How to Help Your Child Set Goals or Objectives

When my daughter Abiah was about six years, she wanted to be a doctor. The passion was so much on fire that she would spend hours manufacturing ‘medicine’ in our then small kitchen. I came from work one day and she told me that she had discovered an anti-virus, I was over the moon with joy. This was until she told me that the anti-virus will be used in both computers (to keep technology viruses away like Kaspersky does) as well as in human beings to cure Malaria and HIV. Wow! I just knew that we were in fantasy world but I did not discourage her. I was proud that she was thinking and doing. A few years later, she saw blood from a cut and she could not stomach it. She came to me and she told me, “I am sorry to disappoint you but I am not fit to become a doctor. The sight of blood makes me sick.” I was not disappointed at all. I was happy that she had a goal and worked on it for the years that it lasted.

Over the years, my husband and I have invested in a number of passions that my daughter has engaged in. Some were just flares that burnt out after a couple of years. She has worked towards being a professional swimmer, a guitarist, vocalist, and a bunch of a few more passions. At some point when she was twelve, I went to an older woman who was a mentor with what I felt were founded concerns.

I asked Ann, “Why can’t Abiah make up her mind on what she wants in life? We are spending so much money on passions that do not seem to be life-long.” Ann’s response set me free from my worries. She told me, “Do not worry so much about whether these passions will turn out to be her life’s purpose or not. Even if she will never use them in her adult life, the lessons she learns from the process of pursuing what she wants per time are more valuable.” While this does not mean that we allow our kids to do whatever they want whenever they want, it sets you free as a parent from the worry of needing to be in full control of your child’s future. Only God has that ability.

According to the online dictionary, a goal is defined as the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result. This can be long term or short term. An objective is defined as a thing aimed at or sought; a goal. We will use these two interchangeably in this article.

Step 1: Think long term

The first step is to start with a long term goal or objective. Discuss with your daughter what she would want to achieve in life – the big picture. This will help you know how to manage her life’s journey for as long as she is in your house. Assure her that there is no problem if something changes along the way because only God would know for certain how life will be ten or twenty years from now.

The goal she sets here is not one that can be reached in one year, and she needs to know that she is the only one who can make this dream a reality.

One of the benefits of setting long-term goals is that it will help her learn to set appropriate benchmarks. Each year will bring a new sub-goal along the path to ‘becoming’.

The other benefit of setting long-term goals is that it will help her build resilience and cope with setbacks. In some years, some things will move on without much resistance and in other years, there will be life-threatening setbacks. She will need to find a way to resolve and readjust during the setbacks. This will be a critical lesson for her to thrive in adult life.

Other benefits of teaching your daughter to establish and work toward goals include:

  • Responsibility: Success or failure depends on what they put into it.
  • Time management: Kids learn how to manage their time to meet their goals.
  • Self Confidence: Nothing beats the feeling of meeting your own goal.
  • Resilience: Kids learn to cope with the small setbacks that might stand in their way.
  • Perseverance: They learn to keep trying and rework their steps until they meet their goals.

While you are at this, take the time to confront unrealistic goals. Whatever goals your daughter sets, be sure that she came up with the goal. If you want her to follow through, the goal has to have meaning to her. More often than not, children lack inner drive to work towards their goals because their parents established the goals for them or parents are pushing too hard. This should not be taken to mean that you should not guide, inspire or subtly nudge your daughter towards great goals. Not at all. My husband and i have had to informatively and knowledgeably push our daughter towards certain goals as we felt inspired by God (this should be a blog for another day).

Long term goal1: I want to run a children’s home when I grow up.

Long term goal2: I want to be a musician.


Step 2: Break the long term goals to arm’s length reach

As it is with all of us, your daughter will enjoy that feeling of success that comes after meeting a goal. So listen to her and help her set a goal that is beyond her comfort zone but one that is not too far from her reach. This will mean that after a short while, she can achieve that goal and you can celebrate together.

Take this time and opportunity to teach your daughter that she can set her eyes on something and work as hard as it takes to achieve them. The reward of her setting goals should be that she will learn to reach them. When she reaches one goal, it will be time to strive for something new. Some of the lessons you should encourage at this point is that she might not meet a goal in the time allotted, but she might get very close. There’s value in trying.

Arm’s length goal1: I will volunteer in a children’s home during the holidays for the next five years to learn how others are running their homes.

Arm’s length goal2: I will learn two instruments in the next two years.

Step 3: Break it down to specific measurable objectives

Help your child to avoid the new-year resolution syndrome. People put in place such amazing goals and never fulfill them because they give up a few weeks or months into the year. It can be so hard to reach goals that often feel huge because it’s hard to know where to begin. Teach your daughter to break her goals into smaller, specific, manageable and measurable steps.

A good goal should be specific. Children love to generalize when it comes to setting goals – something like what my daughter would say, “I want to be the best professional swimmer.” But what does that mean? How can that be measured? For this, you can ask your daughter to do a little more research on how/what can be measured. The feedback would look something like, “I want to do 100m butterfly at 50 seconds.”

Measurable objective1: Next holiday I will visit XYZ children’s home in Garden Estate. I will ask my parent to write to them to enquire about the available volunteer needs they have.

Measurable objective2: I will join WXY music school to start with guitar lessons. I will talk with my parents to discuss tuition fees, time needed and where I should be in three months time.

Step 4: Monitoring and Evaluation

I know Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) sounds like an NGO terminology but it’s not. Your greatest contribution to your daughter’s success is pegged on this point – off course it’s based on the fact that you helped her set the right goals. Due to the fallen nature, left on their own children will do whatever pleases the body and soul. As an adult, you know that the body and soul like are earthly comforts. If we were to follow such, there would be no adverse development in the world today. Great impact and success calls for pushing the spirit, soul and body to lengths that are beyond current comfort zones.

Monitoring and Evaluation will help you guide your daughter in identifying what is working and what needs readjusting towards achieving the goals. When you do it on a weekly places, it will provide you with the necessary information needed to shape your daughter’s life’s purpose.

Monitoring goal1: Has your daughter asked for your help to contact XYZ children’s home? Has she researched to understand what the home is about? Has she made plans to create time to volunteer in the upcoming holidays? What else does she need to do to prepare adequately?

Monitoring goal2: Has your daughter checked out WXY music school? Does she understand time commitment needed? How will she contribute to her success there?

These are just examples of how you should help your daughter achieve success. Remember to celebrate small wins and milestones with her. For instance, when XYZ children’s home respond to her with volunteer opportunities, that’s a win. When WXY music school sends her communication with the tuition fees, that’s a win. The journey (process) to her achieving her goals is as important as the actual achievement.

I know we say ‘fix your eyes on the price’ but I say, in as much as that is important, the process is far much superior. There is so much you can teach her during the process that she can apply in other areas of life.

Over to you! Your daughter is counting on you.

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