Aim out of the Ballpark

Aim out of the Ballpark - tots to teens

How do children get to where they need to be if they don’t know where that is? Setting goals with your children will direct their efforts and encourage them to achieve success.

Goal-setting is useful because it helps your child to identify what is wanted, and help them realise that if they set their minds to it, they can achieve it. It is a great way to build self-confidence in children and a good habit for them to practise throughout life. Here are some ways you can set goals with
your children.

talk about the benefits of goal-setting

For most children, goal-setting will be something new. Talk to them about how goals can help them achieve things that are important in their lives. It is also important to chat to them about what the things are that they would like to achieve; not what you would like them to achieve or the things that you feel would benefit them. Children must want to take ownership and responsibility over the process. You may feel that there are areas that need improvement, so explore and suggest ideas by asking indirect questions, such as: “How would you feel if you could …?”

identify the goal

It is important that the goal is achievable, but also challenging. The goal must be detailed and measurable. “I want to do better in maths” is a positive desire, but not a defined goal. “I want to know my 4 times table by the end of the week” or “I want to know all my multiples by the end of term” is a more specific and achievable goal. It is also important that the goal is something that the child can have a high level of control over.

decide on a time frame

Setting a goal deadline is essential. Goals can be short-term or long-term, and smaller goals can be set that lead up to the final goal. This will allow your child to succeed along the way, which will boost her self-confidence and encourage her to continue. The time-frame depends on your child’s age, personality and the actual goal. Younger children need short-term goals because they struggle to think long-term and you do not want them to lose interest.

plan the steps

The steps implemented to reach the goal need not only to build up your child’s skills, but also help to create a plan that your child can follow on a daily or weekly basis. The steps will also provide opportunities to achieve small successes along the way. These will encourage her and build self-confidence. Chat to your child about how she can achieve her goal and the steps that she can conquer along the way in order to reach the final goal. Your child should design the final plan herself.

questions to help the discussion with your child

  • Who can help you?
  • How often will the action take place?
  • What are the smaller goals that can be achieved to reach the final goal?
  • What rewards can be given for the achievement of the smaller goals?
  • How will we track your progress?
  • What obstacles may stand in the way?
  • What can you do when obstacles come about?

observe progress

Your child will need to be encouraged along the way. Therefore, it is crucial that you monitor your child, recognising when she achieves, becomes frustrated, is struggling or persevering. Congratulate her when she achieves the smaller goals and encourage her when times are tough. Remember that it’s important that your child stays in control, so try not to nag or over-encourage.

celebrate achievement

There is no greater feeling in the world than setting a challenging goal, working hard to achieve it, and being successful. It is a skill that should be encouraged in childhood and continued throughout adulthood. When your child achieves her goal, she should feel very proud and, of course, so should you. Think of something that you can do as a family to celebrate this success. A material or financial reward could also be given. Some people say that the achievement of a goal should be a reward in itself, but children are only young, and they love being given something that they desire in recognition of their hard work and dedication. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t!

goal charts or jars

No matter what the goal, children enjoy and benefit from a visual method that tracks progress. You and your child can create some fun and effective goal-setting charts or jars. It’s great fun, acknowledges achievement and will encourage your child to keep going.

types of goal charts and jars
sticker chart
A sticker chart is a great way to practise a routine or new skill that needs repetition for success.

colouring-in chart
This is something different. Draw a picture that your child wants or ask your child to choose one from a colouring book. Your child can colour in one part of the page until the whole picture is complete.

board game chart
You and your child can also create your own board game with paths which have messages or activities that link to the goal written in the path spaces. Another fun idea is to think of all the different weird and wonderful ways to practise a certain skill.

marble or lolly jars
Children love filling a jar with marbles or lollies. The small successes can be rewarded by allowing the child to place a marble or lolly in the jar. The filled jar can be the reward once the final goal has been achieved.

tips for using goal charts and jars

  • Keep the charts and jars simple!
  • Allow the child to create and decorate her chart or jar. Even though you will have to assist your child in creating the chart, try to let them do most of it. It is important for the child to feel that her card is special and to take ownership of it.
  • Display the chart in a place that is easily reached and close to the child’s goal area, if possible.
  • Make sure the written goal is evident and clear on the chart or jar. The goal must be written as an ‘I-statement’ (‘I can brush my teeth’ or ‘I can eat all my dinner’).
  • Start with a small chart or jar. Toddlers will need a chart/jar that can be completed in a day or two. Preschoolers could start with 2-3 day charts and work up to ones that take around a week.
  • Use comments like “Look at how close you are to your goal” or “You are working so hard to achieve your goal” to teach your child positive self-talk.
  • Be a role model by setting your own goals, chatting about them, and presenting your own chart or jar.

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