Helping children set goals has huge benefits for their self-esteem. It also teaches them an essential life skill that underpins much academic and workplace success. And, at a time of huge uncertainties (like the current coronavirus pandemic), goal-setting can bolster mental health by giving children a much-needed sense of control and purpose.
You might be thinking, that parenting in a period of radical uncertainty is not the best time to be encouraging children to set goals. And when it comes to investing in ‘process’ goals around specific activities – such as “I will go to the gym three times a week” or “I will get an A in my exam” – we need to be careful. Because process goals depend on factors (like gyms and schools being open) that we can’t control and which are currently highly vulnerable to disruption.
But outcome goals are much more adjustable. Things like “I want to get fitter” or “I want learn more about modern history.” These can be refined and broken down into specifics that can be adjusted according to circumstances. So they are more empowering and flexible and resilient.
Today’s children have a lot of goals set for them by adults. School targets, targets attached to their hobbies and activities, targets dictated by parents. Encouraging children to set their own goals is a brilliant way of building children’s self-esteem. Setting their own goals (and achieving them) is empowering – whereas goals set for children by adults can be daunting (especially if your child lacks self-belief). When children achieve their own goals (no matter how small), they experience a sense of competence and are more likely to try again and to extend their goal.
Helping children set goals (and reach them) requires parents to use lots of coaching questions. It’s best to support the goal-setting process through facilitation rather than direction. Here’s a few key pointers that might help: Continue reading