How To Help Your Children Set and Reach Goals: A Guide With Illustrations and Examples

Updated on May 31, 2016
Girls and GOALS!
Girls and GOALS! | Source

What Exactly is A Goal?

Setting a goal can be a daunting and ambiguous task for an adult. One study suggested that of 3,000 people who started the new year with a goal, only 12% took any steps at all toward reaching their goal and of those 12% less than 2% actually reached their goal. How then can a parent teaching their child about goals and give them tools to help them reach those goals?

The answer is to give a clear definition of what a goal is and then show kids specific examples of goal setting. We do this by reading stories. We simply tell them that a goal is like a bulls-eye. It is something to aim at, something we want to achieve or accomplish. Next, we read stories about people who set goals. We read one story a day, stopping to talk about who set the goal, what the goal was and what the specific things the character did to reach their goal. For a whole week we talk about goals. We generally do this at the beginning of the school year and then again at the start of the new year. These are our favorite goal setting books:

Big and Little Goal Sheets

BIG Goals
BIG Goals | Source
Little Goals
Little Goals | Source

How To Set Goals With Kids

We work with our girls on big goals and little goals.

BIG GOALS: We use this "GOALS" sheet to help them along the way. We begin by reminding them what a goal is. Then we take one category at a time, starting with academic. We brainstorm possible goals or things we want to accomplish in that area, i.e. I want to read better out loud, I want to memorize my multiplication facts, I want to get a better grade in writing.... Then, our girl writes or illustrates her goal and we write a goal in the column beside theirs. Once we complete all the categories, we put the page inside a page protector in the front of their school binder. We revisit these BIG goals once a month by reading them out loud and talking about how they think they're progressing, as well as how we think they're progressing.

Little Goals: We use the "Weekly Working On" sheet to help with this. Once a week, usually on Sunday, we sit down with our girls one at a time and work through this sheet. We really try to let them choose their own goals unless there is a pressing issue and then we try to help them acknowledge that the issue should be addressed in their goal. Once they pick a category, they circle it and write the date by it. Then they decide how they want to work on the goal. It may be something like: School- I will practice my math facts 5 minutes every day or, Physical- I will do 20 jumping jacks every day or, Friendship- I will be kind to "Sue" by saying hi and another nice word every time I see her. This, too, goes in a page protector in their school binder (we just keep the most current on top). The girls then take it out each evening before bed and record how they did that day. At the end of the week, usually on Sunday before we set the new goals, they choose how they felt about their goal and progress that week and explain why. Sometimes they write the why and sometimes I do.

Goal Visuals for Kids

A certificate of accomplishment and an ongoing math goal visual.
A certificate of accomplishment and an ongoing math goal visual. | Source

How to Help Your Kids Keep Track of Their Goals

Once a goal is set, it can be really easy to forget about it. Let's face it, life gets really busy and sometimes just surviving the daily schedule is an accomplishment! How then can you help your kids remember and track their goals. A visual reminder can be really helpful here. We usually do this by "building" something on a piece of paper. For math facts, we build an ice cream cone. One scoop for each set of facts memorized. Seeing the cone reminds them to work towards the goal and seeing it grow motivates them to keep going. For friendship goals, we often draw a person, one body part at a time as we work toward becoming a better friend. We do sometimes, erase parts as a reminder that we need more work in this area. An interesting thing about hanging up a visual reminder is that people in your home, such as friends and relatives, often ask about it and can become great allies in asking about and encouraging your kids towards their goals. You can also use a calendar or journal to help your child keep track of their goals. Set aside a few minutes each day for them to fill in a calendar square or write an entry on a journal page. You can keep this really simple by just writing the goal and then doing a plus or minus or smiley or sad, or you can let them be really detailed. Do what works for your family and your specific child.

