For Parents

How to Teach Your Kids About Goal Setting

In this article you will learn how to teach your kids about goal setting and why it is important, as well as real-life example goals and activities that you can implement into your teaching.


It’s debatable on which parenting style guarantees a goal-getter mindset in a child. Whether you’re the elephant or free-range type, it could benefit any parent to allow a kid to take a leap into setting goals. 

Simply put: it has less to do with relinquishing your almighty parental control and more with allowing them to grow.

Making kids more responsible for themselves can be unnerving, but not as scary as you think. Plus, the benefits of assigning your child responsibility equips them with an abundance of life skills, improved self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and most importantly, being a role model for others – children and adults alike.

Helping your kid develop a sense of responsibility allows them to reach their full potential and develop all the skills they need to become responsible as an adult. 

Teaching your kid about setting goals will get your child thinking about the endless possibilities of their future and how they can strategically and methodically strive for the best. And since they are already destined for extraordinary outcomes, they will never settle for less with their newly adopted goal-getting mindset, making YOU one super proud parent…

I know what you’re thinking: Sign me up! Right?!

If you want to teach your child how to set goals, but are unsure of how and where to start, look no further! You’ve come to the right corner.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • How to explain the importance of goals and goal setting to your kids
  • How to teach goal setting to your kids
  • How to set a good example for your kids
  • How goal setting and money are connected for kids
  • Example goals for kids
  • What to do if your kids fail to reach their goals
  • Activities to help with kids’ goal setting

How to Explain the Importance of Goals and Goal Setting to Your Kids

Are you familiar with that kid who loves to read, but hardly gets through an entire chapter book because they’d prefer to hasten with excitement onto their next book exploration?

Your child has to decide, with good reason, to finish what they started. And it’s up to you to provide those reasons why they should, helping prompt them to want to do it.

This is a great segway into introducing goals and goal setting for a child because they learn best through concepts they can relate to.

Explaining the importance of goals as it relates to this example would first mean teaching them to know the importance of seeing a book to the very end. It could be for suspense’s sake or because you choose to inspire them to live by the rule: Start what you finish. This amazing saying rings true for anyone with a goal they are determined to complete.

A longer-term goal could be a career choice. At their age, they may dream of being a top-secret special detective or an animal-loving veterinarian when they grow up. Although these are long-term goals to be set, your child can make little efforts towards getting closer to the larger goal of fulfilling their dream job.

Pointing these analogies out to them will help them understand that longer goals are worth keeping and that there is a clear distinction between short-term and long-term goals. Let them know that both scenarios are totally doable and achievable for children. The only difference is the time it takes to reach them.

How to Teach Goal Setting to Your Kids

“A goal properly set is a goal halfway reached” – Zig Ziglar

Here are some quick steps you can take as a parent to further teach the importance of goal setting to your kid and to start putting them into action:

  1. Start S.M.A.R.T. – Start by introducing this acronym and its meaning to help guide them on ‘mindful’ goal-setting. This method of creating a more realistic goal plan makes goal-setting more likely to be achieved.
  • Specific – Keep your goals clear and crisp for easier planning.
  • Measurable – When goals are easier to track, they allow you to see your progress.
  • 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.
  1. P.P.P. (Put Into Play before Practice) – Kids are visual learners and enjoy stories. Allow your child to follow you on a journey where you create the imagery to explain the concept of goals and how they should be set. Use the above analogies as a starting point. 

Another quick tip: the goal example you give them should be something close to home – if it’s something that they like or can relate to, they are most likely to grasp the bigger picture.

  1. Highlight the Purpose – It’s possible that your child has goals without even knowing they are considered goals. 

Use this moment to have your child write down a list of the things they want that they don’t yet have. Explain to them that this is how goals come about. Then provide them with this kid-friendly definition: something that you determine you want, and you choose to work hard to get/achieve it.

Then, talk to them about what the purpose of each one of their goals might be and how it could potentially benefit them after they’ve obtained it. Get them to see that each and every goal has a purpose and that the purpose should add meaning and value to their life.

  1. Put into Action – From your child’s list, highlight 2-5 short-term goals, and ask them to choose 1 (their favorite). Go over with them the purpose of their goal again to reinforce why it’s a goal they would want to set and complete. 

Starting with short-term goals gives children the chance to see their wins much sooner than long-term goals. This will give them more confidence and stamina for setting bigger goals. Now, help them work through their first goal at their preferred pace and watch them as they take off to the end!

How to Set a Good Example for Your Kids

“Kids don’t do what you say. They do what they see. How you live your life is their example.”

Here are some effective ways to set a good example for your kids that won’t undermine your efforts:

Make it Relatable – Chances are, the experiences you ran into as a child are the same ones your child sprawls around in today. Share your childhood stories that will give them better context into any mistakes you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learned while setting your own goals. Explain any decisions you made, along with what you would have done differently to ensure your goals were fulfilled. 

Practice Stress Management – Apart from life’s woes that stress us out daily, sometimes striving for a goal can take you there. 

