A new year resembles fresh starts and new beginnings! It’s also an excellent opportunity to teach your toddler about goal setting, a necessary life skill for success and happiness. Setting goals with your children is one way to foster a can-do attitude and help your child learn to set goals and meet them, one small step at a time.
As an adult, you may not even realise you are constantly goal setting. It comes naturally and is something we do without much reflection. Like most skills, it’s best to start teaching this early. Rather than setting a goal for your child, set a goal with your child. Ask your child what they wish they could achieve or what they would feel proud to overcome. It all starts by brainstorming together! We’ve put together some examples of how to set goals with your children and have them excited about achieving them with you.
Often, a visual reminder can be beneficial and motivating when working towards a goal. This can be done by talking about things that they would like to do or activities that they have mentioned and you haven’t yet experienced. Once you’ve chatted about some of your child’s hopes and dreams, go through an old magazine together and carefully cut out pictures and symbols that represent those goals. This doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can be a fun craft for them to put together their vision board. If they are stuck thinking of ideas, give them some help and suggest things that you know they would enjoy. Once they’ve pasted and decorated the cut-outs on their vision board, discuss how they can look at achieving these goals. This could be practising a sport more often, playing an instrument, or writing the entire alphabet. Whatever it is, together, you can come up with ways to help your child achieve it!
This can tie into your vision board. Once you’ve confirmed what goals your child is looking to achieve, help them make a plan.
At a young age, it can be difficult to plan for the future. Help them filter down their vision board to one goal that they can achieve quickly. Once they have achieved their short-term goal, they will get excited to do it again and give them an understanding of how goal-setting works! You can still acknowledge their long-term goals by saying “it’s a goal we’re still working towards ” and putting it onto the long-term goal list. By repeating the goal-setting process, your kids will eventually learn how to do it on their own.
As your child starts to set goals and put effort and work towards them, don’t forget to praise their efforts and support them. It doesn’t matter how big or small the goal is. Something along the lines of “I’m proud of your efforts, I can see you’ve been working hard to achieve this goal and I’m so impressed”. This support and praise will reinforce the action. Once they have started achieving some of their goals, talk about how it makes them feel once it’s complete. Associating the feeling of being proud with the action of achieving their goal will help them understand the process and encourage them to continue doing it. When they are struggling to move forward or take action on what is required, help them problem solve and remind them that sometimes it takes time, and it will be worth it if you keep practising and working on it. It makes the reward at the end so much more worth it!
This is an excellent activity that you can do with your children to help enforce what they are already excelling at whilst addressing what they want to work out. On a piece of paper or whiteboard, draw three stars, leaving space next to each symbol for your child to write down what they are good at. Example:
* Spelling my name
* Running really fast
* Saying please and thank you
Underneath the three stars, write the word “Wish” with space underneath it to write down some goals or things they wish they were good at. Example:
“I wish to write a story about my family.”
From here, you can help narrow it down further by using the five-step plan, establishing what they need to practice to achieve their goal. Once they have achieved the goal, you can include it under the star section in your next goal planning activity!
The activity and process of creating goals provide moments for connection between you and your child while instilling a “can-do” attitude that will set kids up for success! It also helps with problem-solving development, independence and time for reflection.