Unplug and Get SMART: How goal setting can help teens achieve their dreams

These days, nearly everyone seems to have a device of some sort – be it an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Laptop, or Android. Many families – including my own – struggle to find balance between device time and other activities.

It’s no surprise that kids of all ages – adults, too – can get addicted to electronic devices. That’s because every text, every Instagram ❤️, every point scored during a video game, and every chat message on a Minecraft server creates a little hit of the feel-good chemical dopamine. This is the same rush that a drug addict gets from a hit of cocaine. The same rush you get from eating a Voodoo doughnut.Unplug & Get SMART: Goal Setting for Teens @EvaVarga.net

I know from experience. Finding a balance between devices and other areas of life is something we are struggling with in our home. I’m not going to lie. Somedays, my kids spend more time on their device than they do talking to one another.

We have attempted numerous strategies and most have failed. We are making progress, however. While we haven’t found a perfect solution, what we have discovered is that focusing on our goals – both those we share as a family and those we have for ourselves – has been a huge motivator. The process of setting goals helps to keep us focused on what is important to us as a family and to each of us as individuals.

Setting goals help us to make the best use of our day. When tackled correctly, goals force us out of our comfort zone and help us to grow more each day. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, we are taking an active role in achieving our dreams. What could be more important than that?

Unplug & Get SMART: Goal Setting for Teens @EvaVarga.net

We have been talking a lot about goal setting in our home. We have each made lists of things we want to accomplish – both short term and long term. Achieving our goals takes more than good intentions, however.

We know we have to take action and then systematically measure our progress. During our family meetings, we’ve thereby brainstormed the milestones or steps we need to take to achieve our goals. Having a clear action plan has helped us to stay focused and limit our dependency on our devices.

Getting SMART

Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-Teen doesn’t have to be a struggle. Begin with a family discussion on what their dreams are and where they see themselves in 5 years, in 10 years. What do they want to accomplish? Consider academic goals, athletic / health goals, as well as personal / spiritual goals.

With a few goals in mind – both short term and long term – you can then help your child create a list of milestones or steps necessary to achieve a specific goal. When you ask your children to write their goals, guide them to create SMART goals that support your own goals for the same period.

A SMART goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timely. I have created a template to help guide teens through this process. With this planning tool, teens can create a plan for two different goals.

SMART Goal Setting with Teens @EvaVarga.net

Download the free SMART Goals Template here.

  • Specific: Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do.
  • Measurable: Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal.
  • Achievable: Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them.
  • Results-focused & Realistic: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.
  • Timely: Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal.

There are many other templates and apps to help guide you along the process of setting and achieving your goals. One of the tools that has really helped us in regards to staying on task is our online homeschool planner. The online system is so much more than a lesson planner. The kids have begun to use it themselves to block time for their passion projects or earning commissions.

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Most importantly, we parents must set a good example ourselves. No matter how much I may desire to check my Facebook and Instagram notifications, I must resist the urge. Whatever rules I have set for my child, I must be able to follow them myself.

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. ♥