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SMART Goal Setting with Kids

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Written by Tara Mitchell of This Sweet Life and Embark on the Journey.

With January just around the corner, many of us are looking ahead and setting goals for the new year. I spent a little time myself over Thanksgiving weekend setting goals for my business, my family, and myself.

One goal I have for the new year is to teach my daughter how to set goals for herself. It’s one thing to say, “I want to accomplish…” It’s another thing to actually figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Kids who set goals are more likely to focus on what they want. They learn to plan for the results they hope to see. As they reach their goals, they gain confidence in the fact that they can do the hard things.

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My daughter is 13, but this could work with children a bit younger and a bit older. Younger kids may need a little more assistance and accountability. Older teens may need a little guidance at first, but can then apply the practice to any future goals they may have.

Two years ago, I sat my two younger kids (16 and 11) down to talk about some goals they had. First, we talked about why we set goals. Setting goals helps motivate us to achieve the things we’re working toward.

I explained to them what a SMART goal is. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Looking at a goal through these parameters can be the difference between achieving the goal or not.

Specific goals are easier to work toward than general goals are. In order to formulate a plan to work toward a goal, it needs to be well-defined. Your daughter may want to get her splits before her next gymnastics showcase. Your son may want to score a run in a baseball game this season. A child may want to complete a certain number of scouting activities to earn a badge. Or, they may want to read a certain number of books to earn a prize in the summer reading program.

How can you measure a goal? For a goal to be measurable, it needs to be quantified. “Read a lot” isn’t measurable. What qualifies as “a lot”? “Read two books per month,” however, is measurable. Kids can create a chart to check off so they can monitor their own progress.

Attainable goals are ones that are challenging but achievable. They are goals that a child can actually accomplish. If the goal is too big, there may not be enough motivation to tackle it. Parents may need to help kids break down a larger goal into bite-sized, attainable action steps.

If a goal isn’t relevant, kids won’t be inspired to work toward it. Where does a specific goal fit in the overall picture? Are they working toward a goal that is part of a bigger plan? Or is it a random goal that doesn’t really fit anywhere in their daily life?

Goals should be timely. When do your kids want to have met their goal? If there is no deadline, it’s far too easy to keep putting it off. Then, they’ll get to the end of scouting season without the badge they’d hoped for or the end of the summer without that prize they had their eye on. Be sure to set a deadline that is far enough away to allow time to work toward the goal but not far enough away that it’s not a priority.

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To help you help your kids set SMART goals, check out the SMART goals planning worksheets I have created. They’re a great starting spot if goal-setting is new or something you struggle with, as well.

My hope is that my helping my daughter (now 13) learn to do this, she’ll have a better grasp on setting deadlines and working toward her goals when she’s in high school, college, and beyond. Goodness knows, I struggle with goal-setting myself, and I’m hoping to forge a new path with my kiddos.

What are some of your family’s goals for the upcoming year or second school semester?

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Tara is wife to Matt and homeschool momma of three. Her children are 21, 16, and 11 – two boys and one girl. She is currently homeschooling her daughter – 6th grade. When she’s not blogging, Tara enjoys crocheting and snuggling up with a good book. She and her family recently moved from Texas to Ohio, and they’re having fun exploring their new surroundings. She blogs about homeschooling, motherhood, and family life on both of her blogs – Homeschool Preschool and Teaching with Children's Books.

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One Comment

  1. This is an EXCELLENT way to approach setting goals. I’d never thought through all these specifics before for goal-setting, but this is such a great way to go about it. Definitely using this in the future!

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