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Goal Setting for Children: Give them the tools to create their own growth and development

-   By James Stevenson (MSc, IEA) - EMCC Accredited Coaching Psychologist and Positive Psychologist

Are you thinking of introducing goal setting to your children? You'll be giving them a great gift that'll serve them for life... 

How can you introduce goal setting to your children? Below are some activities and approaches you can use to help them realise the potential of goal setting and their innate potential. 

Do you worry that your children will have no interest in setting goals? That they will find it boring?

After reading this you'll be ready to help your children set their own goals... setting them up for greater development and victories in their future.

Ideally you want your child to discover for themselves, over and over again, what goal setting can do. Over time, they'll naturally choose to use it to strive for what's important to them! They'll feel confident they can accomplish things they want to and fulfil more of their potential!

Here you'll learn some ways to introduce it easily...

Goal setting for children in action: Using a sport, challenge or activity

Challenge is fun. That's a belief that you certainly want to instil. This belief will take shape and solidify when your child has enough experiences that demonstrate this. When your child believes that challenging herself is enjoyable and beneficial, then goal setting is something that helps this happen. 

The reason I suggest starting with something that is fun for them is to give that positive experience related to goal setting. Let them have lots of positive experiences of the thrill of aiming for something. Highlight the emotions that come up. Courage, hope, excitement, joy.  Let them get familiar with the language of goals and aiming. 

Let me share a little experience: Many years ago before becoming a coach, I was a youth worker. It was my job to engage with the kids which included playing games etc. One day while playing table tennis with a young lad I was becoming a little annoyed because he couldn't seem to hit the ball.

Joyce Meyer quote about not giving upCongratulations for NOT giving up on your dreams today

He appeared to have no concentration or motivation at all and 10 minutes in we've not even had a rally of 3 shots. Not my idea of fun. This goes on for far too long so I ask him...

"If we decide on a number, how many shots in a row do you think we can get?". "I don't know" he says hesitantly. I suggest... "What about 10?  Can we do that?". "No chance!" he says.

Of course once we start aiming for this his level of focus is transformed. We get 10 shots in a row quite easily.

He says, "Can we try 20?" and we soon reach that no problem. 

This is where the learning comes in. In that moment of victory.

Me: "That was amazing. We set a goal of 20 and actually did it in 5 attempts. Before we were getting about 3 shots in a row. How did it feel for you?"

Lad: "It felt fun and exciting". 

Me: "Yeah for me too. I felt the desire to achieve and it felt good. Even when we didn't quite get 20 I noticed we were getting better and better".

This is just one little experience. When your kids enjoy lots of different goal setting challenges like this one in different areas you facilitate new beliefs and realisations for them. 

How to use this with whatever your child is into

When starting out with this, it's probably a good idea to avoid focusing on something they don't want to do. They no doubt have lots of things they care about and want to succeed in. As their confidence grows that will cross over into other areas. 

Also, if you introduce goal setting like a ninja without explaining the whole theory it'll work best!

So if your child is into martial arts, a musical instrument, football, running, reading, fashion,  whatever it is give them a challenge that they will love. 

A kid skipping

Introducing goal setting for children into the everyday stuff 

Children tend to be full of energy and love a goal if it's game-like. In terms of all the different age groups I've worked with over the years, children have always been the most enthused by a challenge.

If it takes over an hour for your  kids to get their school uniform you can ask them, "how quick do you think you could get changed?".

"I could get changed in 10 seconds!" they might say proudly.

Before you know it... They are setting goals!

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Many thanks to the kind people who let me use their wonderful art work

Kids at play #1 by Emilien ETIENNE. Attribution 2.0 Generic.