Goal Setting for Kids: 7 Simple Steps

As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to be successful. Unfortunately, nobody is a natural at goal setting.

According to research at the University of Scranton, 92% of people who set New Year’s resolutions fail to achieve them. Without guidance, it would be a wonder if your kid can strive for goals.

This is why you must teach your child to set and reach goals early on. You must provide them with the skills necessary for success in all areas of their lives.

So how can kids realistically attain goals? What can they do now to set the stage for success in adulthood? Below, you will find everything you need to know about goal setting for kids.

Why is Goal Setting for Kids Important?

Goal setting is a critical life skill that all children should practice. Kids who create excellent goals will have a higher chance of persevering in the face of adversity. This will serve them well in the future when trekking on the road to success.

Without goals, it is all too easy to drift aimlessly through life. So encouraging your child to set goals will chart a course that leads to their ideal destination. They will do everything necessary to find a greater purpose.

Furthermore, kids aren’t exactly known as the most disciplined type. They are at an age where they haven’t learned to develop strong work ethics.

Giving your kid free rein isn’t the best idea. Start educating your child about goal setting to help them succeed in school and beyond.

Setting goals, long-term or short-term, is a habit that can’t be developed on day one. Kids need to learn proper goal-setting techniques at a young age. When they grow up, chasing ambitious dreams will be second nature.

How to Set and Achieve Goals for Kids

If you want your child to successfully reach their goals, a proper strategy is required. Here are 7 steps to help your kid develop goals that actually work.

1. Identify an Age-Appropriate Goal

Make sure your kid establishes goals that are realistic for their age. An impossible-to-reach goal will be discouraging, while an easy goal won’t challenge your child to grow.

Say a kindergartner sets a goal of completing 30 pieces of a puzzle. This goal would make sense for their age. But a 5th grader may have a loftier goal, such as putting together a more complex jigsaw puzzle with 150 pieces.

If you’re still unsure whether a goal is ideal for your child, here are a few examples of age-appropriate goals:

Preschooler:

  • Tie my shoes by myself
  • Read two books every week
  • Brush my teeth twice a day

School-Age Kid:

  • Finish all my homework 5 days before the deadline
  • Practice the violin for 20 minutes each day
  • Make 20 friends by the end of the school year

Teenager:

  • Get straight A’s in all my classes
  • Get accepted into my dream college
  • Find a part-time job to save money

While you could help your kids develop appropriate goals for their age, don’t be too involved in the goal-setting process.

Recognize that forcing your unrealistic expectations on your child is an unhealthy practice. Your definition of “small” goals may not align with your kid’s capabilities.

So don’t be too hands-on. Let them walk the path by themselves; you should only play a supporter role. If you’re not careful, you could do more harm than good.

2. Figure Out the Purpose

Let your child understand the purpose behind what they are working towards. Otherwise, it can be easy for frustration to rear its head.

Assist your child in thinking about how achieving a goal will make them feel. Will it make them grin from ear to ear? Will they experience a wonderful sense of fulfillment?

For example, if a child’s goal is to get better grades, they may focus on how proud they will feel when receiving their report card.

Or, if their goal is to exercise regularly, they should narrow down on what it’s like to burst with youthful energy.

what motivates people

Hence, children need to understand what benefits a goal can bring to their lives. Once they have that figured out, staying motivated throughout the journey won’t be a glaring problem.

Here are questions to help your child connect their goal to positive outcomes:

  • How will achieving this goal make you feel?
  • What are some things you’ll be able to do once you attain your goal?
  • Who will be proud of you when you reach your goal?

3. Make the Goal Specific

When it comes to goal setting for kids, it’s crucial to be as detailed as possible. This will ensure your child develops an actionable plan to achieve them.

For instance, the aim of “I will eat healthier” is too vague. It’s confusing to know where to even start. Instead, try “I will eat two servings of vegetables at every meal.”

Then, as a parent, you might help pack a veggie-filled lunch for the kid each morning before school. This specific goal tells your child exactly what task they need to accomplish.

It is not an exaggeration to say that being precise is how great dreams turn into reality.

Additionally, Locke’s goal-setting theory states that specific goals have a positive relationship with task performance.

