Are you setting goals with your kids? This article from the Wall Street Journal tells us that, “Students’ ability to set and achieve realistic goals is linked in research to higher grades, lower college-dropout rates and greater well-being in adulthood.”
Sounds pretty good, right? But just how do you go about beginning to set goals with little ones who have a limited attention span and only an emerging grasp on things like the passage of time and delayed gratification? Here are some tips to get you started:
Start small: What developmental milestone are you hoping they will meet soon? Potty training? Getting dressed by themselves? Create a chart and help them work to the positive desired result. We have a free downloadable chart for potty training to get you started!
Talk it up: Begin to foster long-term commitment to a goal by talking to your child about what it will be like when the goal is achieved. Will they get big girl undies? A chance to move up to the next classroom at daycare? A special treat? Whatever it is that motivates them, your conversation and infectious excitement can help them keep their eye on the prize.
Let them fail: This is probably the toughest one for parents. We want our kids to succeed – of course we do! But failure is a part of life, and it teaches very valuable lessons in perseverance and adjusting targets. When your child does fall down, literally or figuratively, be there to assist in standing up again… but don’t do it all for them. Acknowledge and honor any feelings of frustration and disappointment they are feeling, and model for them how to work through those feelings and try again.
Lead the way: As your little one works on goals of their own, set one or two for yourself as well. Make them goals your child can understand, such as, “Mommy will make her bed everyday”, or, “We’ll work together as a family to clean the house on Saturday”… then talk through the process and successes that happen.
Celebrate together: While tangible rewards like a sticker or a prize are great motivators, remember to work on intrinsic motivation as well. Build your child up with sincere praise and warm hugs for a job well done. Show them how when they achieve their goals they can feel good inside, and “so grown up!” At the end of the day, these things are the best rewards they can achieve.