Help Your Kids Set Goals (and accomplish them) this Year

By Stephanie Thomas


As adults, we know our way around goal-setting. Many of our goals merely float around in our brains. Some goals make it on paper. Fewer still get checked off. But it’s those few that we’re often most proud of—and the journey they took that we’re most grateful for. 

Why should grownups have all the fun? This year, let’s invite our kids to experience the joy of dreaming, working hard, and accomplishing. 

Help Your Kids Set Goals (and accomplish them) this Year

First Up: Goals for Goal-Setting

Yes, goals for goal-setting is a thing. If we want this process to work, we must keep in mind that the role of the adult and the role of the child will look a bit different. Let’s delineate: 

A Parent’s Role in Goal-Setting

We’re not here to turn our kids into resolution-achieving robots. Instead, we hope to help them grow into confident, competent adults one day. Adults who go after their dreams and take pride in hard work. With this in mind, be sure to: 

  • Keep the mood light and fun.
  • Let your child lead the way.
  • Encourage follow-through by focusing on wins.
  • Practice the art of the pause (By this we mean: a little struggle goes a long way).

A Child’s Role in Goal-Setting

Your kids need only to be willing participants. Check-in with them to ensure that they: 

  • Have fun. After all, this isn’t a board meeting. Let loose! Be silly! Get excited!
  • Take ownership. A child’s goal should be something they actually want to do. 


Next: Practical Guidelines for Goal-Setting

Time to get practical. We can only hold the attention of little ones—and, let’s be honest, big ones—for so long. It helps to show up with a plan. Here’s what we suggest: 

Encourage kids to set a specific number of goals based on their age. 

You might suggest one goal for kids in elementary school or younger, two goals for middle school students, and three goals for teenagers. Why? Goals are the most fun when they’re realized—so we want to give our kids a real chance to shine. 

Got an overachiever in your house? Encourage her to set as many goals as she’d like. You may find that she exceeds your expectations in the coming year. Or you may be able to support her as she learns how to prioritize or when to call it quits. 

Offer structure to get the ideas flowing. 

Start by reading through a list of generic categories, like: 

  • Picking up a hobby
  • Improving a skill
  • Trying something new
  • Learning about a subject that interests you
  • Starting and maintaining a positive habit

As your kids throw out ideas, jot each one down. When you’ve got a good list going, help your child narrow down their goals by asking questions, remembering to let them lead the way. 

Be sure to avoid framing goals in a negative way—that’s why we suggest encouraging kids to start a habit instead of drop a habit. A minor but significant difference.


Make goals visual. 

When your kids are ready to commit their goals to paper, grab a few supplies so they can make the goals visual. 

Put out paper, markers or crayons, and maybe some stickers or magazines. They might create a vision board of sorts, or write out the goal in big block letters. Help them choose a prominent spot in your home where they can see the goal on a regular basis. 

Take your time. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and while, yeah, we don’t wanna overdo it on the cliches, this is one your kids actually need to hear. Good things take time to come to fruition—goal setting and achieving are no different. 

Set the example by even taking the time to develop these goals with your kids. You might spend the first week of January selecting goals and making them visual. 

Then, round out the month in the following way: 

Second week of January: Gather supplies needed to make your goal a reality. 

Third week of January: Consider your first few steps toward completing the goal. 

Fourth week of January: Get started! 

Be sure to also schedule a monthly check-in where you’ll evaluate progress and celebrate wins!