It can help prepare your child’s mind for any possible feelings of frustration and tension they may have while trying to reach their goal. Help them to confront those feelings with awareness and acceptance. They should never give up while in the pursuit of achieving a goal when negative feelings arise. Let them know that there are healthy coping mechanisms they can use to help replace those feelings with positive ones.

Join them in Goal-Setting – Kids love to compete with their parents. And even though this isn’t so, it will keep them up for their own challenge. Your goals can be shared as a family goal or separate ones that are of a similar nature. Don’t be afraid to let them know that parents are not exempt from setting their own goals and that this is a life-long pursuit for anybody! 

How Goal Setting and Money are Connected for Kids

The link between goal setting and money boils down to resources. Your kids should know that most goals are achieved through the involvement of money in some way, shape, or form. They should also be aware that money can be a goal for some people (including their parents!).

Let’s further evaluate how money plays an important role in goal setting based on these examples below:

Sarah wants to start her first job ever with a lemonade stand. 

The weather is perfect. Check!

The neighbors are willing and ready to be the initial round of supporters. Check!

Mom and Dad are there to help with serving and collecting money. Check!

Lemonade ingredients are bought to start the business? Not quite yet.

Sarah gets the ingredients from her parents after they went to buy them from the grocery store.

Lucas wants to join the book club at school. He’d like to sign up to read 100 books throughout the summer. He visits the library to take out a few books to help him achieve his goal, but realizes the book set he wants is unavailable. He has to purchase the book set so that he can feel motivated while reading, and to enjoy finishing the book club challenge even more!

Example Goals for Kids

Utilize the SMART goal framework to show your child how to effectively create a goal they can choose anytime and any day to achieve anything they set their mind on!: 

Weak goal #1: I’m going to try out for the track and field team at my school.

S.M.A.R.T. Goal #1:

  • Specific: I’m going to start training to prepare for track and field try-outs at my school. 
  • Measurable: I will track my distance and speed with my watch while running to build up strength and endurance 4x a week until tryouts.
  • Actionable: I am able to practice running around my school track when school is closed. I can also go for a run with my Dad on weekends.
  • Realistic: I am an active kid that is involved in sports such as softball and tennis, and have plenty of time to prepare during the summer
  • Time-bound: I will participate in try-outs for the upcoming school year

Weak Goal #2: I’m going to read 100 books.

S.M.A.R.T. Goal #2:

  • Specific: I’m going to read 100 books to fulfill a book club challenge during the summer
  • Measurable: I will get in the habit of reading for at least 20 minutes a day until the book club challenge ends.
  • Actionable: I have a mini library at my house with a wide selection of books for kids.
  • Realistic: I love to read books of different genres and will have the flexibility to do it consistently.
  • Time-bound: I will read consistently for at least 20 minutes a day until the book club challenge ends in three months.

SMART Goals Worksheet for Kids

You can download our kids’ goal setting worksheet to help your kids learn the SMART goals framework and set their first goals.

What to Do When Your Kid Fails to Reach their Goal

The most important part about setting a goal is doing whatever it takes to see it through. The other important part? 

Accepting failure as it comes.

Show your child that accepting failure from not meeting the goal made them brave, courageous, and an absolute good sport. This way, they won’t see it as being the be-all, end-all and will show more willingness in trying to pursue the same goal until they succeed.

Before attempting to set the same goal, encourage them to take a step back and evaluate the entire process to figure out what may have gone wrong. (It’s worth keeping a diary or daily log where you can communicate their progress and feelings along the way, helping you to reflect on the journey more effectively with them.). When they feel ready, they should try setting the same goal again until they achieve it.

Activities to Help with Kids’ Goal Setting

Now that you are ready to put what you learned into action, don’t forget to make it a fun learning session for your child! These activities will not only help your kid to improve on setting and achieving goals, but will ignite a life-long passion in them for succeeding in everything they do!

  • Create a Vision Board – help your child create a vibrant and exciting vision board that reflects who they are, what they like, and what makes them happy. Your child can start by cutting out pictures and words from old magazines, then decorate with markers, glitter, and scrap paper on a big poster board. Somewhere in that process, you will discover and be able to point out a goal or two. Have your child talk about their vision board and point out their goals, and how they plan to achieve them.
  • Goal Ladder – Most ideal for longer-term goals, a goal ladder is a way to define smaller goals that represent the steps leading up to the ultimate goal or dream to be achieved. Use paper to create a picture of a ladder with each step demonstrating a goal to be achieved in order to go onto the next goal that leads up to the top of the dream goal. Have your child write down their small goals step-by-step and then their last goal that will determine the overall success of the goal. (suitable for older kids; ages 14+)
  • My Goals Worksheet – This worksheet is a simple tool for encouraging children to focus more on their goals and to create a plan for meeting them. It prompts them to write out their goal, when they plan to achieve it, and to list the ways they intend to achieve them. Once they’ve reached the goal, they can revisit this worksheet to detail how they were able to achieve the goal.

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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: September 12, 2023