How to help children with goal-setting

Aug 2013
Even at a young age, children can begin the process of goal-setting in small tasks

Learning to set goals is an important skill for children to develop. As children progress through school they will be expected to set both short and long-term targets for their educational development.

Although teaching staff will help with this process, your child may find they need to become more proactive in order to support their learning.

There are many ways that parents can help children to set goals:

Give them the opportunity to lead
Letting children set both small and large goals in their daily lives will give them ownership over their actions. As an example, they can set goals regarding how much weekly pocket money they want to save to buy a product or can take a leading role in discussions about areas they need to improve on in school.

Encouraging children to take on positions of responsibility at school will also expose them to more opportunities for goal-setting. A role on the school council will see them working on goals such as making improvements to the playground or adding to the variety of meals on the school dinner menu.

Start as early as possible
Even at a young age, children can begin the process of goal-setting in small tasks. For example, they may want to achieve the goal of getting dressed on their own or riding a bike without stabilisers. Parents can help in this process by breaking down their goal into manageable steps.

Teach children about perseverance
The key to achieving many goals is persevering when things appear to go wrong. Help children to push through their barriers over certain tasks by setting realistic goals for what they can achieve. Developing a 'solution-focused' approach to their learning will ensure they have the staying power to see goals through to the end.

Be realistic about what your child can achieve
Speaking to teachers and other education professionals will help you gain a good idea of realistic expectations which you can share with your child. This will enable you both to set achievable goals, tailored specifically to your child and not the needs or abilities of others.

Encourage children to look to the future
While setting present goals is important, there may be a need for children to look to the immediate and more distant future in order to get perspective on their goals. For example, if children are keen to pursue a career as a vet, they will need to set a number of goals in their understanding of science. They could also start early by setting a goal to spend a day doing work experience at their local veterinary practice.

Working with children to create a timeline of what they want to achieve over a period of one year or longer is also helpful. This timeline doesn't need to be rigid and you can simply work together to create a collage of their future goals and aspirations.