The New Year is an about fresh starts and new beginnings, resolutions and setting goals. As adults, we reassess our lives and create a plan for the coming year, yet kids are often left out of this process. But who says that kids can’t get in on the action, too! In fact, when kids set goals, it benefits them in more ways than one. Setting goals strengthens executive functioning skills, as they must use cognitive abilities such as prioritizing, planning, time management, teamwork, problem solving and resilience. Realizing their objectives gives kids a sense of independence, responsibility and increases their confidence.
But just like adults, kids may fall short of the finish line if they don’t set their intentions properly. To quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So how as parents do we help our kids see their goals through to completion? Here’s the plan!
Choose a GOAL:
Make sure whichever goal your child chooses is attainable to minimize frustration and to ensure a positive outcome. The more specific you make the goal, the more likely your child will stick to it as there is a clear-cut objective.
- Do my chores each week
- Complete my homework every night
- Exercise everyday for 30 minutes
- Be kind to siblings and others
- Eat more fruits and vegetables every day
- Practice the piano for 30 minutes
- Read one book a week
- Speak Spanish everyday for 30 minutes
- Learn something new every month
- Pick a community service project for the month
Make a PLAN:
Depending on your child’s age, create an Action Plan that will allow your child to track progress. For older children, create a journal together with checklists for each day or week that the task is completed. They can monitor their progress and see where they may need help. Having a parent, caregiver or grandparent act as an Accountability Partner will ensure their commitment to the goal. Kids can write down and/or share what they have done each day or week to get 1 step closer to their goal.
For younger children, use a big calendar – paper or dry erase – with stickers to show when an action has been completed, which will help bring them closer to that goal.
Put it in ACTION:
Make it fun! Check in with each other once a week to make sure your child is on target. Have your children share what they have done as it opens a new dialogue and helps them formulate their thoughts and ideas and language skills. To start, make it a monthly goal so they can see the finish line and it’s not overwhelming. When the goal is reached, and if your child is willing, you can increase the challenge either with additional time allotted to a task or with another task altogether. Use incentives, whether stickers, small rewards or a special treat at the end of each week or two.
Happy New Year!