The New Year has arrived and with it the season for reflection, aspiration, and renewal. For many of us, we try to refocus and recommit to positive habits and meaningful resolutions. But have you ever considered the importance of renewal and resolutions for children? Many children have the advantage of resiliency and are able to continue with a goal even when they encounter a failure or setback. However, most children often lack the discernment and discipline to choose appropriate goals and develop a plan as to how to accomplish their goals. Here are a few tips when helping your child or student set his or her academic goals for the new year.
SET SPECIFIC GOALS
Nothing is more uninspiring than a nebulous goal. Statements like “I want to get better grades” or “I want to be a better soccer player” are difficult to measure thus removing the reward of accomplishment. So if this sounds all too familiar to you, consider rephrasing your goal with specificity. For example, rather than say “I want to get better grades this year” replace “better grades” with an actual grade in an actual subject. If the desire is to be a better soccer player, choose a skill or position and attach a numeric element to that goal. By setting goals with measurable values, progress and growth can be more readily seen thus providing positive momentum to push through when setbacks occur.
SET ATTAINABLE GOALS
Nothing is more deflating than an unachievable goal. If a typical “C student” desires to make a perfect 4.0 this year, that student may be setting himself up for a likely failure. Goals should push us to excel not set us up to fail. As a general rule, avoid goals that have little to no room for error. Goals like this will quickly be abandoned after the first glimpse of failure or hardship. Set a goal that is above where you are now without demanding total perfection. For example, if your child is suppose to practice piano 30 min every day but usually practices 15-20 minutes a few times a week, set a goal for 30 min / 3-5 times a week. This goal is attainable in that it motivates the child to practice more than what is happening now while still allowing a degree of flexibility. Achieving a smaller attainable goal is better than abandoning a noble but unrealistic goal.
SET INCREMENTAL GOALS
Nothing is more frustrating than working hard at a goal and having no sense of accomplishment. If we intentionally set specific and attainable goals, the next step in successfully reaching our goal is breaking it down into incremental parts. For example, if your child sets a goal to read 10 books over the summer, break the goal down into weeks. Then once your child finishes the first book (hopefully within the first week) – celebrate! Don’t wait till the end of summer to enjoy the success. Intermittent celebrations will keep your child or student motivated and even if at the end the main goal was not attained – success was still experienced and celebrated.
Growth and success are intentionally cultivated and constructively pursued. Setting specific, attainable, and incremental goals will increase the likelihood of developing more positive habits that lead to a healthier and productive lifestyle. Guiding children or students to set their own personal goals will additionally give them ownership to that goal. In the end, we pursue what we want or feel is valuable and important not what someone else tells us to do. So while you guide your child into setting effective goals, remember to give them the freedom to be its author – for this often will be the strongest motivating factor in the journey to success!
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