Setting Goals with Kids (and The Sunday Parenting Party)

Photo credit “D Sharon Pruitt”

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Kids can benefit so much from setting goals. It can really lay the groundwork for some important skills in adulthood.  Until now, I had never really been serious about setting goals for myself at the start of the new year, let alone introducing R to this concept. All that has changed in a BIG way for 2013 and I have set myself many goals this year. I spent an entire day writing “2013 – THE PLAN” (more on that next week) and so I thought this would be the perfect time to teach R the benefits of goal setting in a fun and age appropriate way. R is at an age now where he is really grasping what the turn of a new year means and his excitement for our traditional New Year’s eve picnic and fireworks with our dearest friends was sky high this year. So, I thought I’d harness that excitement and channel it into some goal setting.

MAKE THE GOALS THEIRS, NOT YOURS
It was important to me to allow R to set his own goals – no matter what they ended up being. As stellar as some of my suggestions would have been (to actually eat a vegetable other than mashed potato, to say “Hooray!” when I tell him it’s time for a bath, and my personal favourite – to let us sleep past 6am just once), I think there would be the same level of success if I set myself a goal to never eat chocolate ever again. No, the goals had to be his. It’s all about process not product. If  he’s going to learn anything from this process, then he needs to achieve his goals, and he’ll have a much greater chance of success if  he’s working towards goals that are meaningful and important to him.

QUESTIONS TO ASK KIDS FOR GOAL SETTING
R is 4, so obviously I wanted to keep things simple, achievable and most importantly fun.  Just before Christmas, I read this wonderful post from Julie over at Creekside Learning about preparing kids for New Year’s Eve celebrations and setting goals for the new year. It’s a brilliant post with several ideas suggested based on different age groups. (There is LOTS of inspiration to be had over at Creekside Learning so please do pop over and take a look around). I loved the categories of questions that Julie asked her kids and so I modeled our goal setting on those same topics. I began by speaking with R about what a goal actually is, and I gave him some examples of the goals that I am working towards this year. I then asked him whether he would like to set some goals himself this year. When he said that he would, I asked him the following questions.

1. What would you like to learn this year?
2. How would you like to spend more time together as a family?
3. What kind or helpful thing would you like to do this year?
4. What would you like to do more of this year?

I didn’t just fire off the questions interview style, although if your child is older and understands the concepts a bit better you certainly could. I engaged R in a conversation and gave him prompts and examples to help him understand the questions. Here’s what he decided:

1. What would you like to learn this year? How to swim (This really surprised me as he took water confidence classes last Summer and didn’t seem to enjoy them at all. I love that this little exercise helped me find out he really wants to pursue swimming.)
2. How would you like to spend more time together as a family? Family movie nights (This happens to be one of my goals too. Great minds!)
3. What kind or helpful thing would you like to do this year? Donate my old toys to charity.
4. What would you like to do more of this year? Plant more flowers in the garden.

STEPS TO ACCOMPLISH GOALS WITH KIDS
To help R achieve his goals I’ll be following the same method that I’m using to achieve my own goals this year. I’ll elaborate on that later this week, but in summary we will:

1. Choose the goals. (The WHAT)
2. Determine the steps we need to take to accomplish each goal. (The HOW)
3. Decide when each step will be worked on. (The WHEN)
4. Celebrate when each goal is achieved. (The CELEBRATION)

We’ll keep it all very simple and be deliberate and methodical in our approach. Most of all, we’ll keep it fun!

Do your kids set goals at the beginning of a new year? How do you help them to succeed? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Welcome back to The Sunday Parenting Party – our first link up for 2013. I’ve really missed this linky while we’ve been on a short break over the holidays.  We invite you to link up your parenting posts, old or new, humorous or heartfelt, and as many as you like. We ask that you don’t link up kids activities such as crafts, games etc If you do have a kids activity to link up, pop on over to The Weekly Kids Co-op. We would love to see you link up there.



Comments
  1. Lovely post Ness, lots of fabulous ideas. Pinned it to my parenting board x

  2. What a lovely post Ness…thanks so much for sharing your ideas and thoughts…lots of stuff to take away with me!

    • Thanks for reading Jode and for your lovely comment. :)

  3. Ness this is beautiful! I love that you’re breaking it down for R and letting him take ownership of it!

    • Thank you Bek. I think it’s important for R to take the lead in this so that he can feel a sense of self worth when he meets those goals.

  4. Hi Ness,
    What a lovely post you wrote! When we work on our own growth, we teach our children to become “growing people,” too. This is a wonderful lesson to impart to our children. As adults, change is challenging, and often painful, because we have already become entrenched in our negative habits. However, children are more pliable. They have less to undo, and even that which they must uproot is not firmly ingrained. Therefore, by teaching children to change, we are giving them the skills in their youth – the time which is most ripe for change.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment Sharon. What you describe, about children being more pliable, and their habits being less ingrained, is what I had in mind when I decided to introduce R to the concept of goals. I think goals really give us a sense of purpose and can help to prevent depression (because of that sense of purpose), they give us a sense of self worth (when we accomplish those goals) and they teach us patience and creative thinking (when we encounter setbacks and challenges along the way) so I really wanted to introduce R to this concept early (in an age appropriate/no pressure kind of way) so that it becomes habitual for him. That’s my theory anyway!

  5. Oh dear goodness, how did I miss this until now? Just had some folks pop over to my blog today, Ness and now I’m reading your lovely words. Thank you so much!

    • Aw, thanks Julie! You did contact me back when this post was published. You sent me an email or PMed me on Facebook (can’t remember which) and you said some lovely things. So happy that this has sent some visitors your way. :)

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