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Keeping your child motivated and on track: Helping them set SMART goals

by | Jul 12, 2020 | Communication & Conflict | 0 comments

Everyone knows how hard it is to stick to goals. Be honest: How many New Years Resolutions have you actually succeeded in achieving?

That’s not shade. Trust me – there is no judgement here. I’m still procrastinating on that goal to go walking everyday that I set when I was 18 years old.

This is about reality. Life is hard, and busy, and chaotic. As parents, we tend to spend more time helping someone else live their life, than actually living our own! Cut yourself some slack!

But, also, wouldn’t it be great if you could save time so you could get back to living your own life?  Wouldn’t it be liberating to help your child achieve their goals without having to be on hand every step of the way?

You can save yourself time and headaches if you teach your child the SMART goals method. (Plus…If you want to use the method yourself along the way, I mean, it’s not a bad idea 😉

What is a SMART goal? This is an acronym for goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable/achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Many times we fail at achieving our goals because they are not realistic goals. Not only that, we set our sights on the outcome and forget to plan for the process. A SMART goal is a way of phrasing a goal that builds in the stepping stones on how to get there.

Studies show that people are more likely to meet their goals when they focus on the process, not the outcome.

For example: Say you want to be healthier or more confident! That’s great. But what does it mean? Being healthier is a life aspiration. It is not a goal in and of itself. Being confident is a state you want to achieve, but what does it look like in process?

The best part about setting SMART goals is it helps your child (or you!) feel like they are a success. When we set realistic and achievable goals we develop a belief that we are capable. When we set goals that have no clear pathway or are not realistic, we inevitable miss the mark. But we blame ourselves and start to feel like we can’t do anything.

The best way to achieve a goal is to make it so small and attainable that you can’t help but succeed every time! That builds confidence, a sense of personal capacity, and boosts energy.

So instead of saying, “I want to be healthier,” you might try, “I will walk for 10 minutes outside, 3 days a week, for three months.”

It is specific. It is measurable (you could check it off a to-do list). It is realistic and achievable (provided you can walk outside for 10 minutes three days a week) and it is time-bound (you are giving yourself a three month limit, starting now, to test it out). 

Bonus if you schedule it in: On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will walk for 10 minutes around the block. I will do this right after I have breakfast and before I shower.

Poof! You no longer have a goal that you dream of someday achieving when you get around to it. Now you have a habit built right into your lifestyle. It’s pretty hard to screw that up.

If you read your goal out loud and you instinctively go “no way I’m doing that” then you either need to rethink the goal (is it really realistic??) or you need to rethink whether it fits with your optimal lifestyle. It’s OK if you thought a goal was right for you but just isn’t!

Why is this so good for your child?

Because it builds confidence! Plus it gives them structure. And children need (and enjoy) structure. Yes, even teens! They won’t admit it…but they crave it.

Plus, when you work with your child or teen on developing their goal, it shows them you care about their dreams. It’s the difference between, “That’s nice hun” or “That sounds lovely, good luck” and, “That’s amazing! You’re totally capable! Do you want help developing a plan? I can’t wait to see you succeed.”

Both messages are positive and supportive, but one goes straight to a child’s heart and sounds like “I care, and your ideas matter”. It makes them feel good and special. 

The fun part is you can set goals to do together. Like cooking a meal from a new recipe every Friday. You alternate who finds the recipe every week. Goals are made better when the family is included.

The reward is built into the process. But, if you or your child works well with incentives, the R in SMART can also stand for “rewardable”. This means you decide on a reward you will give yourself every time you take part in the process. So, after every walk – then you get your shower and morning coffee, but not before hand! There is something to look forward to above and beyond a more fulfilling future. 

What goals do you and your family have? Tell us now in our exclusive community!