Goal Setting for Children - Why it Matters and How to Help Them Do It

Goal setting for children

Is goal setting for children a good idea? 

Properly taught and managed, yes, absolutely!

Knowing how to set and achieve goals is a life skill that many people never make the most of.

Teach it to children and you give them a valuable skill for managing time and life.


  • Children who set goals are more likely to focus more on what they want and less on what they don’t.
  • They learn how to plan, prioritize and produce to get the results they want.
  • They learn the importance of persistence… and develop their ability to persist.
  • Whether they achieve the goal or not, they learn to take 100% responsibility for what they do.
  • Goal setting and achievement creates confidence, raises self esteem and leads to a real sense of satisfaction.
  • It creates challenges to overcome… and opportunities to learn and grow by tackling them.


Here are 6 tips that will really improve the quality of goal setting for kids.

Make sure they…

Start small. 

Keep goal setting for children short, sweet and simple. Long term, conceptual goals can be tackled with time and experience of personal goal setting. Whilst they’re young help them set goals that can be achieved in days or weeks, then gradually move on to goals that take months and years.

Own their own. 

Make sure their goals really are theirs and no one else’s. It’s tempting and easy to impose our own values and ambitions on children –- they have so much choice and potential. But we need to remember that they are not ours, and neither are their goals.

Know why they want it. 

Motivation starts goals, whereas persistence is usually what finishes them. Both can be built if your children have clear and compelling reasons for why they want something. Talk about this, or even better, write a list of reasons.


A short term goal is more likely to be achieved if it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. This needs to be explained, understood and practiced. When used with the next tip, smart goal setting for children becomes really effective…

Write goals down. 

Of all the tips on setting goals, writing it down is the best and most effective. A shopping list is a set of mini goals that we have learnt to write down so that we remember what we’re aiming for. Teach your children to apply the same principle to their goals. Write, read and review each day, and they’ll keep their goals in mind.

Get support. 

Goal setting children need to be encouraged when goals seems too hard. It may actually be too hard, in which case they need someone to give them permission to ‘fail’. Help them re-adjust their goals in line with the SMART principle, but don’t fall into the trap of doing it all for them.


Goal setting for kids doesn’t have to be SMART. Some things can’t ever be ‘achieved’ -– for example, being patient or kind. In this respect character goals are better encouraged by adults. Goal setting for children suits activity based challenges.

A few examples…

  • Money – save a set amount by a specified date and then know what to do with it.
  • Health – record and increase the amount of fruit and vegetables they eat over a given time period. What about a realistic exercise target?
  • Chores – produce and use a chores checklist to complete them.Contribution – complete a set number of hours’ voluntary work.
  • Limits – rather then always setting limits for them on the amount of time on a computer or in front of the TV, steer them towards self imposed time limits.
  • School – to achieve challenging but realistic grades.

Think of it as a pyramid. The younger they are, the shorter and broader their ‘goals’ are. As they grow up, goals become longer term and increasingly focused.

Finally, keep in mind that children watch and learn. Set an example -– set, write and work on your own goals as well as supporting them in theirs.

Goal setting for children is a valuable life skill, but they probably won’t know that.

It’s up to you to start the ball rolling…

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