Celebrating Goals

I would highly recommend celebrating the accomplishment of goals both large and small. When you celebrate a goal you are affirming that it is a big deal to stop, think, make a plan and then work toward that plan with purpose. Remember that a celebration doesn't have to cost a lot of time or money. A specific word of praise such as "Great Job showing kindness by letting your friend go first," or "Wow, you said those facts so fast I know you worked hard to memorize them!" is a great reward. A note written and left in a fun place like a backpack or pillow can be a great reward and so can a homemade certificate of accomplishment! The happy dance and rounds of applause (when the whole family stops and claps moving our hands in large circles) are also great rewards. If we do a bigger reward we usually save it for a bigger goal such as memorizing math facts or reading a certain number of books. When this is the plan, we usually tell the girls shortly after they set the big goal and use a reminder of the reward to encourage them when they are tired or frustrated with the goal. However you celebrate, make sure you take time to acknowledge their hard work in this area. Not only will you see your child be more successful and responsible, but you'll help them cultivate a difficult skill that will serve them well as they become adults.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        7 years ago

        super.its very use ful.good jod hub

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Excellent Hub. I think children need that encouragement and the look in their eyes when their parents compliment them is priceless. Thanks for looking

      • jeyaramd profile image


        8 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

        Congratulations. You really have created a great hub to motivated children. The practical examples are really well thought out. I appreciate your honest advice. Its really helpful for many parents I am sure. Thank you.

      • ChaplinSpeaks profile image

        Sarah Johnson 

        8 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

        Awesome hub and tips for setting goals! I especially like the ice cream cone scoop visual. I can tell you are a caring and loving parent. Your girls are blessed.

      • Marie-Renee profile image


        8 years ago

        Congrats on your hub of the day. It is certainly worth getting one since it is truly informative. And you are right in saying that this can also be used by adults but goal-setting is best when started early. Your children are so lucky!. Voted up this great hub.

      • keithlipke profile image


        8 years ago from Fort Wayne, Indiana

        Yes! For kids to have goals gives them confidence for their own futures. Nowadays kids might not want to grow up because of all they face in the future, but to have goals gives them passion. They just need to keep it simple.


      • leegis profile image


        8 years ago from Arizona

        I don't have any kids, but I would definitely encourage reach their daily goals. I really like the ideas in the article, especially celebrating, once you achieve a goal. That was the stimulus for me to always perform better.

      • Jennifer profile image


        8 years ago

        I just asked my kids what their goals were for the new year. My 9 year old promptly said "to never sort laundry again!" LOL, this is his daily chore. Now that I have read your hub, I can hopefully get some more realistic goals.

      • jeyaramd profile image


        8 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

        This is a must read for all parents. Your ideas are very much appreciated. Reading books is great way to teach children about the importance of goals. As parents, we can also set our own goals and teach children about how we achieved those goals. Perhaps, a story about our grandparents and relatives will be great examples. Thanks for the great hub.

      • thebookmom profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago from Nebraska

        Thanks again for all the kind, supportive comments! Lest you think I am totally organized, you should know that the laundry room and weekly meal planning are two HUGE areas that need improvement....They are among my goals for the new year, I hope someone helps cheer me on, I will need it :)

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Awesome hub, good job!

      • barryrutherford profile image

        Barry Rutherford 

        8 years ago from Queensland Australia

        Great work all parents should do this !

      • Kristine Manley profile image

        Donna Kristine 

        8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

        This Hub is fabulous! I work with kids (tweens and teens) in developing their resumes, and goal setting is a big part of the things they want to accomplish to put on their resumes. I am bookmarking this Hub. Thank you for sharing.

      • xethonxq profile image


        8 years ago

        I work with kids all day long as a therapist and find this information to be a very understandable simple way to teach them how to do this very important, life-long skill. Thank you very much for this hub! :)

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        You are sooo organized! I almost overloaded just contemplating your level of organization. Wow! Thanks so much for the ideas of big and little goals. I'm gonna use that one!

      • Sherry Hewins profile image

        Sherry Hewins 

        8 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

        Boy are you organized. That sets a great example for your kids as well. Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

      • alissaroberts profile image

        Alissa Roberts 

        8 years ago from Normandy, TN

        What a great idea. I need to start doing this with my 6 year to help and encourage him with his reading. Thanks so much for sharing your idea! Voted up and useful - congrats on hub of the day!

