Setting Goals for the New Year* *A New Year Bonus – Tips for Parents/Adults
As the New Year 5773 approaches, many of us are
setting new goals for ourselves and for our kids.
Goal setting is meaningless without commitment and perseverance. It takes time,
energy, and sacrifice. Even for the kids who seem the most passionate about new
goals, stick-to-itiveness can be a challenge.
How do we get our kids to
stay focused on their goals and see them through to the end?
1: Help them define what
their best efforts look like:
Let’s face it. Many of us are guilty of “phoning it in.” We simply do what
we’ve always done, even if it’s not our best—that may keep us treading water
but it won’t move us forward.
2: Squelch self-limiting
labels and thoughts: Sometimes
kids label themselves (i.e. “I’m stupid,” “I’m bad at math”). Other times
parents do it for them (i.e. “She’s my shy one,” “He’s not coordinated like his
brother”). There comes a time when we need to help our kids kick these self-limiting
labels to the curb and provide them with evidence to the contrary.
For example, remind the child who says she “stinks at taking
tests,” of the high score she received on two consecutive history tests last
semester; or a child who has been labeled “careless” of the great care she took
with her community service project in school. When you give them permission to
dismiss old labels, they can shed any self-limiting thoughts and negative
goal-robbing language that may have been holding them back.
3: Support vision as well as
goals: “Vision” is a powerful word of the month
for this New Year - Tishrei. It gives nuance to the goal-setting process as it
asks kids to not only identify what they want, but also what it will look, feel,
and sound like once that goal is achieved.
Vision, when clear, can feel so REAL and present that
it keeps goal-setters motivated and invested. They can literally “taste”
success and are drawn to see their goals through to the finish line.
4: Encourage a persevering attitude: Your motto
should be “I’ve got a no-quit-go-for-it-attitude.” How do you encourage an
attitude like that?
Research tells us that getting (and keeping) kids involved in
various positive activities, supporting self-reliance, understanding how your parenting
style contributes, and ensuring high yet age-appropriate expectations for your
child are all important. When we tell a child what we believe they can or can’t
do, they often believe us whether or not it’s actually true.
5: Support internal rewards: Some parents offer external rewards, like
toys, money, or TV, for commitment. They are subsequently always looking for
something else to motivate them to go after their dreams.
The best rewards, however, are internally- generated. Help your
kids connect their feelings of pride and excitement to their performance and
effort. For example - here’s an abridged conversation with an 8-year-old child:
“Wow! You cooked an awesome breakfast for your
parents all by yourself? That must have been quite a feeling. What did you
think of that—how did it make you feel?
“I feel really…good! I mean, I wasn’t sure it
would come out good, and it did. It really did. It was awesome!”
“What happens to your body and your mind when you
feel like that?
“It’s like, all over. It feels good; like I can do
Feelings of pride happen when kids try their hardest and they
accomplish their goals. They make them stand up straighter, smile bigger, and
try harder. By pointing out that they are in control of these positive
feelings, they will be more likely to put in the effort to stay focused and
6: Don’t allow a pattern of
quitting to occur: When
kids seem to continually ask you if they can quit, it’s vital to simply not
give in. While young kids may not be quitting “life-altering” activities,
studies repeatedly show that early behavior predicts later behavior.
In other words, by giving in, we can
unintentionally set our kids up for a pattern of quitting that continues into
adolescence and adulthood when commitment is mandatory and stakes are high.
It’s important to take the time to ensure kids understand the time commitment
that will be expected and enforced whenever they choose to join an activity.
As it’s a brand new year, the slate is wiped clean
and the possibilities are boundless.
Help your kids and yourself to make this the year of going the extra
mile—the year to realize goals and make dreams come true in 5773.
More on goals:
Goals are an important part of life. Children who learn to plan
out and obtain goals contribute to their healthy self-esteem not only when the
goal is accomplished, but also along the path to the goal. Here are a few tips
in goal setting and obtaining:
Goals should be realistic. A
goal is realistic if, given time and effort, your child stands a reasonably
good chance of accomplishing it.
Turn goals into smaller steps
or tasks so that your child can feel that they are accomplishing
something along the way to the goal.
Help your child create a plan to
complete the tasks for his goal. Write it down.
Help your child keep to the
plan, but be flexible as things change and obstacles may come up
that you didn’t plan for.
Praise your child
when the goal, or parts of the goal, have been accomplished.
*A New Year Bonus for Parents/Adults – Here are some tips for
Specific, realistic goals work best. When it comes to making a change, the people who succeed are
those who set realistic, specific goals. "I'm going to recycle all my
plastic bottles, soda cans, and magazines" is a much more doable goal than
"I'm going to do more for the environment." And that makes it easier
to adhere to.
It takes time for a change to become an
established habit. It will probably take a couple of months before any changes —
like getting up half an hour earlier to exercise — become a routine part of
your life. That's because your brain needs time to get used to the idea that
this new thing you're doing is part of your regular routine.
Repeating a goal makes it stick. Say your goal out loud each morning to remind yourself of what
you want and what you're working for. Writing it down works as well. Every time
you remind yourself of your goal, you're training your brain to make it happen.
Pleasing other people doesn't work. The key to making any change is to find the desire within
yourself — you have to do it because you want it, not because a coach, parent, spouse,
friend or someone else wants you to. It will be harder to stay on track and
motivated if you're doing something out of obligation to another person.
Roadblocks don't mean
failure. Slip-ups are actually part of the learning process as you
retrain your brain into a new way of thinking. It may take a few tries to reach
a goal. But that's OK — it's normal to mess up or give up a few times when
trying to make a change. So remember that everyone falters. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just remind
yourself to get back on track.