How to teach kids to set (and achieve!) their goals
Goal setting is part of almost every aspect of our lives – from finances to fitness to career progression. Whatever you’re striving towards, it’s important to have a strategy that helps you achieve the things you’ve set your mind to.
Teaching your kids how to set and reach their goals is a vital skill that will teach them about saving, patience, and resilience now – which will help them take on all the exciting things that lie ahead.
Here, we talk through some popular strategies to help you bring goal setting into your child’s routine.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting
Saving for an item on your child’s wish-list is a simple and rewarding way to teach them about goal setting.
When your child saves up money to buy something they really want, they get used to the idea of saving and managing finances, alongside goal setting and planning. In addition, they’ll develop willpower and learn to make choices that result in future gain (which will come in handy in their life).
To help understand how to set goals, SMART goal setting strategy is a popular method that can be tailored to almost any age group or situation.
A SMART goal is a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound goal.
A goal must be specific so that your child can keep focus on a single achievement. To specify a plan, ask your child:
- What is your goal?
- Why is this your goal?
- When do you want to accomplish your goal?
- Where can you work on your goal?
- Who can help you with your goal?
For example: Their goal is to save up for a new video game because they really want to play it. They want to save up within 2 months. They can accomplish this themselves, at home, with your support.
Your kids must clearly understand what needs to be accomplished to get the result they want. With milestones, your child will have some indicator of their progress, building anticipation and excitement in the process!
For example: They can put a certain amount aside each week and measure how much they’ve saved in their SideKick app.
Some children might have the motivation and resources to reach their goal with little help – but other kids require some guidance and support along the way.
Ask yourself: can this task be done? Are there decisions I make and steps I can take to bring them closer to this goal?
For example: If your child’s goal is to save up to buy a video game, they must have some form of income. You can help by giving them weekly pocket money, paying them to do household chores or errands, or encouraging them to save up money from birthdays or holidays.
It’s important for your child to start off with a goal that they can actually reach, to make sure they don’t get discouraged or lose interest along the way. This is something you can help them with!
Let their imagination run wild and then work with them to develop a tangible goal that’s actually attainable in your current circumstances.
For example: Buying a car is probably too big of a goal for a young child as it will take too long. Buying a video game is more achievable. A teenager who has a job, however, may be able to achieve their goal of buying a car.
Having an ideal date in mind will help frame your child’s goal and give them a steady focus. It’s also a good way to help measure their progress and teach them to adapt to a more reasonable plan, if necessary.
For example: If your child wants to buy a $20 video game within a week but they only get $5 pocket money each week, they’ll need to learn to readjust their mindset and understand that it takes time, patience, and dedication to achieve our goals.
Short, medium, and long-term goals
Setting goals according to the SMART strategy can show your child how to find success and boost their self-confidence. However, don’t forget that a big goal needs to be broken down into small, more manageable tasks to draw up a step-by-step plan of action.
To lay out a goal in steps, teach your kids about the difference between short-term, medium-term, and long-term.
- Short-term goals: These are things you can achieve on a relatively short timeline, such as when a child saves up for a game, a new smartphone, or a skateboard. Maybe they want to invest in a particular stock and start building a portfolio!
- Medium-term goals: Medium-term goals might be more expensive or have longer waiting periods, like buying a new gaming console, a car, or saving for a trip abroad.
- Long-term goals: These goals take place over the years and can include saving up for university, buying a house, or (for the truly motivated youngster) even retirement planning!
In-between all these goals are intermediate ones. Before reaching any of the main goals already listed, your kids might find certain obstacles that they need to overcome.
For example: Buying a car may be a primary goal, but you cannot drive it without obtaining a driver’s license, which means that you need to pass a driver’s test. This might mean paying for or contributing to the cost of driving lessons.
Staying focused on goals
Kids might lose patience or get frustrated by how long it takes to reach their goals. Of course, that’s all part of the learning process – but there are some things you can do to make the journey a little easier at the start.
Take some time, sit down with them, and get creative! Have them draw a picture of their goals, write it down on a piece of paper, print it out, or make a note on a smartphone. Writing down and visualizing goals can help them have somewhere to turn back to for inspiration and focus.
Plan out a step-by-step plan for their goal, following the SMART strategy. Do regular check-ins to see how they’re doing and encourage them if they start to lose interest or wander off track.
By working together, you can help your child develop important skills in the goal setting journey. As well as helping them get the things they want now, they’ll be set up for success in the future.