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How to Learn About Goal Setting for Kids

Come learn why goal setting is important and can help you achieve whatever you want in life!

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Did your parents ever warn you about the many dangers of texting while walking? 

If not, going on Youtube (while stationary) to see compilations of thoughtless walking texters colliding with street light poles or closed elevators could point out the danger and embarrassment more clearly. (Did we mention that watching these videos are the most entertaining while in a freeze dance pose or when teaching your dog to play dead? We recommend a combination of the two so you don’t get bored.)

If so, could you figure out that the only way to stop altogether was by setting a goal for yourself? 

And after establishing that you’d be setting this goal, did you stop to ask…

What Does it Mean to Set a Goal as a Kid, Anyway?

If your intention is to stop texting while walking by the same time next month or even sooner, you will undoubtedly have to put your deviceless gears in motion to make that happen. 

Here’s where you’ll discover easy tactics and best practices for learning how to set any goal, big or small, and how to achieve them spot on! Keep reading to learn:

  • What is a goal?
  • Why goals and goal setting are important
  • How to set good goals
  • Example goals 
  • How goals and money are connected
  • How your parents can help you set and track goals
  • What to do if you fail to reach your goals
  • Activities to help you set goals

What Is A Goal

The best way to think of a goal is to imagine something you want or need that you do not have. 

Yet. 

Your desire is to get it. You do everything it takes to get to that finish line, throwing all the darts you possibly can until you finally go, “bullseye!”. That’s a sign of victory.

Here’s a Quick Breakdown of a Goal:

  1. Establishing your target
  2. Realizing that there is a journey or process involved in meeting your target that must be undertaken
  3. Getting to the final point that marks the end of your target

Anyone is capable of wishing upon a star, but by turning your starry nighttime dream into an actual goal, you are not only determined to get what it is you want, but you will take the steps needed to get it.  

Why Goals and Goal Setting Are Important

Do you ever tell yourself that you wish you could keep your most prized items, such as your favorite figurines or video games, safer and out of harm’s way?

What about your dream of getting picked for a scene in the next school performance or play?

The only way to turn those desires into reality is by first establishing that they are goals to be achieved. This is called goal setting – the first step to success. It’s a crucial part of the plan. Without this step, you will find that turning any dream into reality is almost impossible. 

Think about going through a door at the tippy top of a long, spiral staircase. Your goal? To make it to the top of the landing, where you will get to open the door and walk right on through. Your plan to reach that goal? Taking those long, heavy breath-inducing stairs. 

Some goals are bigger than others, and some are easier to achieve. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in the size of the goal. Sometimes, you have to set a series of small goals to reach a big one, making the process of getting to that ultimate goal more like a piece of cake. 

How to Set Good Goals

The road to achieving goals should be purposeful and paved with good intentions. Ask yourself this: 

Do I intend to achieve any goal I set for myself? 

It’s easy! – Aim for a S.M.A.R.T goal by remembering this acronym and each characteristic:

Specific – Keep your goals simple but very clear for easier planning.

Measurable – When goals are easier to track, they allow you to see your progress and know when you’ve succeeded.

Actionable – When your goals are actionable, it ensures the steps taken to get there are within your control.

Realistic – Avoid feelings of stress and overwhelm by making the goal realistic.

Time-Bound – Having a time frame in mind helps you stay focused and gives you something to look forward to.

SMART goals help you understand exactly what you need to do to achieve your desired outcome.

Since one of the ways to focus on setting good goals is by avoiding bad ones, let’s look at how some goals are prone to dead-end results with these examples below and how they can be patched up with a SMART strategy in place:

Bad Goals

  1. Having as many followers in school as you do on TickTock
  2. Getting a perfect score in every subject for the entire school year
  3. Being better at basketball than ______ (someone in your school) 

Good Goals

  1. Make a small but mighty impact (no social media needed) by involving yourself in one small act of kindness towards anyone you come across while at your school for the rest of the year. It can start with a gentle smile, telling a kid they dropped something that belongs to them, or by lending a hand to a teacher that you happen to pass in the hallway.
  2. Achieve a grade of 89% (or higher) on the next English exam to increase your overall grade in the class during a semester.
  3. Practicing 1-2 extra days a week to improve your basketball skills in time for the next game.

Forming good and practical goals will help you focus on the outcome instead of the process. It also helps you realize the things that matter, and that you are ultimately competing against your best self.

Example Goals

Kids like you set goals every day. 

