Everyone, including your child, wants to become better versions of themselves and the best time to start working on it is the beginning of a new year. In fact, the18th century literary genius, Charles Lamb, called New Year’s Day as ‘every man’s birthday’.
New Year resolutions and goals of any kind can either be short-term (achievable in a matter of days or weeks) or long-term (requiring months or years for fulfilment). For example, if your child wants to make new friends, he needs to set short-term goals of choosing friends wisely and connecting with them. However, if he wants to become more independent, he needs to work toward a long-term goal (which is a series of task-based short-term goals) to achieve that.
However, it is important that your child learns to set realistic goals. In the words of the American motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Setting a long-term goal properly involves many steps.
Step 1: Define the goal
This involves not only knowing what long-term goals to set but also what the goal entails. Involve your child in defining goals and ensure that the goals are not vague or over-ambitious or too idealistic. Regardless of whether she is a teenager or a pre-schooler, ask her to suggest ideas and offer opinions. You could ask her pointed questions about what could help her better her performance, how she would like to reward herself for a job well done, and so on. Try to understand her difficulties and confusions. Incorporate the right measures to tackle these in defining long-term goals. Always require her to define the goal in such a way that she stretches herself and realises her true potential.
Step 2: Chunk sensibly
Like any activity, setting long-term goals requires you to help your child divide the goal into sizeable chunks. While young children can have only five or less tasks in each chunk, teenagers can have many more. This implies that your child’s goal is portioned in such a way that it does not seem too cumbersome to aspire for. Therefore, he sees himself at an advantage. This increases his focus on his ultimate long-term goal. A quick succession of meeting smaller targets will encourage him to put in more effort to meet the end result.
Step 3: Time the goal
Time is a resource. Your child’s long-term goals will seem achievable if she has a sensible duration of time assigned to finish the work. What does she think is a sensible timeline? How realistic is she in her expectations of herself within that time-frame? Make these questions a part of your discussion with her when you set the deadline for her to achieve a long-term goal. It is advisable for her to set deadlines for each step that leads to achieving the goal.
Step 4: Track progress
When your child has put in his time and effort into meeting a goal, he has endured quite an arduous journey. And, at times, reaching the desired end may seem just out of reach. Tracking his progress will help him evaluate himself and check if he is lagging behind in meeting deadlines, is negligent of details or if he is failing to meet standards. This will drive him to work harder. If he is doing well in keeping up with the expectations of the long-term goal then he will feel exhilarated about his success and be a happy worker for the rest of the duration till he meets his goal.
Get colourful and artsy with charts, gold stars, graphs and lists! Make progress-tracking an enjoyable affair.
Step 5: Celebrate achievement
Don’t hold back on compliments and continuously praise your child for her efforts. Regardless of whether she has been successful at every stage of achieving the goal or not, she has put in hard work that deserves appreciation. Tell her how proud you are of her, cook her favourite meal, take her shopping and make sure that others in the family and among the circle of her friends are aware of her accomplishment. Celebrate achievement but ensure that bribes and threats have no place in her striving to reach her goal.
Now that you’ve seen the steps involved in setting realisable goals, ask yourself the following questions: What were the hurdles that your child encountered in meeting his goal? Do you observe that he is more responsible or driven or proactive in achieving his goal? Is there a downside that he seems to project while achieving his goal? Discuss your observations with him. Encourage him to keep trying and never give up in case of failures. Involve the family in his journey to triumph.
Working towards long-term goals instils patience, perseverance, self-confidence, independence and pride in one’s own work. These are characteristics that will set your child apart from her peers in any field of her choice. Poet T S Eliot encapsulates the entirety of why now’s the time for you to put your child on a mission and realise some much-needed long-term goals:
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
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