How to Teach Kids to Set Goals

Did you know that less than 3 percent of Americans set goals much less write them down and achieve them? That’s a crazy number! In order to create adults that set and achieve goals, our kids need to learn how to set goals. With a new school year about to get underway, now is the perfect time to work on teaching your kids to set goals and to achieve them.


There are a number reasons we must teach kids to set goals:


Teaching kids to set goals can be incredibly motivating in school. Some children struggle with having the motivation and drive to accomplish academic milestones in school. By setting goals, it gives them something significant to reach for, which in turn motivates them to work hard.


By motivating kids in school, it in turn also improves their overall academic performance. They begin working hard because they’re motivated, and then they start performing at a much higher level in school. That’s what we all want, right? To see our children do well!


You’re probably going to start seeing a pattern here — it’s a spiral effect. Now that they’re performing in school from the increase in hard work and motivation, guess what? They’re gaining self confidence and a sense of pride from their accomplishments! This will then lead back to more motivation and the cycle repeats itself. They’re feeling great about themselves and feeling very proud of all they’re able to accomplish with motivation and hard work!


There is a simple 5 step process that well to teach goal setting, for both kids and adults. I also use this concept for my own personal goal setting as well. It works for adults too in every aspects of our lives! This makes it even easier to pass on and teach this concept to our kids.

The concept I use for goal setting is called SMART Goals. It’s an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. I’ll break it down further, but this is a formula for setting goals that allows you to see success by the end.


First, set a goal that is specific. If you only set a goal that is very general or vague, you’ll never know when you meet this goal. Or, you could meet this goal too quickly.

As an example, let’s say your child’s goal is “I want to read more” Well, it’s a good start. But it’s far too general and he could technically meet this goal by reading anything for any length of time. It doesn’t push them hard enough and isn’t specific enough to know when they reach this goal. There’s too many unknowns and lots of questions left unanswered. We’ll improve this goal in a minute, but let’s keep breaking down each part of a quality goal.


Next, a quality goal must be measurable.

This is another problem with the goal I previously mentioned. You can’t measure a goal that vague. You don’t know when you reach it, so there’s no way to track it. Now, if we change the goal to say “I want to read an extra 10 minutes each night,” it is something that is able to be measured. You’re able to track when you do or do not read those extra 10 minutes. See how much better that is? But we’re not done yet! We still have a few tweaks to make in order to make it the perfect goal.


Make sure your child’s goal is achievable.

Let’s say you have a child that is a serious overachiever. They come with the idea they want to read 4 hours every single night! For a serious bookworm, they might be able to do it. But if your child is active in sports, clubs, and activities with friends and you barely see them before dinner…. They might not be able to make that happen. Be sure you remind them they need to make sure they achieve their goals so they don’t end up discouraged.


The next part of a quality goal is that is relevant to your child’s needs.

If they don’t struggle with reading, that may not be a good goal for them since it’s not an area they need to be working on. Maybe they’re having trouble in school because they’re not paying attention. Or maybe they are often tired and need to work on getting to bed earlier. It’s important to choose goals that are relevant to their needs and target an area they’re struggling in so they can grow and see improvement.


Last, help them choose a deadline.They should have a date or timeline in which they plan to reach this goal. This helps them to keep chasing the goal and to maintain the motivation we previously mentioned. Without making it time bound, the goal could continuously get pushed out and potentially never happen.

Maybe their goal is “I want to read an extra 10 minutes every night for 1 month.” A similar example could be “I will finish my chapter book by September 30th.” Each of these are time bound and you know when you will reach them.

Use the student SMART goals free printable (download at the bottom of the post) to create goals with your kids.

How to Teach Kids to Set Goals | Free Printable Goal List | easy SMART goals for kids, teens & adults | goal setting


After setting goals, make sure they’re being tracked and measured so kids can see their success. If they don’t see the success they hit, the cycle of motivation, hard work, self confidence and pride may come to an end. We definitely don’t want that to happen!

Keep goals where you can see them

After you’ve set goals, make sure you’re writing them all down and putting them somewhere they will be seen each and every day. 

Create an action plan for every goal

The next step is to create an action plan for each goal that is set. Goals are useless if kids don’t know how they are going to reach them. In the reading example, maybe they’ll watch less TV in order to find time to read. Or maybe they’ll come home early from hanging out with friends. Be sure to create a specific step by step action plan for how they plan to achieve their goals.

Write down and acknowledge progress

This next part is important! Goals need to be written down and tracked everyday. Find a way to track progress as they get closer to each goal. For our example, maybe they put a checkmark on the calendar for each day they read an extra 10 minutes. Or maybe they have a reading chart where they can put a star beside each day. No matter how it is done, be sure that progress is being tracked and acknowledged.

Tweak goals as needed

Last but not least, tweak goals as it’s needed. Sometimes we set goals that are too big or things happen that prevent us from reaching them. After a certain amount of time passes, re-evaluate and tweak goals if they need to. Maybe you need to extend the deadline, or change how long they decided to read for each night. Figure out where their road bump is happening and fix it to help them reach their goals.

Teaching kids how to set goals doesn’t have to be difficult. Remember the key is to set quality SMART goals, and to track progress. By working together, you can teach kids to set goals that will help them see academic success and continue to grow.

I would also encourage your entire family to make yearly goals! These are fun to make in the New Year and then pull them out at the end of the year to see what you have accomplished! Also, don’t miss our super simple Back-to-School Goal Printable as well!



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