It is never too early to start teaching the important life skill of goal setting to our children. Learning to set goals teaches kids to take responsibility for themselves, and they learn that their actions can determine whether or not they fail or succeed. Goal setting also builds self confidence, as when children reach their goals, they learn to believe in their abilities and are more likely to set new goals for themselves in the future.
Journals, habit trackers, and vision boards all provide great methods for children to learn about goal setting. Here are some tips for using these tools with your students or kids.
All you’ll need for this method is a journal or notebook and something to write with. It’s important to remember to try not to dictate goals to the child, but rather let them take the lead. They are much more likely to push towards their goals if they can take ownership of them and are vested in the outcome. As the child gets older, assess whether or not they are capable of setting goals on their own. Dedicate the journal solely to goal setting, and have the student make short entries on a daily or weekly basis to check in with their progress. Make sure the child can easily see the progress they are making towards achieving their goals.
It’s also important to start out small and make sure goals are appropriate and attainable. Beginning with small, easy-to-achieve goals ensures the child will experience some success early on in the goal setting experience, and this will encourage them to keep going. In order to achieve this confidence, they may need some help from you in setting realistic goals. Children younger than fourth grade may set out to share with friends, read a book independently, or brush their teeth for two full minutes daily for a week. Older kids could set more complex goals such as making honor roll or starting on a sports team. Note how these examples are also very specific–having broad goals can be confusing and overwhelming for children. Instead of “I will do better in school,” try “I will complete my homework daily.”
For this method, you will need a large, flat surface to keep track of your child’s progress over time. I recommend either a poster board or whiteboard. A whiteboard is easier because it’s reusable. Sit down with your child and decide which goals or habits they would like to track. You could either track one habit over a month using a calendar layout, or several habits over a week or month using a longer grid format. For each day the child achieves progress on their goal, they can mark off that box with a sticker, tally mark, or doodle of some kind. Once the week or month is up, take a photo of the whiteboard to keep track of their long-term progress before wiping it clean to start again. Habit trackers provide very tangible evidence of progress over time. You can also add rewards or prizes to incentivize goal setting.
A vision board is a visual representation of the things you want to accomplish or acquire. People create vision boards to have a constant reminder of what they are working towards. The idea is that if you look at what you want every day, you will be keeping it constantly in mind, and that this will help you manifest the things you want. Vision boards can be great tools for teaching children about goal setting, as they can use them to keep motivated and focused on their goals.
For this project, you will need: a poster board or cork board; magazines; scissors; glue or tape; crayons, markers, or colored pencils; and letter stickers. After you’ve talked with your child about the goals they would like to set, have your child look through the magazines and cut out pictures to represent their goals. You can also Google images if you’re not finding what you need in magazines. Have them attach the pictures to their board, along with letter stickers spelling out their goal ideas. Let their creativity run wild! Once they are done, hang their vision board where they can see it often. For an added element of fun, feel free to make your own vision board along with your child.
No matter what methods you use, remember to cheer your little one on as they make strides toward their goals. The journey to them achieving their goals is equally as important as them actually reaching their goals.
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