Goal-Setting for Kids: A Play-by-Play

Working on your New Year's Resolutions? Consider introducing your children to the goal-setting process -- even if they're preschoolers!

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I'm not a big resolution gal, but I have been known to set a goal or two for the upcoming year.

It wasn't until this year that I realized it might not be a bad idea to introduce Gv to this practice, so I did a bit of research into the practicalities of goal-setting for kids and learned just how profitable it can be.

I'm sharing these findings over at Pam Barnhill's site today. Go ahead an open up a new window to read all about The Power of Goal-Setting for Preschoolers, then come back here to see how this process played out in our house this year.

Did you hop on over and take a look? Were you surprised at what you found? I think I was expecting to learn that the process would be different with young children, but I guess I can see how helpful it can be to establish these goal-setting patterns at a young age, instilling powerful habits that will last throughout adulthood.

So, how exactly does this process play out with a 4.5-yr-old? Read on and find out...

Lisa: Gv, New Year's is a time when lots of people make something called resolutions, or list things that they want to change for the upcoming year. I like to set a few goals for myself at this time, and I was thinking you might want to learn how to start doing this, too, since you're getting older.

Gv: Okay, Mommy, I like that.

Lisa: The first thing you want to do is make a list of all sorts of things that you'd like to be able to do next year. These can be things you're close to achieving already, or things you're really hoping to learn but obviously they have to make sense. You can't set a goal to fly like a bird, right?

Gv, giggling: No! That's so silly!

Lisa: So-ooo, what types of things can you think of that you'd like to do?


Sometimes it's hard to come up with ideas without a little help. Let's go through a list of categories and that might help you brainstorm.

Gv: Okay.

Lisa: One area is physical or health. Lots of times, for grown-ups, this means things like exercise or diets, but for kids it could be things like eating healthier or learning how to do something new that's active. You already know how to skip and gallop and hop on one foot, but maybe there are other active things you'd like to learn to do.

Gv: I want to ride my bike without training wheels.

Lisa: Hmmm, that's a pretty big goal for someone who has only ridden her bike with training wheels twice, but we'll write that down, because any idea is good for this list.

Gv: I want to do a cartwheel and handstand like Eliana!

Lisa: Oooh, those are exciting things to learn! Eliana is 12 and has had lots of practice, but we'll add those ideas to the list, too. Let's move on to the next area, relationships. This might be getting to know someone better, making a new friend, or spending more time with friends you already have...

Gv: I want to see Catherine and Elizabeth more often!

Lisa: That would definitely be great, but seeing as how they've moved over a thousand miles away, it might be a kind of tough goal to achieve. But we'll put it down, because you never know... What about in the area of academics? For kids in school, goals might be to do better in certain subjects or with their grades, but for you, it could be any of the types of things we do during our Latticed Learning time.

Gv: I want to write all the capital letters. I already know how to write an "A" and a "B" and a "G" and an "O" and a...(this goes on for a while...), but I still can't figure out how to write a "D" really well and, how do I make the "P" again?

Lisa: That's a good one to for us to write down. And I'm going to make a note to add "write full name" to our things to work on during our Latticed Learning time. Anything else?

Gv: I want to practice reading so it gets easier.

Lisa: Oooh, that's a good one, too. You can already read so much, but a lot of times, I notice that you don't realize you can read a book on your own right away. Remember Hop on Pop?

Gv, giggling again: Yes, you kept telling me I could read it, and I could! (Her voice goes up to an excited squeak at the end of that.)

Lisa: How about any goals with something related to personal development? Maybe you notice that you're getting angry or frustrated sometimes and want to find ways to feel better?

Gv: I want to make a lemonade stand!

Lisa: O-kaaaayyyy, or that. That's certainly a goal you could have. Anything else? Maybe being able to get into or out of your car seat by yourself?

Gv: No, just a lemonade stand.

Lisa: Moving on, then. Financial. You're not really getting an allowance yet, but you are getting closer to five, so maybe this is something I should talk to Daddy about. Would you like me to talk to Daddy about this, so that you could start having a little bit of money on your own to save and buy things that you want?

Gv: Yes!

