Most parents realize that helping their children set goals is important, but few realize that not all goals are created equal. While some goals can empower children to get better grades and achieve academic success, others can actually discourage children or cause them to become frustrated and overwhelmed.
How do you know the difference between a goal that inspires and one that is counterproductive? Here are five steps to help your child create goals that lead to academic and professional success:
- Inspire Dreams and Translate them into Long-Term Goals – When children are small, they’re often asked what they want to be when they grow up. Parents laugh lightheartedly as their tots talk about becoming ballerinas and astronauts. As children get older, however, parents too often discourage those lofty dreams. When this happens children can grow complacent and lose their passion for their future. As youngsters enter middle and high school, help them revisit their dreams and begin thinking seriously about their personal and professional goals. Talk to your child about her future openly and without judgment. Allow her to dream as big as she wishes, and encourage her to jot down several long-term goals she hopes to achieve as an adult. Once children see the connection between their dreams and achieving academic success, they’re much more likely to put in the effort to make better grades.
- Transform Long-Term Goals Into S.M.A.R.T. Goals – An important part of the goal setting process is make sure all goals are S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Go through your child’s long-term goal list, and together, decide which goals to keep, which to modify, and which to discard. Then work with this refined list to transform these long-term goals into their short-term S.M.A.R.T. counterparts. Make sure each short-term goal has a definite starting and ending point, so that you child doesn’t fall prey to procrastination.
- Make an Action Plan for Each Short-Term Goal – Help your child develop an action plan for each short-term goal. For example, if your child has decided that she wants to make better grades in English, then her action plan may consist of tasks such as reading for an hour each day, joining a study group and spending an extra 30 minutes of study time on this subject each night. Post this plan in a place where your child will see it every day, and help her be accountable for completing daily tasks.
- Monitor Progress and Adjust Goals Regularly – Schedule specific times to review progress and adjust goals as needed. If your child has met a goal on the list, set a new goal to encourage continual progress. If your child is making little progress despite remaining committed to his daily action plan, then you may need to reevaluate how realistic the goal is and modify it accordingly.
- Reward Success – Be sure to appropriately praise and reward your child’s efforts to achieve her goals. Whether you grant her a special privilege, give her a tangible reward, or simply pat her on the back for a job well done, be sure to take time out from your busy schedule to recognize her triumphs.
By following these steps you can help your child stay motivated as he follows his own unique path to success.
About the Authors
Study and life skills experts Rick and Teena Kamal founded EduNova to prepare students to lead and thrive in the global economy. They worked with 33 top university education experts and many successful senior executives to produce resources that empower middle school, high school and college students to succeed.