Setting new year’s goals with children

NewYearsGoalswithChildrenBeginning of a new year, makes us think about what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished or what we can learn from our failures or shortcomings in the year behind, and set new goals, both personal and professional, for the coming year. We might not aspire for big bangs or extraordinary inventions. However, I believe every human being needs growth in various aspects of their lives and gets satisfaction from contributing to their environment.  In this sense, new years are more or less like a check points for ourselves.

In my opinion, it’s never too early for our children to learn to be able to evaluate their own growth themselves at a young age. I agree, not every child’s perception of self, wants, goals and growth mature at the same same age. However, they should start setting their own goals and own expectations at their own pace, so that they learn to look inside for their own motivation and approval, rather than from outside.

This is not to push the children or give them nuisance but to encourage them to find ways to grow themselves. It also help us parents to understand what’s important to our children and keep ourselves accountable to help them achieve their goals as much as ours.

We did an informal goal setting workshop for the first time with my children, as I finalized my own list on the first day of the year. They write “goals” at the beginning of the school year. So they are not completely foreign to the concept. I helped them a bit in the process, deliberately restraining myself from planting my ideas into their heads or manipulating them. Below is the 10 step process to list new year’s goals and format them and the questions I used to make them think about their goals.

New Year’s Goal setting with children in 10 steps:

  1. Explain what are considered goals, in what areas they can set goals by using questions below and give examples.”Try to avoid”planting your own into their head at all costs.
  2. Encourage them to write down everything that comes to mind on a scratch paper. At this point, tell them not to number the items.
  3. Review list and consolidate related items into one.
  4. Identify general goals and see if they can specify them to be able to tell they have accomplished at the end of the year.
  5. Prioritize their list from the most important to the least by numbering them. They can take their time to go over the list as many times as they need to reevaluate.
  6. Explain them, that it’s better to keep the list to 15 items maximum so that they can focus on the more important stuff at this time. Identify extra items they can drop off the list to focus on more important stuff for them. You can note these things somewhere, to include them in the next year’s list.
  7. Once the draft list is finalized, they should write or type them down on a clean sheet of paper and decorate it if they want to. The most important part is that they should date and sign their goals list.
  8. Print the typed up list and laminate.
  9. Explain them, whenever they have to decide what to do, they can check their goals list to remind themselves of their goals and priorities.
  10. You can share your goals as a family and set one or two common goals.

Questions to help children come up with goals:

  • What are you good at and keep being good at?
  • What do you want to get better at?
  • What do you like most and want to keep doing (more)?
  • What different things would you like to try out?
  • What would you like to learn, see or practice? (Think about science, arts, sports, entertainment etc.)
  • What do you want to do most or accomplish as yourself, as a member of our family, as a member of our household, as a student, as a friend etc.?
  • What would you do if you had all the time to yourself?
  • What would you do if there was no chance of failure?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  • What would you do if nobody (including naysayer parents) would object it ?

This was our first annual family goal setting practice. Our common family goals are:

  • Have a lot of fun together,
  • Travel to awesome places and
  • Eat healthy and keep active every day.

I am looking forward to making this an annual tradition as the “Good things, great times” jar. We set our first  “Good things, great times” jar at the beginning of 2014 and kids read all the notes we’ve put in on NYE. It was both fun and an excellent practice of gratitude for all the great times we’ve had in 2014. Even though, I have reminded them to put their notes in the jar many times, after a while it must have become a habit because as they were reading out, I’ve noticed quite a few notes, that I don’t think I’ve reminded them to write down. Now it makes more sense to them why we do it and they keep at it.

I hope the purpose of goal setting and following up will become much more apparent to them, once we go through self-evaluation at the end of the year. You can also use this list to set monthly goals.

Have you set your goals with your children this year or ever before? Please share your experience with us. What worked and what didn’t?

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