EF at Home: Goal Setting, Part 2

Parent with two children excitedly raising hands

This is the second part of a two-part series on EF at Home: Goal Setting. You can read Part 1 here

When children create personalized and achievable goals that are CANDO (Clear, Appropriate, Numerical, Doable, and with Obstacles considered), they are positioned to succeed. Here are some practical tips for helping children set effective goals and monitor their progress.

Begin with Simple Goals

Start with straightforward goal areas that are motivating for your child. These might include:

  • Sports or Activities – Set goals related to sports or activities that your child has chosen and for which they are already motivated. Perhaps your child is trying to earn scout badges or master a certain instrumental piece or sports technique.
  • Household Projects – Set goals as a family (e.g., household cleaning or renovation projects) so you can work together to achieve success. You can also set individual goals for around the house (e.g., organizing a room or training a dog).
  • Academics – Begin with goals that are likely to be met easily to build confidence; then move toward goals for challenging tasks or subject areas. You can start by setting goals for homework completion for one day or for studying for a particular test.

As you focus on any goal area, remember that you want your child to see results and feel accomplished. Be careful about goals related only to outcomes (e.g., grades, points scored, medals) that may depend on the behaviors or standards of others. Instead, target goals that connect to the process of improvement (e.g., studying or practicing for so many hours per week).

Practice Monitoring Goal Progress

Setting goals is just the first step. If we write down a goal and put it in a drawer, it never gets done. Once your child has set an effective goal and identified short-term steps to reach it, you can help your child monitor and reflect on their progress. Use a calendar or planner to remind you and your child to revisit the goal and discuss whether progress is being made.

In the beginning, you will have to support your child in developing realistic self-assessment. Your child may say, “Yup, I’m doing it.” You may need to gently correct the assessment by asking questions about the timeline or the completion of short-term steps leading to the larger goal. You may even need to provide information about what you have observed—at least in the beginning. As your child practices checking goal progress, you can provide less direct support while encouraging your child to decide how to celebrate accomplishments.

Wrapping Up

Goal setting allows us to have a say in what we want to have, be, or do. By teaching children strategies for goal setting, along with sharing our own use of goal setting, we can start them on the path to goal-directed accomplishments!

  • Mindy Scirri, Ph.D., Educational Consultant and SMARTS Trainer

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org