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Teaching Students to Set Goals

From the article, "Goal-Setting for Beginners: Teaching Your Child the Basics for Success"

Consider the following ideas when discussing the basics of goal-setting and the value of "follow-through" with your child:
  • Goals can be short-term or long-term. Depending on your child's level of maturity, developing long-term goals may require too much follow-through to be realistic.

  • Success breeds success. Encourage your child to set goals that she can accomplish. Achieving short-term goals eventually leads to success in pursuing long-term goals, particularly as children mature.

  • Emphasize the importance of achieving each step in the goal ladder, rather than focusing on just the final realization of the goal.

  • Encourage your child to set self-motivated goals. Children work harder to accomplish goals that matter to them. And while rewards are nice, the best gift your child can give himself is the satisfaction of a job well done.

Develop Your Own Goal-Setting Model

Use the following suggestions to create your own goal-setting model that can help your child learn about setting and achieving goals:
  • Help your child set short-term goals. Possible goals could be as limited as completing the night's homework, or more ongoing, such as babysitting for two hours each day for a week. Let your child's maturity level and needs determine the appropriate length of time. For a high school student, it could be one month; for a middle-schooler, one week. Shortening the length of time to achieve a goal may motivate your child to achieve because the success can be more immediate.

  • Help your child set long-term goals. Making the honor roll, being selected as first-chair violin, making the volleyball team, or being accepted by the college of your choice are all long-term goals. Students tend to set more long-term goals than short-term ones, so encourage your child to break each long-term goal into a series of short-term goals so he remains focused.

  • Help your child set steps towards accomplishing each goal. Setting a goal is often easier than establishing the steps to achievement and then sticking to them. Use the GOAL LADDER as a visual tool to help your child set a short-range goal. Draw a ladder with your child's "goal" written at the top. Your child can fill in a "rung" on the ladder for each step toward achieving that goal.

  • Check in periodically. During the middle and at the end of the goal-achieving process, ask your child how she's doing. Ask questions that help her understand more clearly how well she's accomplished the steps toward her goal, and if necessary, discuss how she might improve her strategy for next time.

Brought to you by National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Read our article entitled "Teaching Goals For The New Year"

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