The conversation around goal setting tends to come with a lot of pressure, making us lose sight of something important – setting and achieving your goals isn’t and shouldn’t be a competition, be it with yourself or with anyone else. Rather, it’s a skill, one that can be honed to help, not hinder you.

So why not help cultivate this skill in your kids? Spoiler alert: you just might learn something yourself in the process.

Why teach goal setting?

Much like good financial habits, lessons on responsibility and the importance of kindness and compassion, goal setting is a skill best learned as early as possible. In fact, some experts even say that kids should learn how to set and achieve goals as young as early childhood.

But why? Whether it’s using the toilet on their own or learning to tie their shoes, achieving their goals boosts your child’s perseverance, self-esteem and resilience from a young age – a foundation that will set them up for life.

The early years are also a great time to teach your child exactly how to achieve their goals. In many ways, the act of setting goals is just as important as actually reaching them.

Learning how to identify their goals and map out strategies to make them happen will be a skill they use every single day for the rest of their lives, whether they are conscious of it or not.

They may as well know how to do it properly.

How to teach goal setting to your kids

It seems like every man and his dog has a ‘magic’ approach to goal setting – it’s overwhelming. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you and realised that all of these approaches seem to boil down to the same three key points…

Step One: Identify the goal

This one is kind of a non-negotiable, for obvious reasons. Help your child work out what their goal will be by listening to the things they talk about often, whether they’re good or bad, or noticing behaviours or outcomes they seem frustrated or excited by. 

Maybe they want to achieve something measurable like a medal in their sports carnival, a certain grade at school or earn a certain amount of money? Maybe it’s an experience they want to have? Or perhaps it’s less tangible, like ‘Make new friends’ or ‘Stop biting my nails’. 

Whatever it is, have them write it down and display it somewhere they will regularly see it, like the back of their bedroom door or on the bathroom mirror. According to Forbes, writing your goals down makes you more likely to achieve them because you a) externally store them and are therefore reminded of them regularly, and b) trigger a biological process called ‘encoding’, which commits things to your long-term memory.

Step Two: Create a plan

The plan you create with your child to help them achieve their goal will look different depending on the goal. Some will have a timeline – the medal at the sports carnival, for example – while others will be a longer journey.

What baby steps can they take toward achieving their goal? Let’s pretend your child’s goal is to achieve a certain grade in a school subject. Step one might be talking to their teacher. Step two, allocating a certain time each day or week to dedicate to that subject and subject alone. Step three could be finding more reading materials or even enlisting the help of a tutor or online course for additional support.

From there, it’s a matter of commitment and reflection.

Step Three: The hard part

Yep, after your child knows their goal and how they will achieve it comes the hard part – actually doing the work.

Achieving goals takes time, patience and above all, commitment. This is why it’s essential that the goal they set is something they really want, not something they want to achieve for you or someone else in their life.

This doesn’t mean you can’t help them along the way. Talk to them about how their goal is going in a non-judgmental way, asking questions about their successes and celebrating them wherever you can. A huge part of achieving any goal is staying motivated, and very few people actually respond to a ‘tough love’ approach.

Talk about the goals you have achieved in your time and the things it took to get there. If necessary, you could even add an extra incentive in the form of a celebratory reward they can look forward to when they achieve their goal or reach a milestone.



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