Creative Child

Teaching Goal-Setting to Kids

by Rebecca Eanes

Some of the biggest parenting goals we have are to teach our children how to take responsibility for their own behavior, to facilitate a healthy self-esteem, and to cultivate a growth mindset so that they push through challenges and work through failures. These goals produce confident, capable kids who have what they need to succeed at reaching their fullest potentials. Goal-setting is a simple way for kids to build confidence and self-esteem, learn responsibility, and gain a can-do attitude!

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Research shows that people who set goals are more successful. However, anyone who has seen their New Year’s resolution go down the drain knows that just setting a goal isn’t enough to achieve success. To teach our kids how set goals and succeed, we need to keep a few things in mind.

  1. The goal should be attainable. Big dreams are good, but when it comes to goal-setting, keep it small and attainable at first. Your kids might want to set big goals, like being an NBA star or winning American Idol, but those aren’t going to happen in the near future. We want to steer them toward setting goals that they can achieve relatively quickly so they get that sense of satisfaction and success! Help your child set reasonable, age-appropriate goals like learning to draw a cat or mastering their multiplication tables.


  1. Tell them to write down their goals. Writing down our goals helps us to take ownership of them. According to The Science of Goal Setting by Vanessa Van Edwards, this is called “the endowment effect.” She says the endowment effect “happens when we take ownership of something and it becomes ours, thereby integrating into our sense of identity.” Plus, writing down their goals will make the next step easier, which is to list actionable steps to attain that goal.

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  1. Having a goal without a path to achieve that goal may set our kids up for failure. Without clear steps to take, kids (and adults) might not know how to achieve their goal, and not knowing what step to take first, they may take no step at all. Therefore, as soon as a goal is set, help your child identify the actionable steps he or she can take to achieve success. Using the examples above, it might look like this.
    Goal: I want to learn to draw a cat.
    Actionable Steps: Purchase a “how to draw” book and practice drawing for at least 15 minutes each day.


Goal: I want to learn my multiplication tables.

Actionable Steps: Practice with flash cards or an app every day for 10 minutes, and write out one set of multiplication tables each day.


  1. Make sure the goal is measurable. “I want to be healthier” is a great goal, but how will you measure it? Your child might want to set a goal of “being liked more at school” or “becoming more athletic,” but these are broad goals. Help them create specific, measurable goals like “running a mile,” “making a new friend,” or “jumping higher.” That way, they’ll know exactly when they achieve their goal!


  1. Teach your child that setbacks aren’t failures, and encourage a growth mindset by helping them to cultivate positive self-talk like “I can do this” or “I’m already half-way there!” Teach them that working toward the goal is as important as achieving it, and that “failure” is really just a teaching tool. Your encouragement and support will be an important part of the process of learning how to set and achieve their goals.
Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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