Overview: Guest contributor Sara Dennis explains all the steps needed to not only set good goals but also achieve them. This is a great life skill for teens!
When I was a teenager, I spent New Year’s Eve writing myself a set of lofty goals for the next calendar year. Did I meet any of the goals? No. Unbeknownst to me, you need to spend time teaching kids to set good goals in high school.
We’re not born knowing how to develop good goals. Instead, you need an actual skill set to not only make goals but to achieve them as well. The skill set is relatively simple, but it will make a world of difference to your kids.
Teaching Kids to Set Good Goals in High School
When you sit down to teach kids how to set good goals, it is important to work through the following seven steps in order for them to achieve their goals. Because why spend the time making lofty goals if you never actually accomplish any of them?
1. What Goals Matter to Your Teens?
The first step is ensuring your teenager cares about the goals being set.
Often teens feel pushed to set goals that matter to other people but not to them. These may be impressive goals, but if your teen doesn’t feel passionate about them, they will never put forth the effort to achieve them.
So sit down and talk to your teenager. Find out what they want to achieve. What matters to your child? You may be surprised by some of the quiet ideas percolating in the back of their head.
Write all of the ideas down on a piece of paper. They’re ideas and dreams at this stage, not actual goals. There are no wrong answers here!
2. Create Clear, Measurable, and Realistic Goals
Now, your teenager will write down some clear, measurable, and realistic goals. Let’s go through these terms individually, starting with realistic goals.
I don’t know about you, but my goals as a young teenager were anything but realistic. I thought it wouldn’t take much time to learn a language and become fluent… even if I was only studying for a few minutes by myself in my room.
Walk on the moon? Absolutely! I’ll get there before 25!
You need to guide your teenagers through how to make realistic goals. Making a goal of getting an A in algebra is realistic on the first day of class. Not when you’re currently carrying a C- grade, and it’s the last week of the semester.
The goal also needs to be clear. Saying you’ll be a better person is nice but not clear. What is a better person? Someone who says please and thank you? Or someone who does the dishes every night? (Yes, please!)
Third, the goal needs to be measurable. You need to be able to tell if you’re succeeding. If your goal is to spend 15 minutes studying in the evening or complete all homework assignments, you’ll know if you did it or if you failed.
Your teen will need to end up with a goal along the lines of: “My goal is to achieve an A in algebra next semester.” It’s clear, it’s measurable, and it’s realistic (at least for now).
3. Create a Sensible Plan
Now, it’s time to create a plan to reach the goal. It’s all well and good to say you want to walk on the moon. How are you going to get there?
Let’s assume we’re dealing with a hypothetical teen with a goal to get an A in algebra next semester. It’s time to figure out how to get an A in algebra.
Write down all the possible steps you need to take to reach the goal.
In this case, your teen might write down the following list:
- Complete the homework every night.
- Spend 15 minutes reviewing material each night.
- Find a tutor.
- Go to the teacher (if it's an outsourced class) once a week for extra help.
Your teen may not wish to do everything on the list, and that’s okay. The goal is to create a sensible plan for how to reach the goal of getting an A in algebra. And a sensible plan doesn’t require your teenager to not do anything other than algebra all semester!
It helps to write the goals and plans down in a small notebook.
4. Read Goals Daily
Have your teenager read their goals regularly. You can have them read the goals every week, but daily works better for keeping kids inspired.
Think about whether your teen would prefer to read the goals every morning or every evening. The morning is lovely because it helps to create a focus for the day. However, the evening will likely work better if your teen gets up late and rushes out the door for activities.
5. Track Progress
Create a log sheet to help keep track of progress. In the case of getting an A in Algebra, you can keep track of grades on quizzes and tests.
But a better way may be to put a green checkmark on the calendar each day the homework is completed and 15 minutes is spent reviewing the material. Now, your teenager can see how well they’re sticking to the plan they made.
Another option is to use a habit tracker to help your teenager keep track of progress.
Remind your teenager to celebrate small wins as they track progress. These can be small treats for making milestones. For instance, after a week of completing their homework and reviewing material, they may wish to invite a friend over to spend the night or watch their favorite movie.
These tiny treats go a long way toward keeping anyone motivated to stick with their plan!
6. Revise Plans as Needed
When you're teaching kids to set good goals in high school, let them know that situations change. They may need to revise the plan, especially if progress is slower than anticipated or there is an unexpected life change.
Perhaps the algebra is more demanding than anticipated, and your teenager decides that they would like to meet with a tutor more than once a week for extra help.
It’s not a case that they failed. It’s simply a case of moving to plan B. Revise, adapt, and keep moving forward!
7. Celebrate the Win!
At the end of the semester, do something special to celebrate the win. You can go out to eat, make your teen’s favorite meal, have a friend over, or go out to the movies. It doesn’t matter what.
The win is an excuse to celebrate and for them to pat themselves on the back for all their hard work.
And I’ll be honest; sometimes kids don’t quite make the grade. They complete all the homework. They review old material. And they may even get regular tutoring.
But they come out with a B instead of an A.
Celebrate the win anyway! Your teen worked hard for their grade. The achievement may not be the grade. The victory is that they stuck with the plan.
When you teach your teen how to set good goals, you’re teaching them how to get things done, whether a small or large project. This is a great life skill!