“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible”
The idea of setting goals is to provide them with the educational foundation to take flight in whichever direction their talents and desire take them, without pigeonholing them into the default career tracks of the aspirational upper middle class. We want to help them become the best possible versions of themselves—whatever that is.
For the last three years, as a family, we would sit down at the end of the year to talk about our achievements as a family and as an individual, then set new goals for the new year. That activity alone has created lots of motivation, enthusiasm, focus, direction and self-confidence for my children.
Why? Because they had activities, challenges and plans to look forward to during the year. Their accomplishments as well as ours, whether they were big or small, allowed for acknowledgements and celebrations.
It has taught my daughters the meaning and value of saving for expensive items, planning and managing their time and work, in order to complete and achieve certain tasks. It has allowed for the family to work together and encourage each other so we could achieve things together.
Be sure to set SMART goals.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Action-oriented
R – Realistic
T – Time Bound
When helping your children set goals, whether it is to bring up a grade in math class, improving their basketball skills, or choosing a college, walk through the S.M.A.R.T. method with them.
Many times we make the mistake of generalising our goals. For example, instead of saying, “I want to improve in piano,” encourage your child to use the S.M.A.R.T. method to set a detailed goal:
“I want to improve my piano grade from a C to a B by the end of this term by practising an extra half an hour each day.”
You will notice in that example the goal was to move from a C to a B, which shows the second part of the method. The goal needs to be measurable. General goals of “just wanting to improve” are not good enough. “Improving” can mean a lot of things and will make it easier to quit. Having a measurable goal helps them know when an improvement has been made. Then when a measurable goal has been met it can be celebrated and a new higher goal can be set.
When setting goals with your child make sure you think through and assign activities that will help him/her reach the goal. For example, if the goal is to improve a grade from a C to a B then an action-oriented goal could be to practise every day for at least an extra half an hour. Another action-oriented goal could be to always work on and complete homework before dinner (if possible). After you have helped your children set their goals, create the steps to attain them. Include checkpoints of progress, such as having them talk with their instructor or teacher.
Goals also need to be both challenging and realistic. While goals will help instil motivation in your kids, setting unrealistic goals will only create frustration. Make sure their goals are attainable and beneficial — not only in the end result but in the process as well.
Finally, set a time schedule when the goal needs to be met. This puts a sense of urgency around the goal. Without this restraint, goals tend to go unmet.