My daughter is a vibrant and enthusiastic 11-year-old. She loves trying new things, such as drawing classes and soccer. But when the activity becomes too challenging or not challenging enough, her excitement fades and she loses focus. I’m wondering how I can help her focus and reach her goals more effectively. Are there ways I can help her set goals that she will actually stick to?
There are effective methods to help people stick to their goals. The first strategy has been developed as a management tool but is also useful with kids. Using the acronym SMART, goals should be:
- time limited
Lets compare two goals your daughter might have:
- Learn how to draw really well.
- Attend at least ten drawing classes this term.
The first goal is not very specific, is difficult to measure, might be attainable and is not time limited. The chances of attaining this goal is slim. If she chose the second goal, she could succeed and gain confidence and improve persistence. She would be less likely to quit if the work was challenging. Only someone who has a lot of natural talent and is very persistent could reach the first goal. Her enthusiasm and vibrancy may cause her to choose poor goals. Chat with your daughter when she is setting goals. Help her set SMART goals. If you want to learn more, there are dozens of sites on the internet about SMART goals.
A second strategy is for you to demonstrate good goal setting. Talk about your own goals. Make sure they are SMART goals. If you want to get more exercise you might share this with her. Ask for your daughter’s help in making your SMART goals. You might say things like: What do you think? Should my goal be to get more fit? Can you help me make a SMART goal? You can also share what you say to yourself when you are having a tough time. People often say very unsupportive things to themselves. For instance, I have a goal of walking ten thousand steps each day and today has been particularly difficult. I was saying things like: This is impossible. I should give up, I will never do this every day. What good is just walking? I should be going to the gym and working out. These sorts of thoughts are very unhelpful but can be replaced with more encouraging thoughts with some effort. A good strategy is to reward or reinforce sensible self talk and partial accomplishment of goals. Demonstrating this in your own life and rewarding your daughter for accomplishments is helpful. For example, if she was having a hard time with getting to soccer practice this week but did, you might surprise her and say I know it has been tough for you to go to practice this week but you did it. Lets celebrate and make your favourite dinner on the weekend. Some kids find it helpful to use a chart that shows how much has been accomplished. I keep a record of my steps each day and this encourages me. Punishment or being negative about her not sticking to things probably won’t help much. It will make her feel like a failure.