With well-defined goals, your kid will have a greater chance of striving for excellence. The power of motivation will inch them closer to their goal.

There are several questions to give your child a better idea of what it takes to achieve greatness:

  • How often do you want to accomplish this goal?
  • What are some specific things you can do to reach your goal?
  • Who can help you reach your objective?
  • What are roadblocks you might encounter while working towards your target?

4. Create a Deadline

Imagine if a goal didn’t have a deadline. You would think along the lines of “This goal isn’t too urgent, so I’ll complete it next month instead.” Soon, that changes to “I’m busy so I’ll just do it next year.”

See where I’m going with this?

Deadlines provide a sense of urgency to get things done. Not only does it help your kid stay focused, but it stops them from procrastinating.

Without deadlines, goals can easily become forgotten or neglected. Hence, setting deadlines teaches kids the importance of time management and planning.

Naturally, know that deadlines aren’t set in stone. If your kid is struggling, they could always adjust accordingly. But they should at least, contemplate where things went wrong.

Perhaps the child overestimated their abilities or pursued too many goals at once. Whatever it is, your kid should consider these key questions:

  • How long do you think it will take to reach your goal?
  • What are some milestones you can reach along the way?
  • What’s the final deadline for your goal?

5. Keep Track of Progress

It would be a brilliant idea to have your child track their goal progress. This will help them see how far they have walked and stay motivated to reach the end.

One method is to use a visual aid such as a goal journal or a goal-setting app on your phone. These tools will break down a kid’s goal into smaller milestones.

After they pass each checkpoint, they can mark off each time they complete an activity related to their goal. Soon enough, they will see every inch of their progress right before their eyes.

And for the cherry on top, try setting regular check-ins with your kid to discuss their progress toward excellence. Studies have shown that monitoring goals have benefits for goal attainment.

This is the time when your child has the opportunity to ask for feedback or advice from you if needed.

6. Provide Support

Pursuing goals doesn’t need to be a one-man team. After all, attaining goals can be arduous for adults, let alone young kids.

That’s why you should be there to assist your child. Encourage them and be positive throughout the journey. If they hit a bump in the road, give a helping hand.

You might help them create a plan to achieve a goal. Or you might give them a journal to track goals. But in the end, they should be putting in all their hard work.

do the work

Resist the temptation to do everything for them and let your kid figure it out on their own because this is how they learn and improve.

7. Celebrate Accomplishments

It’s important to celebrate your child’s accomplishments, no matter how big or small. That will help your kid feel proud of their achievements and motivate them to keep going.

For kids, celebrating accomplishments can be as simple as giving themselves a pat on the back or treating themselves to a special treat.

Parents can help by taking the time to listen to their child’s successes and sharing their excitement. There are many other ways to celebrate your child’s accomplishments, such as:

  • Treat them to worthwhile desert
  • Take them out for a fun activity
  • Give them a small toy or prize

No matter how you celebrate, make sure your child knows that you’re proud of their achievements. Doing so will allow your kids to stay the course.

Examples of Goal Setting for Kids

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of goal setting for kids, let’s look at a few examples.

Here are a few goals your child can set: “I will…”

Educational Goals

  • Get all As and Bs on my progress report next month
  • Complete all 5 of my homework assignments by the end of the week
  • Raise my hand and contribute to class at least once a day

Behavioral Goals

  • Clean up my room twice a week
  • Go to bed at 9 PM every night
  • Eat breakfast every morning
  • Say thank you after each meal

Physical Activity Goals

  • Walk to school daily for the whole year
  • Ride my bike around the block on Saturdays
  • Play tag with my friends every weekend
  • Take dance classes for three months

As you can see, there are many different types of goals that kids can set for themselves. And there is no one right way to do it. The key point is to encourage your child to establish goals and stick to them.

Final Thoughts

Goal setting is a life-changing skill that will serve your child well for the rest of their life. They will learn to focus on their effort, remain energized, and achieve things they never thought possible.

It’s never too young to help your child create and attain goals. As they say, the earlier, the better. And when they grow up, success won’t be too far off.

By following these steps, your kid reach their lifelong dreams. Let them chase their passion and who knows, maybe you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.

Photo of author

Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.