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
Raising Self Confident Children
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:


setting goals as a family
Ready. Get SMART. Goal.

If you've ever resolved to lose 20 pounds and a month later finds you reaching for the leftover sweets, you're not alone. Most people make unrealistic resolutions.


Family Goal Setting:
Children and Divorce
Raising Self Confident Children
Follow Your Bliss
Goal Setting Correlates Highly with Success
One of the most valuable skills you can teach your children is to set goals that are achievable. Michele Borba, an educational consultant and author of Parents Do Make a Difference, recommends that each goal pass her SMART test before it even leaves the starting block.

The test is simple. Write out each of the goals you'd like to achieve and then ask yourself the following questions:

S: Is your goal specific? Can you visualize the details?
M: Is your goal measurable? You need to be able to measure progress throughout the day, week or month.
A: Is your goal achievable; is it within your capacity to fulfill?
R: Is your goal realistic? Do you have the time and willingness?
T: Does your goal have a time frame? Can you identify a start and end date?

If you don't have a SMART goal, go back to the drawing board and rethink your plans.

Goals fall apart if there's not enough interest to begin with, they're not specific enough or they're too hard to achieve. If your child has never jogged a mile, she shouldn't resolve to run a marathon in three months' time. Guide her. Help her tailor the goal to her abilities. "You need to make children stretch, but not snap," says Borba. For example, if your child missed five out of 10 questions on his spelling bee and wants to improve, don't push him to get a perfect score the next time. Encourage incremental progress.

Another common problem, says Borba, is when parents try to rescue the child by completing the goal themselves. "Don't rob your child by doing it for him," she warns.

Maybe you've asked family members to sort through their closets and set aside items for a charity pick-up. But as the day looms close, you end up doing it yourself to meet the deadline. This gives children the message that they don't have to set goals, because mom or dad will follow through.

Keep your expectations realistic and you won't get frustrated. "It takes around 21 days to make new behaviors a habit," explains Borba. If you hope to create a new behavior, such as calmer family interactions or more exercise, expect some back- sliding and follow through when it does occur.

Borba suggests using visual clues and reminders. The next time someone is screaming, give them an exit clue, such as a pull of your ear or a wink of your eye. "Don't expect children to remember a goal they heard once," says Borba. "Post the goal on the refrigerator, draw a picture of it and put it on the bathroom mirror, mention it daily at the breakfast or dinner table and even during tuck-in time."

According to Borba, goal setting is one of the most highly correlated traits of success. Unfortunately, most people don't learn the skill until they're 45. If you give your kids a SMART start, they will make goal setting part of their lifestyle now.

Resolve to put that on your refrigerator.

Photographer: Dennis Cox | Agency:

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