Learning to set goals plays an important role as your child starts to gain independence and feel as though she has some control over her own life. When she begins figuring out what she wants to achieve and accomplish, it can set the stage for her to be more self-motivated and not depend as much on external rewards and praise. That said, setting goals doesn't come naturally to your child, so helping her to learn the process should probably be one of your goals!
Skills Being Practiced
Teach Your Child How to Set Goals
1. Start by defining the word "goal." Your child may know what a goal is when it comes to hockey or soccer, but she may not understand what it means in the context of everyday life. Since it will be difficult to set goals without understanding what they are, you can extend the sports analogy to help explain it to her. Talk to her about whether or not it's easy for a player to make a goal in soccer. Ask: Are there obstacles in his way? Do you think he has a plan to get around the things that are in his way? Do you think he comes up with that plan ahead of time?
2. Explain that the goal is the place a hockey player is trying to get to. He needs a plan of how he's going to make it to that goal. Tell her that in real life people use the word "goal" to talk about something that they want to get done, learn, or be able to do or understand better.
3. Listen to your child. Ideally, you want your child to be able to decide for herself what her goals are and what she wants to achieve. Let her talk about what she thinks she does well and what she thinks needs to improve instead of telling her what you think. If she's stuck, you can provide some examples of your own personal goals as well as talk through some observations about what you think she does well and how she can build on that. Try sentences like: Is there something you find hard to do? I see that you can do _________. What do you think comes after learning that skill?
4. Teach goal-setting language. Setting a goal is much easier once your child knows the lingo. Essentially, setting a goal can be as easy as filling in the blanks in a formulaic sentence: I would like to do/learn/know how to [insert skill] by [insert time frame]. I can already [insert related skills].
5. Help keep goals realistic and reachable. While you don't want to squash your child's enthusiasm, if you know that a goal is beyond her reach, help her refine it by asking her to break it down into smaller pieces that add up to the bigger goal. For example, if your child wants to be a champion swimmer, but can't swim an entire lap of the pool yet, you can suggest she start by making that her first goal.
6. Make a visual goal reminder. Help your child write down her goals in an easy-to-follow, not-so-overwhelming format. Being able to see and check off the steps on the way to her goal is key in keeping her motivated. A really simple way to make a visual reminder is to have your child draw a ladder on a piece of paper, writing her goal at the top and each step to that goal on the rungs. She can "climb" the ladder as she gets closer to her goal. Once your child has set some goals and has a plan for achieving them, she may find them more difficult, or easier, to achieve than she originally thought.
7. It's a good idea to revisit goals every so often, celebrating the ones she's met, and modifying those that are too daunting.