Every child has dreams. Whether they are big, like what they want to be when they grow up, or small, like just getting one more goal, your child is a dreamer. But if you want to help your child achieve those dreams, you must set goals with them. But where do you start? What goals are reasonable? How do you set goals?
The answer: SMART goals. And setting SMART goals is one of our strongest championship habits.
There is a difference between smart goals and SMART goals. SMART can stand for a few different meanings, so choose which one works best for you and your child:
S – Specific, significant, stretching
M – Measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – Agreed upon, attainable, achievable, action-oriented
R – Realistic, relevant, rewarding, results-oriented
T – Time-based, tangible, trackable
Work with your child to figure out which words work best for your SMART goals. But what do these words mean?
Specific goals are well-defined. Both you and your child should understand what you are working towards and have a basic understanding of the process to get there. Don’t say “I want to get better grades” but, instead, “I will get a B+ in English and Math next report card.”
Measurable goals can be defined by noticeable progress and milestones. Your child should be able to tell when they are getting closer to their goal and should identify when they achieve it. In the case of grades, most goals are measurable. But, instead of saying “I want to run faster,” your child should say, “I will run 100 metres in 10 seconds.”
Agreed upon goals are decided by all parties involved. This might just be you are your child, but it might also include teachers, coaches, other family, or a life coach. You might want something for your kid and they might want something else. Be sure to come to a consensus on what you want to pursue together.
Realistic goals are ones that are doable considering your situation, time, and knowledge. Your child will have dreams bigger than what you can accomplish. Don’t dissuade them from those dreams, but be sure to focus their attention on realistic goals when setting SMART goals. If your kid wants to get an A in math, but is currently getting a C-, break it up into multiple goals. Start with getting a B, then work up to an A.
Time-based goals have a specific timeframe. You must make sure that you have enough time to achieve what you want, but you must also ensure that you do not give your child too much time. Make sure that you set a timeline with your SMART goals and you and your child stick to it. Using visuals is a great way to keep your goals on schedule.
How do I set SMART goals?
SMART goals are only effective if you take the time to make them properly. But knowing where to start can seem daunting, especially for your kid. Here are some steps that I use to help kids set SMART goals.
1. Brainstorm. Start by sitting down with your child and writing down all of their goals. It doesn’t matter if they are big or small, realistic or dreams. Write everything down. If it makes it more fun for them, colour-code their goals to group them together.
2. Choose a few goals. When you are done brainstorming, you and your child will have a ton of goals written down. Find a way to narrow down that big list. You can rank them in order of importance, or choose ones that correlate to different areas of their life: school, sports, home life, etc. Be sure to choose a mix between long-term and short-term goals.
3. Make those goals SMART. This isn’t a quick or easy step, but it is the most important one. Take the handful of goals you have chosen and make them SMART. Whether you choose your own words for the acronym or use the one above, you want to make sure that your goal meets all the criteria for a SMART goal. There are some helpful resources online that can help you turn regular goals into SMART goals. Pinterest is a great place to find some visual planners.
Why are SMART goals better?
Goal setting of any kind can be effective at drawing your child’s focus on specific tasks. SMART goal setting takes it a step further. These specific goals allow your child to visualize where they want to go and how they are going to get there. They also have milestones that your child can celebrate and use to visually track their progress.
Most importantly, setting SMART goals forces you and your child to set realistic goals. There are few things as demotivating as failure for children. Though they are resilient and will bounce back, repeated failure can take its toll. SMART goals are goals that your child can achieve and, with your help, they will.
Like all of our championship habits, setting SMART goals is not easy. It’s not something that you can take lightly with your child, but it will be worth it for their development. Setting SMART goals is something I focus on as a life coach. It is one of the most valuable lessons I can teach the kids I work with. Take some time to understand your child’s goals and help them achieve them in a SMART way.