Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation knows how to set and meet goals. Parents need to know the importance of goals and how to set them. Children and teens should understand how setting and meeting goals can bring success into their lives and feel comfortable doing it. Even toddlers can be taught how to set and meet goals.
Most people think of setting goals at the end of the year, but I believe anytime is a good time to improve ourselves. I believe that having goals gives us a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to keep going when life is not easy. I know it is important to be careful about the goals we set – not too many but not too few, not too difficult but not too easy.
I have been thinking about this post for several days and finally decided to write down some of my thoughts. I wondered about the proper age to start teaching goal setting and realized it could start very early. When a child is ready to potty train, a parent could discuss the goal with their child, explaining what needed to be done and setting a date for accomplishment. An older child could set an overall goal to keep their room clean or to improve their grades at school and accomplish it by breaking the task down into smaller, reachable goals.
I recently learned again about SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A goal “to be a better student” is a wonderful goal to strive for, but when is it met and what are the steps for doing so? A SMART goal would take just a part of that goal, such as I will complete my homework before dinner each evening. Is this goal specific? Yes. Is it measurable? Yes. Is it attainable? Yes – at least most of the time. Is it relevant? Yes. Is it time-bound? Yes.
So, how does one go about teaching SMART goals to toddlers and little children? How does one teach a youngster what Specific means? A friend suggested that a parent select a group of toys, such as My Little Ponies, and then have the child choose their favorite pony out of the group. That would be a Specific pony. Another Specific goal could be when a child no longer needs diapers. How does one teach Measurable to a toddler? Using the potty training example, a sticker chart works great. Attainable and relevant might be a little tricky to teach a toddler, but the parent should definitely know that a potty-trained child is both attainable and relevant! Is the goal time-bound? When will the child be trained? The sticker chart can be used to show the target date.
I found many sites on the Internet to assist parents and teachers in teaching children to set SMART goals. I like this particular site because it shows how to teach character traits. I like this site because it has many delightful examples of charts to teach and train children.
“It’s not easy to write SMART goals. This skill takes time to develop, and it’s especially important to have in place for students at the secondary level. A goal is an outcome, something that will make a difference as a result of achieving it. It can’t be too ambitious to be out of reach, but also not so simple that it does not challenge. A goal has to be realistic with a stretch, requiring effort and focus to achieve it. That’s why goals need time frames and measurable action steps along the way so that we can keep track of progress and make adjustments as necessary.”
I believe it is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children the importance of goals and how to set SMART goals. I also believe that most goal-oriented children and teens are happy ones, especially if their goals are attainable and relevant in their lives. I know we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by teaching the rising generation how to set and meet SMART goals.