolutely help them along. But do not give them all the information. Let them figure it out.
- No rescuing. It’s hard to see our kids fail but failure is an important part of life. Take a backseat with their goals and let them rise to the occasion. It’s okay to guide them but don’t be a leader in this!
What are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?
Okay, we’ve covered the rules. Now for the more important bit. How to help your kids set S.M.A.R.T. goals!
Depending on the age, discuss with them what S.M.A.R.T. stands for and how it applies to goals.
S – specific. Goals have to be specific. “I want to be a better person” is much too vague to be a workable goal. One way to get out of this hole is to ask questions, “What makes someone a better person?” Use the answers to narrow down a specific goal. “I’d like to volunteer more often” is a specific goal.
M – motivational. The goal has to be motivational and meaningful to the goal-setter. This is where many kids fail because they choose a goal that is motivational to their parents or friends but not themselves. Encourage them to set a goal close to their interests to start.
A – achievable. Kids have big imaginations and that is wonderful. But setting a goal like “I will fly to the moon and back by the time I am 8” is simply not achievable. Guide them to a goal and a timeline that is achievable without squashing their dreams. Never ever laugh at a goal – even ridiculous ones. My response to that would be something like “It might take a little longer than a year to be ready to fly to the moon! Could we adjust this goal to give you more time to reach it?”. Don’t dismiss the goal, just adjust it.
R – Results. Goals should aim for some type of result. Goals need end points and finality. It’s fine to pick up a new related goal when one is finished, but to keep motivation high, there needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
T – trackable. Possibly the most important letter of all! People who track their goals are much more likely to achieve them. Ensure there is a way to track the goal. The tracking doesn’t have to be all encompassing, but there should be some method of tracking.
How to Help Your Child Set a Goal
- Explain to them what goals are, why one should set goals, what S.M.A.R.T. goals are, and ideas for good goals. My kids had no idea what kinds of goals to set when we first discussed goals. Having a list of ideas was really helpful (I’ve added a list to the bottom for anyone needing help!)
- Brainstorm goal ideas and pick 1-3 to be the “big” goals. Ideally, the first goals should be rather small, easy to accomplish, and with a short time line. You know your child best, but I find many kids need a few quick wins before they feel confident about their goals.
- Fill in the booklet with the big goals and the small steps to get to the big goal! Do not forget the small steps!!
- Help your child set up a tracking system for their goals.
- Monitor your child with their goals without taking over. I am fine with offering gentle reminders, especially for the first few goals or first few days of a new goal. Just be careful not to cross the line between supportive and a take over. Ask your child if they would like reminders and listen to their feedback.
- Stand back and watch your child succeed!
What if they don’t succeed?
Offer to brainstorm with them on what didn’t work. Was the plan too ambitious? Were the small steps too big? Was the timeline too short? Did they need more support or less support?
Help them get back up and try again – whether it’s with the same goal or a different goal. The importance is to get back up and try again. We will all fail at our goals every now and again. Knowing how to get back up is a valuable skill.