November 12, 2023 // by Paulina Minucci, LMSW / Kristin Montini, LMSW / Alessandra Palladino, LMSW

Research shows that goal-setting for children helps increase responsibility, fosters a can-do attitude, and boosts self-esteem and confidence. Working toward a goal also improves problem-solving skills, which will help your children throughout their lives.

Behavioral health consultants Paulina Minucci, LMSW, and Kristin Montini, LMSW, recommend using the acronym SMART to map out what goals a child wants to set.

S: Specific

  • What is your child looking to accomplish? The more specific, the easier it will be for     them to stay focused. 

M: Measurable

  • When has the goal been reached? What type of data will be kept? The clearer your child is about what they want to achieve, the easier it will be to recognize when they reached it. 

A: Achievable

  • Is this goal achievable? Is it challenging but not impossible? They can start small by breaking one larger goal into smaller goals. 

R: Relevant

  • Why is this goal important, and does thinking about this excite them? The answer to these questions can be used as motivation when persevering becomes hard.

T: Timely

  • Is there a deadline to achieve the goal? Goals can be short or long-term.

For example:

  1. S: Your child sets the goal of reading an entire chapter book.
  2. M: Each day, they will write down how many pages they read. They will increase that          number by one page each day.
  3. A: They chose a book appropriate for their age and grade level.
  4. R: Your child wants to complete this goal because they see their siblings reading books at night and want to join them.
  5. T: Your child wants to read an entire chapter book by the end of the school year.

Other helpful tips

Alessandra Palladino, LMSW, shares helpful tips to use along the way.

  • Use arts and crafts to decorate a board that will keep track of progress and goals. 
  • Let your child choose the goals they want to set.
  • Discuss the steps your child needs to take to reach their goal.
    • For example, practice their soccer skills half an hour a day, 3x a week.
  • Plan for obstacles and brainstorm ahead of time what they will do when they arise. 
  • Check-in with your child and help them stay motivated.
  • Celebrate the successes, talk about how proud you are of your child, and encourage them to be proud of themselves. 

“When a child does not reach their goal, this should be seen as an obstacle, not the end of the road,” says Paulina Minucci, LMSW. 

Paulina shares tips to follow when your child experiences difficulties.

  • Help your child think about different strategies that can be used to reach the goal. This will help foster problem-solving skills. 
  • Maintain a growth mindset by talking about how making mistakes can be helpful in their future success in goal setting. 
    • For example, ask what they learned from this or what they can do differently next time. This helps to build resiliency. 
  • Use someone your child admires, like an athlete that failed before succeeding, as an example.

While the New Year is a time to set resolutions, goals of any size should be celebrated. Working hard and reaching a goal is an accomplishment and a great life skill. Not only is learning to set goals valuable for your child, but it is also fun! Remind your child to enjoy the journey!