At this time of year there’s a lot of focus on adults getting their acts together. We want to get in shape, save money, make more money, reach new milestones. But what about our kids? If we help them develop goals, gain focus and make a plan, I believe that will give them a life skill that they will use over and over again throughout their lives.
Just the other day, my sixth grader received a letter that he had written to himself one year ago. His clever fifth grade teacher had each child fill out a simple form with: Books I’d like to read in 2014, Things I’d like to learn more about, One thing I’d like to change,etc. Then she had them address the letter to themselves and she mailed them this January 1. That’s one way to do it, and it was interesting to see where his mind was at last year, but if he never looked at those goals or made a detailed plan to reach them what are the chances of success? Not very good I tell you.
As parents, here’s a few things you can do to help your kids start off the year with some attainable goals.
1. Write it Down Annual Goals – Sit down with your child one on one. Ask her what does she want to achieve this year? Maybe it’s an academic achievement, or making a sports team, or learning a new skill. Then talk about when he/she can do on a day to day basis to reach that goal. Putting it in writing solidifies the goal. And posting it on a bulletin board, white board or a simple post-it on the desk gives him a constant visual reminder of what he’s working towards. Also put daily or weekly tasks into a daily planner so your child remembers to do these.
2. Check in on a weekly basis – Sunday nights might be a good time to talk as your family looks ahead to the new week. Check academic assignments or tests that are coming up. See what your child has planned in the way of extra-curriculars for the week. Don’t overload the schedule but make sure that there is time for productivity.
3. Positive Feedback – As your child reaches little milestones, tell them you are proud. If you want to reward them in other ways, okay. But parental approval and confidence does go a long way in motivating your adolescent to keep going!
4. Have a plan B – So it might not all go perfectly. Kids fail tests, they don’t make the team, they don’t get elected sometimes. It’s a life lesson that they may as well learn now. So help them dust off and come up with a plan B. For example if your son doesn’t make the school football team, is there a less competitive team he can play on during that season? If your child fails a test, immediately ask the teacher about extra credit. If your child runs for an office and loses, is there another committee he/she can volunteer for? You may be surprised how many options are out there until you search and ask the question.
5. Help them re-prioritize – Each year in school brings a new challenge. This is especially true in high school. One year the goal might be to get a driver’s license, another year it’s get into a dream college, or get a part-time job. There’s so much thrown at students these days that it’s really helpful for a parent to narrow down the priorities to maybe three per semester. Talk about them, post them and this helps the kids focus.
I will say that I have learned this through experience. I have a daughter who was very involved in high school. She was loyal to her various committees and activities. Sometimes I had to remind her to focus on her own priorities of getting good grades, getting into college and working a part-time job. On a day to day basis, this helped her focus. My sons are athletes and the competition gets tougher the older they get. My husband helps them design a workout routine to make sure they are at their best condition when tryouts occur. I help them look at long term projects and set interim deadlines. Kids seem to think they have all the time in the world and they only think about what’s happening tomorrow. Parents can provide a great service in helping them see the big picture and plan ahead to meet their goals.