New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for adults! Learning to goal set is an effective life skill. LDS Learning Support Manager Melissa Henderson shares tips on how to teach goal setting to children.

Each January, we’re reminded of all the ways we can improve our lives through setting resolutions, and, subsequently, how difficult it is to stick to the goals we set. As with most skills, it is best to start teaching goal setting early. It’s a good opportunity for children to explicitly reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and to develop their self-awareness.

When children set realistic goals, work towards these, and see their progress, their self-confidence—which is crucial to development—grows. Additionally, many students with learning difficulties experience challenges with executive functioning skills such as organization and planning. Setting goals is one strategy that can help improve their ability to think ahead and take ownership of their future.

Here are some tips you can use to help your child set goals in 2020:

1. Pick a Goal

Goal setting does not need to be specific to learning. You can encourage your child to think of goals they may want to set regarding their hobbies, social interactions, habits, and organization. The important point is that your child must choose and set the goal themselves, and understand why they want to achieve that goal. It is best to start with short-term (weekly or monthly) goals as seeing success quickly will improve their motivation.

2. Assess the Goal

Many people use the acronym SMART to assess their goals In order to ensure that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. For children, this can be simplified by picking a deadline, and reflecting on the achievability of that deadline with an adult.

3. Make a Plan

Make sure your child writes down their goal and puts it in a place where they will see it often. As their goal should be achievable, the next thing your child should do is note the first step that they will take in order to achieve the goal. For example, you can use an outline such as: “I want to [insert goal] by [date], so I will [step taken to achieve goal].”

4. Reflect

Applaud your child’s effort to achieve their goal, even if the goal was not completed. If they fall short, help them to reflect on whether or not the goal was achievable, what could have been done to adjust the goal, or other steps that could have been taken to achieve the goal. Once your child is comfortable with setting small goals, they can work on setting larger, long-term (multiple months or yearly) goals.