Setting goals is nothing new for many grown-ups, but kids also benefit from working toward something they want to achieve. Whether it’s a cleaner room or less screen time, kids grow from setting and meeting age-appropriate goals.

Decide What to Do

As parents, we can think of a few things our kids could work on, but what will improve their daily lives and offer them chances for success?

If they’re working on being more active, don’t start with walking a mile a day. Start with something fun like taking the dog for a family walk after school. If a clean room is the goal, try making the bed daily. Once they have succeeded in that area, they can build on it.

Walking the dog twice a week becomes four times a week. Making the bed grows to putting dirty clothes in the hamper, too. Allow each goal to grow over time.

Make a Plan

Set a start date and an end date. Kids often need quick wins, so shorter time frames are great. Have young kids go for a few days and build up to a week. Older kids and tweens can go longer stretches, but usually no more than a month. Offering quick wins gives them confidence and momentum to stick with it.

Another important detail is how your child will keep track of their progress. You can try an app or the classic sticker chart. Even a simple star on the family calendar works.

What You Focus on Matters

A negative approach won’t get you far. It’s true for us and our kids. While we may want them to stop eating junk food or to spend less time on screens, focusing on the positive yields better results. Instead of eating less junk food, try eating an extra veggie each day. Cutting down on screen time becomes playing a new card game. Finding something good to do is more enticing than stopping something else.

The Secret to Success

We all want our kids to be successful, not just for the sake of goals but for our sanity. We can help them find success with the one thing that always helps: do it together.

Kids have a hard time saying no when mom or dad sits down to play cards with them or challenges them to race to the mailbox. Even a contest to make your bed the fastest motivates kids to do the work.

Interaction is a surefire way to help kids make progress on their goals.

How to Handle Setbacks

None of us wants to believe there will be setbacks in goal setting. The whole point is moving forward. But perfection isn’t realistic. There will be days when things don’t go perfectly.

The key is how you handle it. No matter which method you use, your kids will learn that goals are not a pass/fail system. It’s all about progress.

The Key to Rewards

We all, even adults, need a reward to motivate us to keep going to the finish line.

Before kids even start working on a new goal, decide how they will celebrate at the end of the time frame.

Will it be going out for ice cream or watching a favorite movie? Maybe a campout in the living room or a trip to the bookstore? What about an extra story at bedtime?

The reward should be clearly established at the outset and it should be finite. For most kids, the reward needs to be immediate, so they associate it with their hard work.

Whatever reward you give, make sure it doesn’t undo the hard work your child has done.

Having ice cream every night now that your child is eating more veggies doesn’t support the goal.

After a week of making their bed, day seven gets the extra story.

When they have walked the dog twice a week for a month, a walk to the ice cream shop is on day 30.

Define rewards, track progress, and give the reward to support kids’ success in setting their own goals now and in the future.

Three ways to handle a setback:

  • One missed opportunity isn’t a failure. Give grace and keep going.
  • Losing steam feels frustrating. Look back at the progress they made.
  • Things sometimes go haywire. Give a fresh start with a shorter time frame.

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