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Goal Setting For Kids

by Sarah on December 30, 2010

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girl about to start 300x200 Goal Setting For KidsThere’s a reason you see so much hubbub about goal-setting right now.

It works.  When you envision a destination, it’s so much easier to get there.

And what a lovely feeling when you actually reach that destination and can marvel at your accomplishment.

Well, while adults right now are enmeshed in a goal-setting fervor, kids are mostly left out of the action.

But don’t think for a minute they couldn’t enjoy the benefits as well.

Just like they can run so fast to that finish line when they can see it in the distance.  Even when their lungs are aching and their legs feel like jelly.

Kids love the experience of dreaming up new achievements to accomplish . . . and getting there.  We all do!

We’ve been setting goals together in our household for a few years. Admittedly, it’s been somewhat sporadic.  But when we do get to it with the kids, they really enjoy the process.

Best of all, they love the feeling of looking at old goal sheets and reflecting on what they’ve accomplished over the years.

So here’s how we set it up.

  • You can also download a copy of the Word Doc Goal Sheet we use. I’ve left it in Word so you can edit it if you want. Or just print it out.

We get together around the table and talk a little about goals and why they help.  Our fitness activities provide great metaphors for what it means to look for the finish line and go for it.

Then I hand out sheets I’ve made up for each of them.

The first line helps remind them what this is all about.  I’ll use my daughter’s from a few years back as an example. It says:

“I am Hannah and I am 9 years old.  I am learning as I grow up.”

Underneath it it says:

“I can . . .” followed by lots of lines to list recently acquired skills and accomplishments.

Then the next section says:

“When I am 10 years old, I will be able to . . . ”

Followed by more lines that she can fill in to her dreamer’s content.

The next section helps them get a little long-term perspective.

It says, “When I am 12 years old, I will be able to . . .”

And has some “big-shot” goals that they want to work for.

And finally, the last section gives them the key to the kingdom. It’s where we help them think about what they can do on a regular basis – every day or every week – to get to their goal. As adults we often miss this strategic goal-setting step and end up getting lost in feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead. How great it is to give your children an early understanding of how to focus on the immediate doable task so you can climb Mt. Everest or fly off to Mars!

And here’s an additional step we added more recently: We ask our kids to look back at their earlier accomplishments and think about how they achieved them. It reminds them that their earlier accomplishments came through practice, diligence, and focus.

How Goal-Setting For Kids Works

This goal-setting process works in a number of ways:

  1. It’s simple.  That’s a basic for kids.
  2. It starts by focusing on what they’ve already accomplished.  This gives them a taste of confidence in tackling their new goals.
  3. By framing it in terms of how old they are, it makes it easier for them to grasp the concept.  Kids think more in terms of, “When I am . . . I will” than the adult way (In a year or 2 years, I will . . .”) It’s harder for them to grasp the shifting sands of time measured in a year.
  4. By giving them two levels of goals, it helps them think about smaller goals and larger goals.

As parents, try to coach them in keeping the goals realistic and talking about what it will take to get there. You can also remind them of skills they’ve been working on.

And while you want to allow them to set a majority of their goals themselves, remind them of challenges you’ve set together for them to work on.  Like sitting still during math class or making their bed on their own.

Once the goal sheets are completed we post them on the refrigerator so we can see them on a daily basis.

As they get older, you can bring in more sophisticated goal-setting processes that break goals down into steps towards achieving them and identifying obstacles, etc.

But for now, it’s good just to help them envision possibilities, shoot for them and savor the accomplishments.

And while this is happening, they are building up a very special power inside of themselves.  The belief in their own abilities. Confidence.

If I had any doubts that this process meant something, I think back to the day when my 10-year-old son pulled out his goal sheet from when he was 7 years old.
Scrawled in uneven handwriting was the goal to throw a football.
While he’s still perfecting this skill, he could tangibly see how he had a vision for himself and got there.

He could see the growth and changes in his life in a way that had special meaning to him.

Do you have goal-setting strategies to add or questions? Please comment and help us refine this process even more!

my pic YHHB edited 1 Goal Setting For KidsAbout Sarah Clachar And Fit Family Together

Since expecting their first Since expecting their first child, Sarah and her husband Cassius have made fitness a core part of their family life. From biking to hiking . . . from the heart of New York City to a farm in New England, they have found a way to stay active together. And through all this exercising as a family they discovered that family fitness builds not only strong bodies – but stronger families.

A professional health writer with a BA in biology, gardener and foodie Sarah brings a wealth of expertise in nutrition and health. A personal trainer and inveterate tinkerer, Cassius brings innovation to making family fitness work.

Ready to make family fitness part of your family life? Take the Fit Family Together 7 Day Family Fitness Challenge and put your own family fitness plan together.


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