Parenting (with) Goals

My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.

Wilma Rudolph~ Olympian

Being a parent is hard. Maybe nobody ever came right out and told you that, but parenting is a little like putting together one of those K’nex ferris wheels (at least 10,00 pieces) without any instructions. Seriously- how are we going to do this?

One tactic I used to guide my kids in an acceptable direction was goal setting. Goal setting can start when kids are very young. Really- how many 4 year old kids have you heard exclaim that they are going to be professional athletes?! My youngest was one of those kids. In reality, he wanted to be a professional hockey player or the leaf blower guy in the park. YEP! I have that recorded in a scrapbook! So- how did I use this information when parenting?

Any time my children were making choices that weren’t consistent with our family values, I would remind them that professional athletes need to attend college to play college athletics first. (Well- that’s mostly true!) I told my kids they need to have good grades and that colleges didn’t accept kids who got in trouble in school or in their community. The beauty of this system is that parenting happens with the child’s own wants and needs. It wasn’t me telling my kids what they couldn’t do, but it was there own goals that would set their behavior back on the path of acceptability! My oldest son wanted to be the President of the United States for an extended period of time in his life, and I was able to ride the character train with that goal for several years! I realize I probably wouldn’t be able to do that in our current political culture!

Just about any goal can be used in this way with your kids. Does your child want to be a trapeze artist in the circus? Great! People who are able to handle that job need to be physically fit, eat well, sleep well, and graduate from high school. Maybe your child would like to be a pilot for an airline? Fantastic! Pilots need to have great grades, and oftentimes work their way through the military (so no to tattoos), and people in the military are THE BEST at following rules. Hopefully- you see where I am going with this goal setting idea….

What do you do if your child chooses a goal you just can’t handle? My youngest child also said that he would like to be the weatherman because they never have to be right and they don’t get fired! I wasn’t too thrilled that my son was looking for the easiest career he perceived and didn’t care if he was good at the job. I did my best to point out to him any details I knew he wouldn’t like. Meteorologists needed to dress up every day to go to work. Sometimes, those same meteorologists would get talked to in public by people who were none too happy that they were wrong about the weekend forecast. You know your child and what the triggers may be to guide them in a different direction. Don’t be afraid to do just that! At Kindergarten graduation, I heard a student say they wanted to go to jail when they were a grown up. This may be one of those goals that needs some tweaking.

Start goal setting with your kids by setting some family goals. Maybe all of you can read a book by the end of the month. Perhaps your family is saving money for a great trip? That’s a perfect goal. Do your best to start with goals that will be attainable for you and your children. They need to know they can succeed! Once you have accomplished a family goal or two, set some personal goals. How about brush your teeth without being reminded? One of my favorites is go to bed without complaining for a week! You can have all kinds of fun with the goal setting process.

Children learn to be resourceful through the practice of being goal-directed. In an article at Edutopia, teachers learn that fostering resourcefulness involves encouraging students to plan, strategize, prioritize, set goals, seek resources, and monitor their progress.  

In similar ways, parents teach resourcefulness when they walk beside children through the everyday practice of being goal-directed rather than attempting to set objectives and problem-solving for kids.

The common approach that applies to both parents and educators is to involve children in their own goal-setting and decision-making. This promotes independence and collaboration with adults simultaneously.

Sure- there is a lot of research to support the idea of goal setting with your children…. the most important thing to remember is to be creative and have fun!

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