Lisa: Okay. Next topic. Spiritual. This would be anything like learning a prayer, or doing something at church, or learning a new Bible ver---

Gv: I want to learn the other verse from Blast! (A weekly kid's church program she attends.) You know, not "Let every detail in your life, words, actions, whatever, be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God, every step of the way, Colossians 3:17," but the other one? I want to learn that!

Lisa (shaking head, because I had no clue she'd learned any verses like that in the first place): Okay, writing that down. What about in the area of hobbies, or games?

Gv: I want Daddy to teach me chess! You know, those black and white guys on that board? That.

Lisa: Gotcha. You've been wanting to play that with Daddy for a long time, but you might finally be old enough to start learning it with him. How about in the area of art? Or music?

Gv: I want to learn more with my singing lessons! I want to learn more on my piano!

Lisa: Oooh, I like those ideas a lot. You really seem to enjoy both of those things when we get the chance to do them. (These are all free online lessons that I found. I'll be sharing the resources with you soon!) How about any sports-related ideas? You're not really in a sport, but--

Gv: I can ice skate!

Lisa: True, I'd forgotten about that one. Sure, what would you like to be able to do at ice skating?

Gv, flinging herself across the floor: I want to do this (throws one leg up in the air behind her) and this (stretches her arms out wide and does some fancy footwork, I'm still not quite sure what that was supposed to be) and I really want to spin in the air!

Lisa: Oh, my. That is a lot. And such lofty goals, at that. We'll write that down and see what we can do...(whispering to herself)...like learn how to push with both feet, first... Anything else, Gv?

Gv: No. That's everything.

Lisa: Okay, the next step would be to choose maybe three things from your list that you most want to do.

Gv: Lemonade stand! Lemonade stand! Lemonade stand!

Lisa: Aaaannddd?

Gv: Chess with Daddy! And the verse from Blast!

Lisa: Okay, that's three. Now we need to figure out how you're going to achieve those goals. What do you think you need in order to do a lemonade stand?

Gv: Well, first, I'd need to empty all the play money out of my cash register so I can put in the real money when people buy my lemonade. Then I'd need to do it.

Lisa: Um, what about the lemonade? Don't you need to buy the supplies to make the lemonade, too?

Gv: Oh, ha! I forgot. I'd need to buy real lemons and water and sugar and straws and cups and take my table and chairs outside.

Lisa: And would you have to do anything so that people knew what you were doing out there in the front yard?

Gv, more giggles: I'd have to make a sign!

Lisa: And when do you think would be a good time to have your lemonade stand?

Gv: Right now! Right now! Right now!

Lisa: Um, usually people are in more of a mood for lemonade when it starts getting hot again outside. I know it's still hot outside now, but most people are trying to at least pretend it's winter by drinking things like hot cocoa, so maybe this would be better to try later in the year.

Gv: Then as soon as it starts getting warm again!

Lisa: Okay, that's probably good for that one. Obviously you'll know you reach that goal when you're out there doing the lemonade stand. Let's move on to the Blast verse. What do you think you need to do to reach that goal?

Gv: Well, first I need the paper (she points to the paper she has taped on her wall of Colossians 3:17, from the Blast newsletter) and then I'll put it on my wall, and then I'll practice it every day, and then I'll do it.

Lisa: And can you think of something fun to do at the end, to celebrate being able to do that?

Gv: Could you record me saying it for Grammy & Papa?

Lisa: Sure! That's an excellent idea! Let's write down some steps for your chess goal.

Gv: We need Daddy for that. He needs to show me what the pieces are called and how to do it.

Lisa: You're probably right. And those two things just might be the extent of what you could learn this next year. How often would you like to do chess with Daddy?

Gv: Oh, once a month.

Lisa: Sounds good. How do you feel about your goals for 2018? I think you've got a great list here to work with.

Gv: Good. Can I go back to my squishy guys (these finger puppetsnow?

Lisa: Of course.

And that's how the process looked at our house. It might look different at yours, but the point is that it can be helpful to get your kids thinking about goals and what they want to achieve, even at a young age. 

It takes time to get into the habit of mindfulness and self-reflection, but learning how to set goals can start your child down that path!

By the way, anyone interested in some lemonade?

Have you ever considered introducing your children to goal-setting at a young age?  I'd love to hear!  Either leave a comment below or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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