Helping Your Child Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

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S.M.A.R.T. goals are often taught in school. However many adults also implement this system because it can help them clarify their values and intentions, while breaking tasks down into smaller increments.

As a parent or caregiver, you may want to teach your child how to use this system so they can get ahead in life, achieve personal goals, or even master a hobby. Who doesn’t want to instill a sense of pride in their child? Let’s go over how S.M.A.R.T. goals work and how you can discuss them with your child, niece, nephew, or other children in your life.

How S.M.A.R.T. Goals Work

S.M.A.R.T. goals get their name from the following acronym:

  • Specific. This helps you stay focused on the goal and action at hand.

  • Measurable. S.M.A.R.T. goals are a popular goal-setting method because they incorporate metrics that will help you know whether or not you are succeeding. This lets you adjust as needed so you can get results.

  • Attainable. You and your child will ensure you have the necessary tools, skills, and resources to ensure success. If these aren’t available, you can work together to pare the goal down or adjust it as needed.

  • Relevant. The goal(s) should have to do with your child’s values, long-term goals, and interests. 

  • Time-based. You and your child can come up with a realistic deadline, or set of deadlines, for when this goal would be achieved.

Examples of Goals You Can Set With Children

Toddlers and children under the age of 5 may be too young to come up with huge goals, but you can certainly guide them if they think of something they want to do.

Let’s suppose your child decides they want to get an A on their next homework assignment or test. You first have to break down the goal:

  • Specific. Your child is already aiming to get an A. A specific goal, indeed!

  • Measurable. Your child’s teacher already has metrics they’ll use to decide how to grade the project or test. Help your child understand what these are so they can break down the studying or work process into manageable goals.

  • Attainable. Does your child have the books or research materials they’ll need? Do they have the necessary skills to have a chance at getting an A on their next project or test? If not, try guiding them in the right direction, or encourage them to ask their teacher what can be done to get an A.

  • Relevant. If your child wants to get an A on a given project or test, it’s likely that they value good grades for a reason. Ask your child questions about why this is important to them so their approach is in alignment with their values.

  • Time-based. Goals involving grades or tests already have a deadline that someone else has already set. Help your child come up with a plan for how to spend their time preparing for each task.

Remember that the above is only an example. Maybe your child wants to learn how to play an instrument or sport. Your child could have a goal of assembling a 1,000-piece puzzle, solving a Rubik’s cube, or collecting a certain number of rocks. The possibilities are endless, but each of these goals can be broken down using the S.M.A.R.T. method. 

If this is your first time helping your child set goals, try guiding them through aiming for a low-stakes goal, or breaking steps down as much as you’re both able to, explaining why along the way. 

What If My Child Falls Short?

As adults, we all fall short of our goals and potential from time to time. Research shows that shielding your child from failure may hinder their development. Your child may be sad, but there are things you can do to help them.

  • Don’t instill a fear of failure. This will help them feel safe enough to try new things.

  • Teach your child that hard work and dedication are more important than natural talent.

  • Point out examples of people who failed at something only to succeed later on. This can be a personal anecdote, an example from pop culture, or a historical figure. 

  • Give them time and space to process their letdowns.

  • Help your child to adjust their goals or to choose a new one.

With a little patience and perseverance, you can help your child exercise their goal-setting muscles and take pride in what they achieve.

Tags: Developing Skills & Character, Education, Motherhood, parenting

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Written By

Ingrid Cruz

Ingrid Cruz is a freelance writer, certified coffee-lover and loves a good joke. She's been published in The Lily, Business Insider, and Stylecaster. See Full Bio

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