Nothing makes my wife and I fight (or laugh) more than when we are forced to ask for directions. Many good comedies have been based on this premise of having a goal and then struggling to attain it. While working with your child to establish a destination or a goal might feel like a comedy of errors at times, it is critical to their development as students and adults.
Chad Smith, the Academic Dean of Shelterwood Academy, has identified four fantastic tips for heading in the right direction when it comes to goal setting.
Set Goals Early
While goal setting might feel intimidating and even unnecessary for young children, learning how to break down a task into bite-sized steps is a critical life skill. As parents, we often get distracted with adult-type goals. Even when our kids are young, we are tempted to establish our own goals for their lives, large cumbersome goals that overwhelm them, are not useful and our kids will often rebel against these directives. Instead, start talking to them about their interests and help them break down their goals in life into smaller steps. Enabling them to experience success early and often will create the motivation necessary to continue setting goals later in life with much more difficult tasks. It will also help them learn to navigate the ups and downs of life they will inevitably experience when trying to attain their desires.
Guide, Don’t Dictate
To have ultimate buy-in from your student, goals need to come from them. The good (and maybe sometimes difficult) part of this is that often they will develop goals based on values they have caught from their parents/guardians. If you have modeled hard work, integrity, education, life-long learning and goal setting, your student will have that as a basis from which to build a vision for his or her own future. Parents that speak often about the benefits of working hard, and focusing on education then have a platform to suggest goals that revolve around achievement in those areas. You may be surprised to find your student sets much tougher goals for himself or herself than you might set for him or her.
Something that can help students gain a vision for their future and a desire to set goals, can be introducing them to people that have accomplished goals themselves. If your child wants to be a doctor when they grow up, set up a meeting with a successful doctor. Perhaps your student wants to be an artist; put her in contact with a successful graphic designer. Maybe your child is questioning whether advanced education is right for them. If so, get together with someone who may have attended college later in life because he or she didn’t realize the importance of education until they had to work without one. Real life contact with people who have walked down the path can be invaluable in giving kids a vision for their own future.
Break Through the Brick Wall
If your student refuses to set goals or think about the future, you might feel like banging your head against a brick wall! Kids that don’t want to think about the future are often labeled as “lazy” or even “rebellious,” but in fact, may just feel insecure or anxious. When a student is dealing with doubt about their own abilities, it will often seem as though they just don’t care. Parents can help kids in this position by recognizing relative success. If a student has struggled turning in homework, setting a goal of successfully turning in all work for a week can set up an achievable bar for initial success. This in turn will build confidence, and foster their desire for more success. Eventually the internal narrative playing their mind may begin saying, “Hey, I can actually do this!” At this point, helping them think about bigger goals becomes much more manageable.
Parents want the best for their kids. Helping them set up their future for success through goal setting can be one of the greatest gifts that parents can give!