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Every year during this time when summer vacation winds down and it’s back to school, there is one activity I like to do with my three sons as my wife and I prep them to start a new grade: I ask them to start thinking about goals and what they’d like to accomplish by the end of the school year. They create blocks that are sectioned off by “My Goals” and “My Actions” that are placed on the refrigerator for the rest of the year as visual reminders. This yearly ritual has become a hit because instead of my wife and I having to constantly remind them of what they should be progressing towards, they’re aware of their own objectives and are reminded of it daily, every time they’re opening that fridge door.
Here’s how I like to do this exercise:
Create An Open Environment
By creating an open environment to welcome thoughts, you are not only allowing your child to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, but you have an opportunity to help nurture them and shape their ideas with insight and tips.
I’ve been doing this exercise with my kids for a few years now and by starting a discussion on goals with your kids and letting them tell you what they’re interested in, it allows for them to think about adopting new skills and capabilities beyond what they already know, without us having to put any pressure on them. It’s also a great opportunity for parents to understand what your kid is curious about and where their interests may already be.
Although these yearly goal-setting sessions are anchored during the back to school season, and we obviously hint on academic expectations, the idea behind setting goals isn’t just solely focused on education. We aim to incorporate new interests such as picking up new hobbies or learning a new sport on an a regular basis
Once we’ve discussed what they’d like to have accomplished, I help them prioritize them in the sense of what’s more realistic to achieve for their given age. Buying a car is a realistic goal, but not for an 11-year-old, so we agree to save those goals for later years to come.
Build A Plan
After goals have been realized and set, you can help your child make them actionable by walking them through and by building a plan. With my kids, we begin to bullet out actions together to help them visualize their goals. They know that without implementing these steps, they won’t accomplish their goal.
For example, last year, two of my sons set a goal to join a local community basketball and soccer league for their age group. For this year’s goal, they are on the hook to improve their athletic skills in their given sport to be better players. Their “actions” for this year’s goal is to practice either basketball or soccer daily and attend weekly sessions at our community center.
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When it comes to academics, we definitely try to provide the support needed in creating achievable goals. Last year, one of my sons set a goal to achieve straight As during the fifth grade year. He reached 90 percent of his goal by accumulating a total of 22 As on his report cards. His actions were:
• Practice math exercises at home daily
• Read for 30 minutes before bed daily
• Practice online comprehension tests weekly
Provide Ongoing Support
Just like your manager would check in with you before or at the end of each quarter to see where project targets stand, we create casual check-ins with our kids to see where they are in their goal process and what they’re enjoying or find challenging. Being their support system and applauding their effort goes a long way when it comes to them persevering through their goal journey.
Our check-ins with them are also to evaluate what they achieved the previous year. It creates a bar where they can set goals to go above that for the year ahead. One thing we’ve noticed is that it’s natural for them to drop more challenging goals and decide they want to change paths midway. But since this topic is brought up in our chats, we make sure to reinforce a positive outlook and provide motivation and other guidance to help them overcome any hurdles they might be facing.
In addition, incorporating a daily 5-minute chat can be a soft reminder about their goals. I have casual conversations with my kids to ask about what new math equations they’ve learned recently or what they’ve been reading to encourage them to stay on track.
By opening the discussion, providing guidance and support and actionable steps that your kids can follow, you can help them be successful and grow confident as they learn and improve in both academics and extracurricular activities.
Mohsin Shafique is the founder and CEO at Linkagoal and father of Triplet Sons. He’s passionate about human development & advancement, theory of goal setting, and neuropsychology & neurolinguistic programming.