A SMART way for your child to reach their goals.

5 simple words to remember how to set SMART goals.

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Our goals represent our ambitions, desires, and plans for the future. So naturally, we want to put our best foot forward when it comes to envisioning and accomplishing our goals.

With that said, half the success of achieving goals comes from how they are set to begin with. Goals that are too vague or poorly crafted can seem unachievable or daunting to work towards. Alternatively, creating SMART goals establishes a strong foundation for achieving success. 

We love seeing ambition in our children. While failure is a part of success, you can give your child the foundation they need to meet their goals with the SMART goal-setting method. 

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

SMART goals can be used for goals in academics, extracurricular, social or personal settings. Whether your child’s goal is to read more, practice gratitude, become a better sibling, or make more friends, the SMART framework can be used in attaining goals of all sizes! 

5 simple words to remember how to set SMART goals:

S: Specific

When setting goals, you want to be as specific as possible. Have your child think about the details. What needs to be done? Who is going to do it? How is it going to be done? Thinking through these questions helps them determine how and where to get started. You can modify this as needed for different age groups by trying to simplify a bit for younger kids, but for teens, it’s good to begin getting them to think through the steps – to exercise some of their executive functioning skills.

We hear goals being vocalized all the time, but they’re not likely to get far without being specified. Next time you hear something like “I want to be a faster runner”, try motivating your child to be more specific with their goal with something like, “I want to beat my personal mile-run record.” This is the natural extension of asking, “how will you know you’ve become a faster runner?” and it brings us to our next letter.

M: Measurable

By having your child make their goals quantifiable, it’s easier for them to track progress and know when they’ve reached success! When setting goals for your child’s goal, consider tangible measurements that are easy to follow. 

Referring to our running example, think about adding a quantifying factor, “Every week, I will practice my mile to reach a personal record under 7 minutes.”

A: Attainable 

While striving for one’s best is usually a commendable thing, it’s important for children to consider, perhaps with an adult, : is their goal something they can reasonably achieve?

Goals are meant to inspire and motivate – not overwhelm and discourage. Setting goals that are attainable, thus are key, as are ensuring the steps to get there are in one’s own control. 

Continuing with our example, a child who runs a 10 minute mile, who wants to reduce that to half may be setting up for failure. To ensure a child’s goal is attainable, try to have them acknowledge something along the lines of, “My schedule allows me to spend time on my goal (e.g., running), and I can ________ (e.g., eat a healthy diet to gain the energy I need).”

R: Relevant

Think about how your child’s goal is relevant to their overall success, their dreams, their hopes and your interests. Keeping goals close to personal  values makes them more likely to be achieved. 

Ask your child: What is important to you about this goal and why? Have a discussion around what they feel are important to them, asking follow up questions (i.e., “why”) to try to get to the core.

It could sound something like, “Being successful and getting to college is important for me. Running is something I’m passionate about, can help me get into a college, and I want to keep as a consistent part of my life. By improving my running record I have a better shot at joining my school’s track and field team in the future.” 

T: Time-bound

Setting deadlines is important on many levels. Teach your child that timelines allow you to hold yourself accountable, keep track of progress, provide a sense of urgency, and know what success would clearly look like. 

Without a deadline, it’s easy to brush off or push back goals. 

Finally, making our running example timely: In 30 days, my mile run personal record will be under 7 minutes.

SMART goals give you and your child a great framework to follow through with and achieve goals. Not only can they support personal and professional growth, but next time your child is struggling to reach their goals, suggest the SMART method to give them a sense of direction and organization. Try it for yourself first to see the power of SMART goals. If you need help, try searching online for various examples available.

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