Setting Goals for the New Year*
*A New Year Bonus – Tips for Parents/Adults

shutterstock_16967089.jpgAs 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.

shutterstock_27635617.jpgFor 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 anything.”

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 persevere.

shutterstock_62112754.jpg6: 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:

shutterstock_47517307.jpgGoals 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 you too!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. shutterstock_92398969.jpgRoadblocks 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.


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