Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-teen: 5 Tips for Success

My husband is very successful in his work. He manages time well and has great working relationships with his colleagues and direct reports – evidenced by the many farewell emails, heartfelt inscription in cards, and often tearful good-byes that have been shared with him these past few weeks.

We have both heard friends exclaim, How do you do it all? How do you get so much accomplished? They are often surprised when we reply that we simply set goals and take measureable steps to achieve them.

Goals are critical. They keep you focused on what’s important to you, and allow you to make the best use of your day. When tackled correctly, they force you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow more each day than you would without them. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, you are taking an active role in driving new and better results in your life. What could be more important than that?

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netTeaching our pre-teens or teenagers to set goals effectively can be life-changing. However, as we teach goal-setting to our children, we need to make sure we’re showing them how to use goals to have the greatest possible positive impact on their lives.

Specific

The most important thing to remember is that goals are personal. We as parents have experience and should try to impart our wisdom. However, we need to provide guidance around the process of goal-setting. Try not to determine the specific content of the goals. Keep in mind these are their goals, not yours.

Everyone will have different goals. The question is what are you excited about? What do you want to do? What passions drive them? What are their areas of interest? Support their process of self-discovery and encourage them to follow their hearts.

Encourage them to also be as detailed and specific as possible. Saying “I want to be a writer.” or “I want to be a concert pianist.” is too vague and thus more likely to fail.

Answer the questions: What are you going to do? Why do you want to do it? When are you going to do it? I am really interested in ____, so my goal might look like this: ____.  I want to do this to help me ____. 

Measurable

My daughter has aspirations to write a novel. She has several notebooks with pages and pages of stories that are beginning to emerge. She has typed out numerous fan fiction spin offs and has shared them on Wattpad. Most recently, she has asked to be excused from her other lessons in the month of November so that she can participate NaNoWriMo, the annual novel writing project whereby each participant aims to write a 50,000-word rough draft in the 30 days of the month.

A key step in setting goals and achieving the desired result is to make your goal measurable. A number of pages per week or the number of words per month is a measurable goal. You will be able to hold yourself accountable and measure your progress. Remember, it is a numbers game. If you want to be a writer, for example, the best way to get better is to fill more pages.

Attainable

Setting goals can be a double-edged sword. It can drive purposeful action in our lives and allow us to achieve more over a shorter period of time. Setting goals can also be a source of anxiety. They have the potential to create a hyper-focus on future circumstances.

Relatedly, goals need to be attainable. Continuing with my daughter’s goal writing a novel, if she sets out to fill 100 pages a week, she will probably fall short of her goal (at least I would). To assure success, choose a number that you can do but will push you a little outside of your comfort zone.

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netRealistic

Life is always throwing curve-balls in an attempt to derail us from our path. We may fall short of our goal but that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps you need to be more specific in your goal statement or quantitative measure. If 50,000 words in a month seems far too much, perhaps 25,000 or 10,000 words is more attainable?

Celebrating small milestones and accomplishments along the way can help maintain enthusiasm. Take heart and trust you will get better, just give it time. Do not judge yourself on how pretty a painting is, but attend to what you discovered, or how much richer your memories of the experience have become.

Timely

One of the goals I have had in the past that I look forward to revisiting once we get settled in our new home is to keep a nature journal. I loved documenting my discoveries alongside my children when they were younger. Somewhere along the way, we stopped journaling regularly and I really miss it.

When and how often are we going to open my journal? Every moment of my day is already filled. How can we fit in something new? These are just a couple of the questions that have been going through my head as I begin to formulate my goal.

Another key to successful goal setting is to connect routines you already have in place. For example, when we go birding or hiking, I can bring our journal materials along with me and start to journal on these expeditions. Journal entries need not take hours. We can get out our journals to catch fifteen minutes here and ten minutes there.

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We all want what’s best for our kids. Teaching them to think in terms of setting and accomplishing goals will help them discover that their best source for fulfillment is within themselves. Experience with setting goals will provide the recognition that they control the outcomes in their lives. Through the process of setting goals, we can give our children the most important gift any parent can give – the ability to thrive in life without us.

About Eva Varga

Eva is passionate about education. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. She presently homeschools her two young children, teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level secular science curriculum called Science Logic. In addition to her work in education, she is an athlete, competing in Masters swimming events and marathons. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, learning new languages, and above all spending time with her family. ♥