Focusing on goals and laying the groundwork for reaching them is an essential life skill and an excellent bonding opportunity for the entire family; and can be done any time of the year. The key to helping young children grow into achievers is to set realistic expectations for themselves that are challenging yet doable. Here are ten strategic parenting tips for raising achievers by laying the groundwork for successful goal-setting.
Start by looking back at how far you have come as a family (and individuals) in the past year. Sit down and write out the accomplishments that have taken place over the past 12 months. Did your kids have academic achievements? Learn a new sport? Overcome a challenge?
Bonus Tip: List your own accomplishments as well. Reflect on what has changed for the better from the previous year to give your kids perspective and ideas for where they want to go in the coming year.
2. Share your own goals.
Tell your kids what your current goals are. Explain why you chose them and how exactly you plan to achieve them. It’s a good exercise in showing them that self-improvement is a lifelong process. They may even have some suggestions for you on ways to achieve your goals or want to be part of the process of you succeeding.
3. Put a positive spin on them.
Let’s look at the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions as an example. For adults, there tend to be negative connotations associated with them. An adult, for instance, may be unhappy with how he or she looks, so they set a goal to lose weight. It’s important to keep goal-setting sessions with your kids positive. Instead of using terms like “lose weight” or “get better at…,” say things like “be more active” or “learn more about…”
Bonus Tip: When setting goals with kids, focus more on what you will do, and less on what you may be unhappy with in the present. Goal-setting is not meant to make you feel unhappy; so make sure you set it up in a way that leaves your kids feeling positive and enthused.
4. Keep the list short.
Too many goals will make it impossible to keep them all. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to follow every interest; whether they be athletic, academic or extracurricular pursuits. Aim instead for your kids to have just two or three goals that they can tackle.
It may help to start with a brainstorming session where your kids can list everything they hope to accomplish, and then you work together to trim it down or combine ideas.
Bonus Tip: Another approach to setting goals is to pick one for each month of the year and focus your energy on that one goal in its dedicated month. Whatever works best for your family.
5. Include steps for achievement.
After you and the kids determine the goals, ask them to write out the necessary steps to achieve them. How much will they need to practice, study, etc.? What can they do tomorrow, the next day, and a few months down the road to reach the goals? Show them that setting goals is just the first step. You need to have a good plan with little steps that lead to the finish line.
6. Let them pick their goals.
Your kids may tap your guidance in coming up with goals, but you should be sure that the end results are all their idea. It’s okay to challenge what they come up with and encourage them to do more or less based on real life. In the end, the goals belong to your children. Let them have ownership over them, and they will be more likely to accomplish them.
7. Set goals for the whole family.
Individual goals are important, but don’t forget where you want to go as a family. It’s never too late to pledge to spend more time together, be more active together, or make plans to learn something new together. Try to focus on goals that are of interest to everyone and that can be done as a family unit. These shared goals will mean higher accountability to each other and more support since you are all in them together.
8. Read them aloud.
Once every member of the family has set his or her goals, take turns going around the room and reading them out loud. Have each person list the steps to achieve their goals, too. This process makes it more official and increases accountability.
9. Create a visual.
Writing down goals is not enough. Pin them where you can view them every day. Consider making a dream board or drawings to represent what you want to accomplish. Encourage each other by writing supportive notes at the bottom of each poster or drawing. Adding a visual element is just one more way to feel committed and connected to the goals you hope to achieve.
10. Follow up.
Setting the goals is just the beginning. Check in on how your kids are progressing and find simple ways to help them follow through. For example, if one child wants to learn a new instrument, look online together for local places to participate and be available to drive him or her to lessons and rehearsals.
Bonus Tip: As important as it is for kids to take control of their own goals, it is vital to their success in the achievement of those goals for parents to guide them along the way.
Contributed by Jennifer Paterson: Jennifer, A.R.C.T., Master’s of Music (voice, piano), is the Founder & President of California Music Studios and has degrees from Boston University, The Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto and the University of British Columbia. She was a recipient of The Canada Council Award to study at the well-known Royal Opera House in London and was the principal soprano for the Boston Lyric Opera Company. Her dedication to the legitimate training of the voice and piano has made her a definite asset to the musical community of Southern California.