Goal-setting isn’t a skill that comes naturally to children. Learning to implement objectives is important for children because it helps them develop life skills that facilitate planning for the future using a series of smaller steps that lead to positive rewards. Goal-setting shares overlapping benefits across the age groups. A good time to start is when a child is old enough to take on simple responsibilities, such as picking up toys.
Providing a Focus
When you help a child set goals, you give him a vision of the future. Whether he wants to save his allowance to buy a new toy, improve his grades or go to a friend’s birthday party, goal-setting gives him a positive focus that will encourage him to make better decisions, according to the HumanBean website 1. This focus encourages a child to think ahead about activities or behaviors that might get him closer or farther away from achieving his goal. As a parent, you can help your child develop this focus. For example, if your child’s goal is to get better grades in science, have him think of different ways he can achieve this goal and write down the ideas. The ideas serve as smaller goals and may include double-checking homework, handing in homework on time and completing extra-credit assignments.
Giving a Sense of Purpose
Goal-setting lets a young person establish ideals for her life and encourages her to keep moving forward even when she encounters setbacks 1. When a child learns to set goals, she develops a sense of purpose. Children who have a sense of purpose in life tend to be more confident. You can enhance a child’s sense of purpose by helping her set multiple age-appropriate goals. The University of Tennessee recommends encouraging your child to create financial, academic, personal, and sports or fitness-related goals that follow a timeline.
Goals motivate young people when they are specific, realistic and measurable. According to a January 2012 article on the "Woman’s Day" website, kids who work on goals they set are more motivated to accomplish the objective because they directly see or experience the benefits of their achievements. The most motivating goals to children are meaningful and personal.
Develop Responsibility and Self-Efficacy
Long- and short-term goals help children gain a sense of responsibility for their own behaviors, according to education expert Gail Gross in a January 2014 article on "The Huffington Post" website. With this sense of responsibility comes improved self-efficacy because positive goal-setting experiences help a child learn more about herself and the boundaries of her abilities 3. A child with high self-efficacy is less likely to view a goal she doesn’t achieve as a failure. Instead, she’ll likely attribute the outcome to inappropriate efforts.
- Maria Teijeiro/Photodisc/Getty Images