      • randomcreative profile image

        Rose Clearfield 

        8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

        Great visuals for kids! This is a wonderful resource for both parents and teachers. I agree that this is good advice for children and adults. Congrats on getting Hub of the Day!

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        Congrats on hub of the day. Excellent advice for not only young children but adults as well. Set many low hurdles to slowly reach your goal instead of one high hurdle you can't get over. Voted up!

      • jacqui2011 profile image


        8 years ago from Norfolk, UK

        Congratulations on being chosen for Hub of the Day, it's easy to see why it was. This is such a great hub. I think that it is important to set goals with children and reward them will lots of praise and encouragement. I am a nursery nurse working with 3 year olds and we set goals with the children all the time. My 10 year old daughter also sets herself goals, and once she has accomplished and completed them, we allow her to choose the activity or outing. Well done, rated up and awesome.

      • homesteadbound profile image

        Cindy Murdoch 

        8 years ago from Texas

        What wonderful way to teach your children about something so important for long-term success in life! And from the pictures it is obvious they enjoy it.

        Congratulations on Hub of the Day!

      • Sinea Pies profile image

        Sinea Pies 

        8 years ago from Northeastern United States

        Celebrating goals is a biggie. Reaching a goal is much more satisfying if it's appreciated. Congrats on being the hub of the day!

      • mljdgulley354 profile image


        8 years ago

        Congratulations on Hub of the Day. These are great ideas. Wish I would have thought of some of them when raising my kids. Have a Happy New Year

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        On top of helping children, by following this guide parents will learn more about meeting goals they want to meet--an obvious need according to the stats! Thanks, and congrats on your Hub of the Day award!

      • INFJay profile image

        Jay Manriquez 

        8 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

        Your Hub is an excellent tool for parents to help their children learn how to and make a habit of setting goals. And, yes, this is also a great tool for adults! Thank you.

      • thebookmom profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago from Nebraska

        Thank you so much for the kind comments. I hope this hub can help kids and grown ups alike!

      • cardelean profile image


        8 years ago from Michigan

        Great ideas here. Congrats on the hub of the day.

      • Sue B. profile image

        Sue B. 

        8 years ago

        Congrats on hub of the day! Awesome hub!

      • prettynutjob30 profile image


        8 years ago from From the land of Chocolate Chips,and all other things sweet.

        Wonderful hub.

      • asmaiftikhar profile image


        8 years ago from Pakistan

        congrats dear for such a unique hub and useful hub.

      • ishwaryaa22 profile image

        Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

        8 years ago from Chennai, India

        Congrats for getting the Hub of the Day. This hub shows that you are a very good mother! Way to Go! Interesting HUb! Vote Up!

      • JBBlack profile image


        8 years ago from California

        Nice hub! My goal is to apply this hub to my parenting and teaching. Oh please let me be in the 12%. Writing something down or having a visual orgainzer might actually help some adults as well. I have a friend who will create a written plan for every time consuming undertaking that she undertakes.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        8 years ago from England

        Hi, fantastic! I love your ideas about how to celebrate their success with their goals. I used to read a book with my son about a similar topic as this, it was How to books, even if it was something as simple as How to explain how Scissors work! silly I guess, but it really helped him when he was small to learn how to explain things in a slow but confident manner, rated up! cheers nell

      • Chin chin profile image

        Chin chin 

        8 years ago from Philippines

        Hi thebookmom. This hub is really great. I have 5 children and I hope to apply the great ideas you have shared in this hub.

      • thebookmom profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago from Nebraska

        Thanks so much for the kind comment. Setting goals with students is such a fantastic thing, great work!

      • KrystalD profile image


        8 years ago from Los Angeles

        Excellent! I love helping children set goals in the class. I affectionately call the "hopes and dreams" and we make some at the beginning of the year and leave them up year round. Once we have goals in a class, we have a reason to stay focused! It sets a tone :-) I think doing this at home is an even better way of helping this become a lifelong practice.


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