Goal Setting with Kids: Habits That Last a Lifetime

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What is the framework for success?  What motivates us? What works in helping us stay on track and experience success?  And most importantly, what makes us WANT to accomplish something?

These were questions I wrote down almost four years ago when I found myself questioning how to bring more order into our home.  I was stressed out as a mother and sick and tired of nagging at my kids. The more I nagged and reacted out of stress, the less I felt in control.  I started to question my parenting tools and the effectiveness of my continual reminders and harping on my kids to do things exactly the way I wanted while putting very little of the responsibility in their court.

It was at that point when I became more mindful of helping my children learn the life skills and healthy habits that have been so valuable for me. One of the most powerful habits in my life has been having small and large goals to guide me.  I started teaching my kids how to set and work towards goals too.  Over the years, I’ve continued to encourage my kids to set long and short-term goals for their lives and we’ve used sticker charts and various incentive tools to help.

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There’s something about sticker charts and goals on my walls that leave me feeling happy! They keep us all on track too. They are visual reminders for the kids on what they want to work on most and for me to notice more of the positive behaviors (catch them in the act). It’s also nice for us all to see our progress!

While I was reflecting on my own goals yesterday in an attempt to get ready for this first week back after holiday break, I realized that it had been quite some time since I’ve helped my kids reflect on and set goals for themselves. Truly for themselves…where they feel ownership and aren’t just doing things because I’m making them! It was clear to me that it was time for all of us to have a reset where we set some personal and group goals for self-improvement as well as playing our part in making our family one that runs on love and working together!

So, the last day of holiday break was a fresh goal setting day for the whole family!  It started with just my son and me sitting down with some markers and scratch paper.  We scribbled down some of the most important things we wanted to work on together, talked about what this looked like and slapped a goal chart on the wall. Simple.  Easy.  Effective.  And only a little bit of coaxing on my part.  This worked just fine and I could have stopped there.  Really, my son is the one who thrives the most out of all my kids when it comes to these goal-driven sticker charts. They are magic for him!

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Goal setting with kids can be as simple as grabbing a marker, scratch paper and a some old stickers. Don’t make it harder than it has to be by trying to make it Pinterest potential!

But then I got to thinking about how I might involve the rest of the family in setting some goals like we used to. After all, this is a habit that benefits everyone!  I looked back to an old post I’d written almost four years ago called:  Goals for Today, Success for a Lifetime.  In this post, I talked about the process I went through with my daughters (then almost 6 and 4) in setting goals and making a sticker chart.  First impressions of reading my old self:

What??  Is this for real? How did I have that much time on my hands?  How did I have that much energy?? How did I get them to cooperate so willingly?? Oh, wait, that’s right, once my third child was talking [back] and walking and having very strong opinions, parenting reached a whole new playing field! I’d prefer to say I’ve just embraced a more relaxed and hands-off approach to parenting.  True in some ways but I’m also a heck of a lot more tired!

I quickly got over being overwhelmed, slightly annoyed and intimidated by the routines and process we embraced when the girls will little! I’ve definitely changed over the years and I’m glad for that but this was one habit of my past parenting that I want to keep up!  If we did it then, why couldn’t we do it now if we wanted to? So, we did.

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Guidelines I used to get this family goal setting ball rolling:

  • Keep it simple.  Just start.  Scratch paper, broken crayons, messy writing…just start as you are!  This doesn’t need to be a Pinterest project!!
  • Brainstorm a list together of all the things we think we’d like to work on.
  • After the initial list has been made, try to put all the specific goals into no more than four categories.  This not only helps to keep it simple but  also allows for each child to think of how the categories look for them as an individual when it comes time to reflect/illustrate each of the main goals.  For older kids, they might come up with a number of specific goals or examples of IMG_7475how each category looks but forthe youngest of kids, one example for each category is plenty!
  • Use kid friendly language.
  • Talk about each of the main goals and let them share examples for how this looks in each of their lives. Then ask them to draw a picture or words of what this looks like for them.  This will help them visualize their goals!
  • Put goals and incentive charts or jars in a room and location where you can see them.

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How did it go?  Overall, it went great!  As with anything we do with a group of kids with such different ages, I had to use my bag of tricks to keep them all on task (mostly my five-year old).  At first my son wanted to say things like: “Yeah, my goals are to fart and scribble all over this paper.” Um, yeah.  What a perfect time it was for me to model self-control and respect when really I just wanted to lose my marbles.  I used my calming strategies we’d just discussed. Ha! Eventually, he used his calming and self-control strategies too and realized this was important and he is part of the family team in making this meaningful.

Then what?  When the chart is full we will celebrate in a way we all decide!  When my son’s chart is full, we will do the same and he will start a new one and decide how/if he wants to change his goals. In the meantime, I can say without a doubt, we all feel motivated, empowered, and excited!

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In my next post I will go into more detail about goal setting for myself, my kids (and students) and as a family.  Some of the points I plan to expand on: 

  • Why set goals?
  • My earliest memories with goal setting/visualization and how it has impacted my life.
  • Why teach our kids to set and work towards goals? How this has helped my own kids as well as my students in the classroom.
  • Points I try to remember when writing and rewriting goals throughout the year.
  • How charts and incentive tools can be effective with kids (and adults).

Do you set goals for your life?  Do you set goals with your kids or use incentive tools a sticker chart?  Do you write them down and put them where you can see them?   

~Amanda

Note:  Using WordPress is entirely new for us as bloggers so bear with us as we figure this thing out! Our posts might not be as easy on the eyes as we hope for. Even adding pictures, changing text size and color, and choosing different fonts is a mystery for me right now!  I never claimed to be a technology queen.  It’s good for me to learn some new blog tricks.  

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2 thoughts on “Goal Setting with Kids: Habits That Last a Lifetime

  1. Awe man .. I LOVE the idea of setting goals with my kids. I set goals for myself. Usually anyway, last year I apparently never got around to it. But the year before I did and they were all very accomplish-able, and therefore mostly accomplished. But …. (don’t you hate that) … with the full time job, getting dinner on the table, homework done, reading complete, arguments refereed .. I feel like there is no time left. Oh and marathon training complete. We’ve used sticker charts to help with the homework and reading arguments and they really did help .. but man are they also a lot of work to keep up on!

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  2. Pingback: Running and Racing as a Family! And a Follow-Up to Goal Setting with Kids. |

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