Teaching Your Children How to Set Goals



Learning how to set goals and accomplish them is a valuable skill that serves us in all aspects of our lives, from our emotional and physical health to our relationships to our careers. Teaching children how to do this will ensure that they have the skills to become happy and successful adults.

However, goal-setting concepts can be too abstract for many children. Their impulsive natures can run counter to the planning, hard work and dedication required to reach many goals. There are many things you can do to help your children learn this skill, starting when they are very young.

Here’s how you can teach your children to set and reach their goals:

Start Early

Even very young children can begin practicing goal setting with daily tasks. Encourage your children to accomplish different chores and other tasks by presenting it as a goal, such as getting dressed for the day or making the bed.

Start by announcing the goal – “Today, our goal will be to get dressed” – then announce each of the steps leading up to its accomplishment – “First, we have to choose what we want to wear. Next, we have to put on our pants…” and so on. These small goals are easily and quickly accomplished, and this process helps your child understand the steps required to identify and achieve a goal.

Let Them Lead

It may be tempting to tell your children the goals they should try to be achieving (and this will be a temptation you will fight throughout their lives), but it will be easier to get them invested in the process if they determine their own goals. Talk to them about what they want – besides more candy or a later curfew. Don’t dismiss their goals as frivolous or not worthwhile.

Even if their goal is to get an Xbox, talk to them about how they can accomplish it by doing more chores and saving. If they aren’t excited about their goals, they won’t accomplish them.

Make a Plan

Once your child is used to setting and achieving smaller goals, start identifying larger goals and make a plan for achieving them. Help your child to identify each of the steps required to meet the goal. For example, if the goal is to get a higher grade on a math test, the steps could include setting aside an hour each night for study, taking a certain number of practice exams, meeting with the teacher for extra tutoring, and reviewing previous tests to identify mistakes.

Creating a plan makes achieving a goal more accessible by breaking it into smaller steps, each of which can instill a sense of accomplishment when they are achieved. Creating this type of plan also helps to illustrate the difference between long- and short-term goals (as many of the steps towards completing the larger goal are short-term goals themselves).

Be Realistic

Children often do not understand the amount of work or other requirements necessary to meet some goals. Learning how to ride a horse may seem exciting and easy to do, but in reality, it requires a lot of training. Your child may want to attend an intensive summer camp, but doesn’t realize how expensive it is.

Help your children understand how to be realistic about goal setting, both in the goal they choose and in the plan they set for achieving it. For example, learning to ride a horse is not unrealistic, but learning to do so in a weekend might be. Don’t dismiss your children’s goals, but help them to understand the steps required to achieve them, and then be encouraging and offer your help where you can.

Be a Cheerleader

As your child works toward achieving a goal, monitor progress and celebrate success. Offer your support where necessary and encourage the good work that is being done. Your child will thrive on the positive reinforcement and will feel all the better about the success achieved. In the future, your child will want to set and achieve more goals based on this positive reinforcement.

Learning to set goals is not intuitive. Children must be encouraged to develop this valuable skill for success later in life. Starting early and offering guidance and encouragement can help them to learn short- and long-term goal setting for success.


Heather Green is a freelance writer for several regional magazines in North Carolina as well as a resident blogger for onlinenursingdegrees.org. Her writing experience includes fashion, business, health, agriculture and a wide range of other topics. Heather has just completed research on associates in nursing online and online nursing degrees in ny.