Family Goal Setting Tips - SMART Goals

Written by Kira Albin Halpern

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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