Help Your Child Achieve Meaningful Goals
This time of year, everyone is sticking hard to their new years’ resolutions. Gyms are packed, kale sales are up, and TVs are off. To me, there’s something beautiful about starting the new year with big intentions. It’s a fresh 365 days full of possibilities and we intend to make the best of it. Unfortunately, resolutions often don’t work. Come late February, the gym parking lots will no longer be filled with cars.
The good news is that if we want to make changes, intentional and measured goal setting has proven itself effective. You’re never too young or too old to start setting out to achieve. That’s why we often encourage our tutoring students to set academic and life goals. If your child has some changes they would like to make in the new year, now is a great time to help them learn this valuable skill. Through years of experience helping students set and achieve goals, we’ve compiled our biggest tips for starting this practice with your child.
Lead by example
We all know the best way to lead is by example. You know...that whole walk the walk thing that can be so hard as a parent. The best first step to getting your child interested in goal setting is to let them see you put it into practice. Set a goal for yourself in your work or personal life and be open with the whole family about it. Let your child know what you’re hoping to achieve and what steps you plan to take to get there. Talk about your progress and setbacks at the dinner table and celebrate together when you finally get to the finish line.
Make sure your child aims for what THEY want to achieve
What you want for your child and what they want to achieve may not line up. When setting a goal, it’s important to have motivation. If your child doesn’t want to achieve the goal they set, there’s almost a 0% chance of it happening. When helping your child brainstorm what they want to aim for, try to stick with their ideas...even though it’s very tempting to slide in your own. Asking guided questions may help you and your child figure out just what they want to make happen. Try some questions like:
What have you been unhappy with when it comes to your grades?
What would you like to accomplish this quarter?
Where do you feel like you could improve?
What things do you want to get better at this semester?
Use the SMART goal technique
Using the SMART goal framework will help your child know where to start and what to do after their goal is set. A smart goal is:
Specific - The goal needs to have a defined timeline and an end accomplishment
Measurable - This means your child will know exactly when they’ve achieved the goal. This measure may be based on things like grades or the frequency of an activity. Ex. Getting a B or higher in Math is very measurable.
Attainable - The goal can’t be too far out of reach. You definitely want your child to stretch themselves, but not too far. Ex. Changing my grade from a C to a B is attainable. Changing my grade from a D to an A may be unattainable.
Realistic- The goal, action steps, and timeline attached need to be realistic.
Timebound - Your child’s goal needs to have a timeline attached. Ex. I will change my grade in math to a B or higher within the next quarter
You may need to help your child take what they want to accomplish and put it into the SMART framework by asking questions, guiding, and making suggestions when appropriate.
Here are a few examples of school-related SMART goals:
I will turn in all my homework in the coming week.
I will change my grade in Science to a C or higher by the end of the quarter.
I will get a B or higher on all my quizzes this month.
Set action steps
After your child has set their goal, they will need to decide exactly how they will achieve it. Help your student list out the actions they will take to make their goal a reality. Make sure these actions are realistic and will actually get your child where they’re aiming to go.
For the new goal setter, starting small is key. You don’t want your child to get overwhelmed. Help your student set a goal that will be measured in a short timespan (think 1-2 weeks) that is not too much of a stretch. This gives you more opportunities to start over and practice the goal-setting process while keeping your child from getting bogged down or becoming disinterested.
Check in frequently
While your child is learning to set goals, it’s a good idea for you to become their accountability partner. Set a reminder to check in at least weekly with your child about their goal and how they’re doing on the action steps. Try to steer clear of lecturing and keep the check-in upbeat. Here are some questions you might ask when touching base with your child:
How do you think you’re doing on your goal?
What action steps have you taken this week?