With the coming of the new year, it seems like a good time to reflect on what you as caregivers, are teaching your children about setting goals and acting upon them. I currently am working with young adult clients who have little to no direction for they want to do with their lives. There are numerous other children and teens clients who are having a hard time focusing or seeing the value of their education. Some of them have even questioned if they would be missed if they weren’t here on this earth.
While children are still in the care of adults, they are dependent on their caregivers to not only to provide for their basic needs, but to teach them how to be in the world. Without these needs being met, children lose out on a sense of security, grounding and purpose in life. By learning to set and meet goals, children will learn valuable skills in problem-solving, organizing and interacting with others in a collaborative manner. These in turn help children to develop self-confidence, open-mindedness and direction. This process also helps children learn the concepts of focus, time, patience, persistence and effort; possibly even coping with disappointment and engaging in hard work.
Caregivers are able to teach the concepts of setting goals for short term and long term related to simple or complex interests. The following are some pointers in how to do this process: 1) explore interests or assigned tasks, 2) reflect on the purpose of the activity, 3) brainstorm the steps to accomplish the task, 4) consider your resources to meet goal such as money and/or supplies, 5) prioritize these steps, 6) create a time-table to get the steps completed, 7) start the steps, 8) assess and make adjustments as needed, 9) acknowledge the completion (possibly celebrate), 10) start the process over and use the knowledge gained from this goal endeavor. Maintaining a positive attitude is essential throughout these steps as is keeping one’s expectations in check or one risks being too hard on oneself or blaming others if things don’t work out as envisioned.
Use these steps to instruct children on how to plan for a big school project, on how to prepare for a family meal, on how to structure summer school break, on how to prep for holiday celebrations, on how to spend a rainy or snowy day, etc. These tasks become building blocks for children to learn to think for themselves, to learn from their mistakes and successes as well as to acknowledge what they have control of and how they might need others to assist them. The sooner children learn these basic skills, the better able they will be to face the challenges of higher education and their future related to work and family development.
It is never too late to practice these goal-setting skills for yourself or for your family. Your children will thank you in the future for having taken the time to break things down in how to get more out of their lives personally and relationally. I challenge you to be more proactive in teaching your children how to set goals and how to work toward getting what they want out of life.