Parenting Our Children

Guide Kids to Reaching their Goals in the New Year

Published Wednesday, January 06, 2016

With 2016 shining brightly before us, seize the opportunity to help your children reach their personal best!

Written by Denise Yearian

When children set and achieve goals, it positively impacts the way they view themselves, their academics and their social interactions. But goal setting doesn't just happen. It's an acquired skill that requires the guidance and encouragement of a parent or mentor. Once learned, children can turn today's dreams into tomorrow's reality.

Guide Kids to Reaching their Goals in the New YearTaylor's a prime example. Ever since her mother can remember, the preteen has enjoyed entertaining others and made it her goal to become a professional singer. "By the time Taylor was in fifth grade she had gotten a lot of positive feedback on her performances," says Rita, mother of the now 12-year old. "So, we decided to enroll her in a performing arts school."

Frank McIntosh, a former longtime president of his local Junior Achievement organization, believes it's never too early to start children on the goal-setting track, but those goals must be self-directed. "If a child owns his or her goal, they're more likely to work toward attaining it," says McIntosh. "Parents should offer guidance, but goal setting needs to be driven by the child."

This was the case with Dave's daughter, Stephanie. Upon entering high school, she joined the cross-country team and increased her distance from one-quarter to over three miles. But her biggest running goal came at the end of freshman year.

"Stephanie wanted to join the 300-Mile Club that summer," recalls Dave of his now 16-year-old. "It was a realistic goal, so we sat down and did the math to figure out how often she'd have to run over the course of three months."

"When children formulate a goal, have them write it down," says Linda Sullivan, a 4-H organizational leader. "This creates a picture in their minds of what they want to achieve and gives permanency to the goal." In doing so, kids should also outline what steps need to be taken along the way.

"Breaking down a large goal into specific parts helps kids achieve smaller successes," says McIntosh. "For some, this may mean taking advantage of resources such as books and DVDs to broaden their understanding." Rita did this with Taylor, with fantastic results.

"Taylor began taking private voice lessons and we educated ourselves from a community theater perspective," says Rita. "We discovered opportunities at the local children's theater, so she auditioned for two musicals there and was given a part each time. On both occasions we watched the related movies and learned the songs together."

"Have your child consider obstacles that may hinder goal attainment and create a plan to overcome them," says Sullivan. "A time frame should also be established. This provides a sense of urgency and gives children the opportunity to reassess their goals, if necessary."

"Stephanie and I discussed how she'd get her miles in when it was 95 degrees outside," says Dave. "We also talked about her progress along the way. When August rolled around and she was behind, she increased her weekly distances. By summer's end she'd run 300 miles."

Taylor's progressed, too. "She gleaned a lot of experience at performing arts school, but the following year she returned to her former academic setting," says Rita. "Soon after, we learned her school was doing a production of Oliver; Taylor started preparing right away. When audition time came, she got the leading role."

Experts agree the best thing parents can do to help their children realize their goals is to guide them in understanding what their strengths are, help them create a feasible plan and then become their cheerleader. But ultimately, attaining the goal is up to them.

"I once gave a commencement address where I challenged students to internalize 10 small words that could dramatically affect their future," says McIntosh. "If it is to be, it is up to me."