November 18, 2016 — By Wendy Sachs

This is the time of year when we reflect on what we accomplished throughout the year and renew goals for the upcoming year. Even as adults, we sometimes struggle with strategies for setting goals but what does this look like for young children. How can we help nurture goal setting and the process of achievement?

While experts say preteen is an ideal time to introduce your child to the concept of establishing targets and working toward them, there are ways to introduce the idea of goal setting to younger children, too.

Strategies for young children:
Using pictures and talking through the steps of goal setting and achievement can start at an early age. Here are a few suggestions of arts and crafts ideas to do around goal setting concepts.

A Way I Can Be a Good Friend – Think about the ways in which they can build friendships – either in general or with a specific friend. Cut out magazine pictures of scenes depicting friends.

My Wish Frame – Find out their wishes, those that are teeny tiny and easily granted – or big enough to impact the world and draw pictures of their ideas. Talk about how they could accomplish those wishes or how others have accomplished them.

If I Can Learn About Anything — Children can draw pictures about all the things they would most like to learn. It’s a great way to encourage them to take control of their own learning.  Talk about how they could explore their curiosities.

Strategies for preteens:

Get the Idea Across – look for ways the child already uses goal-setting techniques, such as saving for a coveted game or wanting to learn the words to a song. Discuss how these same techniques can be used to meet other challenges.

Let Them Choose — “If parents or nannies find they’re nagging or getting angry that the child isn’t working hard enough to meet a goal, that’s a signal they need to back off,” warns Edward L. Coyle, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Show Them How – So include the child in your own goal-setting to show how the process works. Say you want to create a garden. Get the child involved in everything from researching plants to turning the dirt.

Provide a Reality Check — Children often underestimate how hard it can be to meet a goal, and then they get frustrated and discouraged when they fall short. Point out the challenges and the dedication it will require. The idea isn’t to make the goal seem too daunting, but rather to share in the seriousness of the undertaking by helping plan it out.

Applaud Effort – Don’t forget the compliments. Say something like, “I’m really impressed. When you care about something you really go after it!”

When Kids Fall Short — Review the goal and help determine if it was too vague or too ambitious, ask the child for suggestions, and help to envision the benefits.