Teaching Your Child How to Set Goals
A new school year brings great anticipation and excitement with new learning adventures, new curriculum and courses, and renewed time together as you meet and learn as a family. But, while finding curriculum, creating a schedule, and renewing your homeschool space are all great activities to start the school year off right, many homeschooling parents forget one important step in school-year readiness: goal setting. Oh sure, you’ve probably got a list of academic goals for each child, including what they need to accomplish, places to go, and projects to complete. But, does your child have a list of goals he or she is reaching for this year?
So often homeschooling parents focus on teaching their children and forget a critically important lesson…teaching your child how to set goals for the school year.
Why is this important? Because when we set a goal ourselves, we are more motivated to try and achieve it. Learning to set and achieve goals is an important life skill that will impact every area of your child’s future, including college, jobs, family life, etc. Also, setting and reaching goals, and even failing to reach goals, helps mold us into the individuals we are meant to be. But, how can you teach your child how to set goals for the school year (and possibly even attain them)?
Here are 5 simple ways to show and motivate your Einsteins to reach for the stars this new school year.
- Show Them How, Step By Step. You’ve heard the quote about teaching a man to fish. Well, often the best way to learn to fish, or set goals, is to be shown by someone who knows what they’re doing! If we really want our children to learn to set goals and strive to meet them, we need to be practicing and living this process out in our homes. And we need to do it out loud! To reach a goal, you need to be able to break the process down into steps and then decide what actions or efforts you must engage in to make each step a reality. So, if your goal is to clean each room of the house over the course of the week, plan out a schedule with them, assign chores and tasks, and check them off as you go. Your child will not only see the process of setting goals, but he or she will get a bird’s-eye view as to what it takes to turn a goal into reality. Show them how you set goals and break down what it takes to achieve them, and they’ll be more prepared to fish when it’s their turn!
- Be Realistic. Let’s be real for a minute. While it’s totally natural to want your child to dream big and accomplish much, sometimes those big dreams can blind us to the truth about our child’s abilities and dreams. Putting pressure on them, and yourself, to achieve things that are clearly out of their reach can lead to disastrous consequences, including low self-esteem, hatred of learning, and even the poisoning of what should be a joyful thing–homeschooling. Homeschooling works best when the child is at the center. So, when setting goals with your child, be realistic, remember their strengths and weaknesses, and plan according to their interests–not your own goals. And make sure to work in increments. For example, if your child’s goal is to learn to play piano, you wouldn’t give them a Bach composition and say “go for it!” You’d find a teacher, find or purchase an instrument, then begin to teach each note and key slowly. As your child progresses toward their goal, the steps may need to be redefined and tweaked.
- Share Power. From the time our children are babies, we have dreams for their lives. It’s impossible not to! We see them as scholars, athletes, and leaders in their adult lives, accomplishing much and making an impact. So, we set academic, social, and spiritual goals for them because they’re our responsibility and we want them realize these dreams! But we often forget to include THEM in the process. Nothing is more disempowering than making all of your child’s choices for them and not giving them a voice. When it comes to setting goals, be sure to include them in the process and encourage them to make obtaining the goal their personal challenge. We’re all more apt to accomplish something if we feel ownership, so allow them to have a few goals based upon their interests, ideas, and areas in which they want to excel. I promise you’ll have more cooperation, and they’ll feel more accomplished!
- Start Outside of School. Let’s face it, school adds extra pressure, even when you’re homeschooling. So, when it comes to learning how to teach kids to set goals for the school year, why not take the pressure off and start in other areas of life? Set goals during vacations, about chores, earning income or allowance, etc. This way, they’ll be in the practice of setting and working toward a goal before school starts. So, when you do hit the books, the process will go much more smoothly!
- Applaud Success and Failure. One reality that parents often learn the hard way is that nagging never works. Oh sure, it may get the job done, but in the process your children begin to focus on your desires and keeping you happy and never develop the intrinsic desire required for lifelong goal setting and attaining. So, instead of nagging or fussing or even checking in daily, praise success and acknowledge effort once it’s happened. The more you praise, the more they want it. And, when your child fails to meet a goal (and they will at some point) praise their effort and help them to learn from falling short. Ask questions like, “Why do you think you didn’t meet your goal?” and “How can you do it differently this time so that you can get there?” Lead a horse to water and praise it constantly, friends, and it (or they) will eventually drink!
As challenging as teaching our children how to set goals can be, it’s a vitally important skill that reaches into every aspect of life. But, sometimes we reach a place where homeschooling has become too difficult, building a wall between us and our children that makes character training that much harder. If you’re struggling with homeschooling, and you and your child and are looking for a partner, give us a call at 800-863-1474. We’ve been working with families like yours, helping them to set and reach their homeschooling goals for over 30 years. And we’d love to help you!