A Good Place to Begin

Reading, writing, and arithmetic, the beginnings of a solid education. But what the schools leave out may be the most important lesson of all. Without the ability to set and achieve goals, your children may never reach their full potential, so it's up to you to impart the greatest of all lessons.

Why Goals
Why should your children spend time setting and work toward goals in the first place? The answer may seem obvious to you, but not so with most children. They live in the here and now, putting little thought into tomorrow.

Explain the role of goal-setting in a happy, healthy life by using concrete examples such as personal goals you've set in your own life or, even better, past experiences they've had with choosing and working toward bigger and better things.

Have they ever worked toward a goal in sports? Music? Academics? If so, they most likely won't see the connection with goal-setting, a connection you can help them make.

Start Small
Begin to build their experience with goal-setting by using small goals in place of lofty or ambitious objectives. Overwhelming them at this stage could create negative associations to the idea of setting goals down the road.

Sit down at the kitchen table with a notebook and pencil and walk them step by step through the process of writing down a clear goal along with specific things they can do to reach it. It doesn't matter how simple or small the goal is at this point; the purpose is to teach the process.

Do you give them an allowance? If so, help them to create a savings goal and measure their progress together each week. With a little effort, you can think of countless examples like these, but the best goals are those that come from your children, so ask them what they want to achieve and guide them through the process.

Explain the Role of Setbacks
If you set goals, you're going to encounter a setback or two along the way, and it's up to you to make sure these small bumps in the road don't bring an end to the goals your children have set.

The great advantage of setbacks and short-term failures is what you learn from the experience; knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing the right steps to take.

Develop your child's insight into the benefits of setbacks by bringing up past experiences they've had with problems and what they learned from them. If nothing comes to mind, offer common examples of goals and their setbacks, asking your children to describe what can be learned from such experiences.


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