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Helping Children Set Age - Appropriate Goals

Posted: January 14, 2020

The New Year has arrived, and lofty resolutions have been set. Anything from working out daily to saving money to losing weight, our society knows how to dream big! However, when big dreams aren’t broken down into smaller, achievable goals, failure often ensues. And to make matters worse, our children watch us throughout this short-lived journey. So how can we teach our children to be excited about making personal changes while ensuring the goals are age-appropriate and attainable? 

It all starts with a desire to accomplish something new or change something you currently do. When we help children with this process, it is important to find out what they wish to achieve...not what we want for them. The goal then needs to be written down and broken up into smaller, short term goals that are set in a certain frame of time. This will keep the momentum going as they begin achieving these quicker objectives and tracking their progress will help them see how much they have improved. Checking in and reevaluating goals throughout the course of it will also help ensure personal success. 

With success and development in mind, the ATA created the ATA Life Skills program.  Within this, goal setting is one component and students of all ages learn this skill. The best part is that Life Skills are age appropriate because the lessons are broken down by developmental stage. By doing it this way, children learn how to set attainable goals that are realistic for their stage of development. 

When we help children set goals and apply active learning in the process, it helps them learn responsibility and focus as well as time management skills. For younger children, it is a way to set expectations that they can learn. For older children, it is a way to prompt a more mature understanding of goal setting and they can set longer term goals as well. For any age, however, when goals are accomplished, children’s self-esteem and self-awareness are increased.  

But keep in mind, throughout this process there will ups and downs. When things don’t go as planned, children may feel frustrated. It is vital that all achievements be celebrated, no matter how small. Remind them that improvements have been made no matter what the outcome is. Make sure that you help your child document all of these small wins by using posters or goal ladders. Whether or not the goal is met in the timeframe originally set, make sure to applaud all effort that your child has shown.  

Goal setting can be an exciting thing but can also be overwhelming especially for children. When we help them write their goals down and make them into easily attainable small goals, we help them build their confidence. Celebrating their effort and perseverance throughout the process will help them continue to feel motivated. The result will be a life skill that will help them become successful adults.