Here are some examples of SMART goals to help get you started with setting goals of your own and how to successfully see them through:

  • Reviewing Science, Math, and/or Language Notes – Start with 20mins a day per subject, and work your way up gradually throughout your goal. This review can consist of reading material or practice problems. The challenge can be done throughout the summer break to help familiarize yourself with what you learned over the school year and before you get to the next grade (you’ll definitely need the review to give yourself a leg up!)
  • Starting a Reading/Comprehension Challenge to improve literacy – As mentioned above, be strategic. Start with picking a time frame. This can be throughout spring or summer break. Also, choose books that you will enjoy reading. It’s okay to challenge yourself with a book genre or topic that you don’t know about, but for this particular goal, stick to what you know and love. A future challenge can consist of books that are foreign to you, so long as they meet your reading/grade level.
  • Staying safe (no texting while walking!) – If texting is what you like, we won’t knock you for it. Just remember to stay safe while doing it! If you made the decision to stay safe while walking home or to school, helping yourself by way of a SMART goal, you could decide to find other things to distract you from holding your phone while walking that also happen to be safe enough to do during the walk. For example: talking to a friend walking along your route, being in your thoughts about an upcoming presentation or what you’re planning to do next, or having a quiet moment observing your surroundings. Whatever you choose, stay focused on why you’re doing it and how it is the better choice.
  • Limit your screen time – Give this a go by first calculating how much time you spend looking at a screen uninterrupted in one day and within one week. Remember how much you’d like to limit, and acknowledge that as your goal. Start reducing your screen time by cutting down the time you spend at any given time until you chisel away to the amount of screen time you are comfortable with. It’s most helpful to have your parents in on this to advise you on what a healthy amount of screen time for you is.
  • Making better snack and food choices – Write out what foods you currently eat, which ones you want to get rid of, and what kind you want to replace them with. Making a list can help you take action in buying those foods that are a better option. Decide on how many of your meals you’d want to replace with healthier food options and your ultimate goal in eating better. Your goal can be ongoing if your plan is to make it a lifestyle change. Remember that a bunch of small goals always lead up to a bigger and better one.

How Goals and Money are Connected

“Put your money where your goals are” – Unknown

Money and goals go together like chocolate and pudding. 

The correct term, financial goals, are goals set with money in mind. Having the mind to save, earn, spend, and invest. If you set a goal to save more, that’s pretty vague and doesn’t prompt you to work towards saving or spending your money more wisely. Set that same goal to save a certain amount over a certain period of time for a certain reason, and you can almost touch it before you finish saying “good ol’ chocolate pudding.”

Here are some examples of financial goals that kids may have:

“I want to do extra jobs for family and friends to start earning my own money. With my own money, I can buy my own after-school snacks and also save for the latest video game.”

“I want to be a part of choosing charities for our family donations because there are charities and organizations that interest me. Being a part of this decision-making process will help me prepare for my future of giving.”

“I have basic knowledge of investing because of my parents, and I would like to choose and buy a stock of my own. With my allowance, I can do this.”

Financial goals are extremely important types of goals because they are the “make or break” of your financial future. If you’ve read (we can enter a “saving money” article here), then you know all the wonderful things that money can buy when you make better choices with your money, helping you grow up with a financially savvy mindset that wins every time.

How Your Parents Can Help You Set and Track Goals

Parents are there to support you through any process, especially with things they know will benefit you the most. 

When they find out that you are interested in setting goals, they will be all in with helping you reach them. This makes selecting a goal more fun when you have family and friends to cheer you on.

  1. Start by making a list of the “goals” you are looking to achieve.
  1. Narrow down your goals to the ones that are time-sensitive and most important to you (tuck the others away for another round of goal setting. The idea is to take baby steps, so you are sure to succeed at reaching each and every goal). Having three goals at a time is a solid start, but having a single one is just as worthy of success.
  1. Sit down with your parents, show them your list of goals, and begin to tell them your reason for wanting to achieve each goal. Tell them that you would like their help because this is your first time, and you want to see your goal out to the very end.

Know that you are doing this not to receive a “yes or no,” but instead to get a practical strategy from them on making those goals a reality. Remember, your parents have done this repeatedly, even without knowing it. That’s how good they are. And you are on your way to being a goal-setting master yourself!

What to Do if You Fail to Reach Your Goals

Celebrate! When you try to reach a goal, but don’t quite make it, you broke a record for a small victory. 

Effort alone brings you halfway closer to the goal you set for yourself. Celebrate your small win and hit right on target next time.

Activities to Help You Set Goals

Here are some creative ways to turn goal-setting into a fun project while keeping your eye on the prize!:

  1. Find a partner/friend – Get motivated by a close friend with a different or similar goal. Do daily or weekly check-ins, and discuss and write down what each of you did that day to get closer to your personal goals. 
  2. Student Goal-Setting Worksheet – This is a quick and simple worksheet that prompts you to think about what you’re good/bad at, what you’d like to improve on, and so much more.
  3. Make a Family Bucket List – This activity brings the whole family together for a goal-setting practice. First, get a dry erase board and a marker, and as a family, list out some accomplishments and achievements you’d like to work toward together. At the end of the year, revisit this same list to see what all you were able to accomplish collectively. These accomplishments are worth celebrating!

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About the Author

Christina Ezeagwuna

Christina is a professional writer with 7+ years in entrepreneurship, opening a rental baby furniture business in 2016 that she still runs today. Christina is a mom of three budding, financially savvy kids and works as a content manager for the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement.

Last updated on: June 20, 2022