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Personal Goal Setting for Kids: 3 Proven Ways to Help Kids Aim for the Stars


It’s been said that if you don’t care where you’re going, any path will get you there. It’s also been said that beautiful paths can’t be found unless you get lost. Planning and getting lost are both great concepts to teach and instill in our kids.

When your kids cross into their teenage years, there are a bazillion articles and countless books about personal goal setting and achieving goals. But you don’t have to wait for your kids to become teenagers to help them learn personal goal setting. What you do as a parent while your children are young will have a profound impact throughout their lives when it comes to their dreams, setting goals, and putting plans in place to achieve them.

Like most things in life, the sooner we start putting a few key concepts in place, the better outcomes we can expect when it comes to our kids setting their path for their future. Personal goal setting for your kids may not look like goal setting skills when your kids are little, but the following key concepts will help you prepare your kids for more than just personal goal setting:

  1. Know your role as a parent: teacher, coach, and mentor.
  2. Create an environment where your kids are not just handed the things they want but have to earn or work for them.
  3. Spend time with your kids talking about and helping them put their creative minds to work.

 1. Know Your Role as a Parent

As parents, we know that our first role is to teach our kids the many things we know, the skills we can share, and the insights that helped us get to where we are today. For example, helping our kids learn how to crawl, walk, ride a bike, get dressed, tie their shoes, take a bath, make their bed, make breakfast … the list is endless! Further, we know that when our kids are young, they like to do things again and again and again. What we may think of as redundant, they think of as fun because they are learning something.

Making sure that you not only show them but also talk with them about what you are doing is key. While they may not be able to talk in ways that you understand, at one year old, they can listen and understand. For example, let’s look at getting dressed in the morning. You can talk about the clothes you are getting for them, why you chose those clothes (it may be cold or warm outside), and how you put the clothes on them.

At some point, particularly when then can walk, put their clothes at their height and walk together to pick them out. Soon, they will stick their arms out to put them on. Believe it or not, kids can dress themselves by age two if their clothes are accessible to them and you teach them along the way.

When your kids are older than two, allow them to dress themselves. You can certainly help them, but when you move from being the teacher with how to get dressed to the coach, they gain self-confidence and capabilities.

The blog Teaching Kids about Money: Be a Coach and Mentor provides an excellent example of how to teach, coach, and mentor your kids about the value of money. The same concept can be applied to many things you want your kids to learn and know.

2. Create an Environment of Learning from Failure and Earning What They Want

Two of the hardest things for us to do as parents are to let our children fail and force them to make choices about what they want. Let’s take them one at a time.

When was the last time your child failed at something? Do you recall the circumstances? Did you ask them how it felt? Did you ask them what they learned and what they might do differently next time?

Experience working with many parents over the years has revealed that parents don’t ask these three key questions of their kids: How did you feel? What did you learn? What would you do differently?

What many parents tend to do first is console their child with comments like “that’s too bad,” “just slough it off,” or “you’ll be alright.” While those comments can help ease the initial emotional pain your child may feel, they do little to help them move forward and learn. Learning what was done wrong and how to avoid the same mistake again can help your child reach their goals.

The second thing we struggle with as parents is making our kids choose what they want. When kids learn to earn what they want, they will not only appreciate what they have but also begin to use their minds to figure out ways to get what they want. The blog on How to Create Opportunities for Your Kids and the Family Bonding Challenge—Needs vs. Wants exercise provide more information and things you can do with your kids when it comes to understanding needs vs. wants and setting the foundation for your kids to earn what they want and, ultimately, reach their goals.

3. Take the Time to Talk about It

How many times a week do you sit down as a family for meals or just to talk? Probably not as often as you would like. Generally, there are too many things going on when it comes to making the meal, kids acting up, kids wanting to eat, the TV going, and kids playing with their electronic devices.

We believe in the Value of Family Meetings and how they provide one of the best opportunities to talk, share, and unite a family. It’s the opportunity for each member of the family to share their thoughts, concerns, issues, hopes, and perspective on family values, their goals, and plans to achieve them.

Personal Goal Setting: Pulling It All Together

When it comes to helping your kids learn personal goal-setting skills, remember to utilize the three key concepts that will enable them to be caring, capable, and loving children for life!

  1. Know your role as a parent: teacher, coach, and mentor.
  2. Create an environment where your kids are not just handed the things they want but have to earn or work for them.
  3. Spend time with your kids talking about and helping them put their creative minds to work.

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Rick Stephens

Rick Stephens is a co-founder of Raising Families. With 33 years of experience as a top-level executive at The Boeing Company and having raised four children of his own, he is able to support parents and grandparents by incorporating his knowledge of business, leadership, and complex systems into the family setting.

In his free time Rick enjoys road biking, scuba diving, visiting his grandkids, and generally trying to figure out which time zone he’s in this week. Read full bio >>