The Importance of Goal Setting
Are you a goal oriented parent? If you’ve read the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, you may remember Habit 2 was goal setting: If you begin every task with the end in mind, you’ll become successful.
Goal setting is not usually taught at school. Not explicitly. The teacher may say: “today we’ll find out more about Neptune”, or “by the end of the week we’ll all know the nine times-tables”. She may ask the children to identify the goal themselves: “look at your spelling list and see whether you can make out the pattern we’re learning”. But the more our education system focuses on numeracy and literacy, the less opportunity there is for teaching life skills.
How can we teach goal setting at home? Even though we think of goals as large, children can start with mini ones. Let them experience the joy of achieving a goal every day: remembering to feed the gold fish or having excellent table manners.
As with everything, begin by example…
- “My goal is to fix the pantry door today. Please check after dinner to see what a good job I’ve done.”
- “This long weekend, our goal is go out to a movie. We can do it on any day, provided your room is tidy by lunchtime.”
- “This year, I’ll learn to create an online photo album of our holiday with Aunt Jinny.”
… and then progress to helping the children set their own goals:
- “If you save all your pocket money for three weeks, you’ll be able to afford the computer game you want.”
- “Our goal this month is to be at school every morning 10 minutes before the bell. How can we make that happen?”
- “What three things would you like to achieve at school this year?”
The Basic Tips of Goal Setting
- Set your goals with a positive attitude.
- Be specific. “I want to get better at Maths” is vague and difficult to measure, while “By the end of the term, I want to do addition in my head, up to a hundred” is a clear, achievable goal.
- Be realistic. “I want to do addition in my head, up to a million” may not be the right goal.
- Write down your goals.
- For bigger goals, write a step-by-step plan how to achieve them.
- Stay excited and passionate about your goals.
Acknowledge each achieved goal: yours as well as your children’s. Celebrate the big ones (it’s all right to make a bit of a fuss with sparkling grape juice and home-made certificates) and talk about how the accomplishment makes you feel: exhilarated, relieved, a bit disappointed even? Sometimes when we get where we want to be, the only way forward is down, and the sensation may be disheartening… unless you have a new dream in place.
Should Parents Be Goal-Oriented?
Say what? Is this a trick question? Well… sort of.
While every parent’s long-term goal is – and rightly so – to raise happy, healthy and well-adjusted children, our commitment to short-term goals could do with a bit of grooming. Parents who are too goal-oriented run the risk of clashing with their children.
Picture this: you arrive home after a long day. The shopping needs to be magically turned into dinner, the wet shoes need to go by the heater and the wet clothes into the washing machine, when suddenly: “Mum! Can you help me with my dinosaur project?” You’ve just experienced a goal-shift. Stop, think, prioritise. Is it more important to have the evening meal on the table by seven o’clock, or to spend time with your daughter and help her achieve her goal?
Or how about baking a birthday cake? Your goal is to get it done as soon as possible, but your children are looking forward to the job itself, not only to the end result. Kids are super-good at enjoying the process: making a cake is every bit as fun as eating it. If you try to speed them up, you’ll end up stressed and with unhappy children.
The Journey Is The Goal
As I keep reminding my very goal-oriented husband: the goal of the Sunday walk is to have fun, not to get to the other end of the beach. It’s okay to stop and build a sand castle.
Let’s teach children the importance of goal setting and learn from them the importance of enjoying the ride.
Dr, Yvonne Walus
Work Your Way Expert for Parenting