Good goal setting can be a pathway to resiliency and success. However, without guidance kids and teens tend to live in some unhelpful extremes when it comes to goal setting. I often see teens set too many goals at once, leading them to feel stressed out and overwhelmed. While on the other end of the continuum, I see some kids and teens who prefer not to think about their future or set goals off of short-term desires. We are not born knowing how to reach goals; rather it is a skill to be cultivated, especially in developing and maturing minds that are still learning time management, responsibility, and perseverance skills. When kids reach their goals, it can be quite the confidence boost, but on the flip side, falling short of their goals can be defeating and over time may even lead to a sense of failure and avoiding goals. The more parents, caregivers, teachers, and coaches help kids learn how to successfully set and reach goals, the more they can build confidence to achieve their life dreams even in the face of adversity. Here are a few tips to help kids with goal setting:
Encourage your kids to set their own goals or share their input. Think of the times you have been most motivated to reach a goal; it was likely a goal you set for yourself to get something you really wanted. The same is true for kids and teens. When your kids tell you something they really want, help them develop a plan to reach the goal. For example, if your kid wants to learn to play an instrument, help them break down the steps and skills they need to play and develop a goal to achieve each step. If you are getting angry or repeatedly asking your teen or kid to work harder toward a goal, this could be a signal your teen is not interested in the goal and a new strategy or change of goal might be helpful.
Set realistic goals.
Goals are usually challenging and take effort to reach, but if kids and teens have to frequently sacrifice sleep, their well-being, play time, or social connections to accomplish a goal it is probably not a very realistic or helpful goal. Help kids and teens break down a larger goal into sub-goals that can be reached in more realistic and manageable ways. Try to start with small goals to develop skills needed for success such as knowing their limits, time management, or organizational skills before moving on to larger, more long-term goals.
Show your support by noticing the effort your kids put toward reaching their goals. If you focus on the effort more than the outcome your kids will tend to do the same, which can help build the skills of perseverance and resiliency. Their thoughts could sound more like, “I know I can get this if I just keep practicing” instead of “I knew I couldn’t do this and I would let everyone down.” Even if the outcome is not what you or your teen were hoping for, they still learned helpful skills along the way that they can use to try again and build their confidence.
It can really make a difference when parents help kids develop skills to better reach their goals. Remember, kids are still learning and will most likely not reach their goals on the first try, but with your encouragement they will hopefully find confidence to try again. Success is often felt when kids and teens have developed the resiliency and confidence to go after their hopes and dreams.
JENNIFER WILMOTH, LMFT
Jennifer Wilmoth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Thrive Forward Therapy in the Suwanee area with over a decade of experience. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with families and individuals dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with couples who want to improve their relationship, teens experiencing difficulties at home or school, children experiencing behavioral or relational concerns, anxiety, and depression. Learn more at ThriveForwardTherapy.com.