Family Goal Setting Tips

Written by Kira Albin Halpern

It's time to bring the family together to share in goal setting. This is not Type A stuff; this is about achieving your dreams.

If the words "family goal setting" make you think "oxymoron" or ... it's hard enough as it is just getting the kids dressed and off to school then family goal setting is just what you need to get the year off to a successful start.


Family Goal Setting:
Children and Divorce
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Follow Your Bliss
Goal Setting Correlates Highly with Success
Every year my husband and I pull out our special leather-bound journal and favorite pen, make a cup of tea and sit down to ponder our annual goals. Our 1-year-old doesn't even walk yet, let alone talk, but I'm already excited about including him in this yearly ritual.


Some call it naiveté to hope for such harmony and accomplishment. Roseanne Packard, a mother of three in Berkeley, Calif., says family goal setting is where "the kids' goal is that the parents work and pay for everything so they can do as little as possible and still get rides and money, and the parents' goal is that the kids stay in school, off drugs, and don't get tattooed."


Michele Borba, an educational consultant and author of Parents Do Make a Difference, takes a different stance. She asserts that goal setting is an easy skill to learn and can be taught at an early age. "Your child will see you taking initiative and persevering and they begin to pick it up," she says. "You model it and they will learn."


Borba's suggestions for goal setting are so easy you will resolve to do this all year long. Sit down as a family to decide what's important to you, and then translate that into goals. Choose your goals from four categories: have, be, achieve and improve.


Write them out using the goal-setting formula: We will + What + When, e.g., We will have Internet on TV by June 30; We will be more respectful of one another and speak in calmer voices; We will finish/achieve spring cleaning by May 15; We will improve our health by exercising three times per week. If dates are ambiguous or ongoing, set a date by which you will evaluate your progress.


My husband and I view goal setting as a continuum from year to year, rather than as an annual blank slate. So rather than feeling tormented by an unfulfilled goal from the previous year's entry, we rewrite it, modify it if necessary, and pick up where we left off. I've carried over one of my goals three years running, but I'm a little closer now than if I hadn't attempted it at all.


Borba points out that acknowledging the effort involved is every bit as important as reaching your goal. "Don't wait until your child has achieved perfection," she cautions. "Celebrate their progress every step of the way."


A creative way to acknowledge young children's efforts, says Borba, is to write the goal on a piece of paper, roll it up and put it inside a balloon. Blow up the balloon, use a black marker to write the goal on the balloon, and hang it where the child can see it. Once the child achieves the goal, she pops the balloon and out comes the note. Some parents put dollar bills inside. When the balloon is popped, the children can use the money for a treat.
Photographer: Dennis Cox | Agency:


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