Hot Topics     Home and Family     Healthy Kids     Teen Health     Early Education     K-12     Education Guide    

Help kids achieve their goals

Show your kids how to develop grit to push past frustrations

Help kids achieve their goals

Jessica Carolo of Fishkill, left, worked with her daughter to help her reach her goal of improved academic success by putting in place new study habits.

With a new year rapidly approaching, this month many folks will be deciding where they can make improvements in their lives.

The results of this thought process often end up becoming New Year's resolutions. New Year's resolutions are not solely adult creations; children make them as well. However, if it's been shown that 80 percent of adult resolutions tend to fail by mid-February, it would make sense to figure that for children to achieve long-term goals, they would most likely benefit from some assistance.

Have grit, will succeed. It's beneficial to teach goalsetting and the achievement of personal aims during childhood because both give children the knowledge and tools they need to get what they desire from life early on. Kids kids start to understand at a young age the concept of taking responsibility for their actions, learning, and behaviors.

Additionally, being taught to set and achieve personal goals helps kids develop what educational researcher Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania refers to as 'grit,' that is, a passion and perseverance toward long-term goals, an oft-essential ingredient for a person's future success.
READ MORE: Encourage your kids' mindfulness

Along with tenacity and perseverance, possessing grit is necessary for most adults to prosper in today's complex world. By setting goals and learning to work to meet them, kids learn to make commitments and stay with them, which often leads to accomplishment, mastery, and success. 

Setting goals for younger children. Deciding on a specific goal for your child can originate from either your child's mind or yours. Typically, younger kids need more guidance with selecting goals than their older counterparts do.

In the case of my 5-year-old daughter, Sophia, after her kindergarten parent-teacher conference this year, she agreed to set a goal of advancing at least one reading level by the end of the school year's second trimester.

Sophia came into the school year with solid literacy skill for an entering kindergartner, yet she did not advance a reading level from September to the end of November. Aware that such a goal would not be one that Sophia would think to set for herself at her young age, I discussed setting this goal with her, paired with the promise that we would work toward this achievement together and after a brief, gentle, discussion, Sophia embraced the idea wholeheartedly.

For the past few weeks, Sophia has done well fulfilling her end of the goal bargain, too. She has read aloud at least two books per day at her instructional reading level along with additional reading either with her father or me at her bedtime. If she keeps this up, next time she is tested, I am confident that she'll be ready to move up a level.

Setting goals for older children. Goals for older children are often articulated by the child, but sometimes can be communicated indirectly in the form of a problem an adult is asked to solve. However, in the spirit of developing a child's grit, instead of trying to fix every problem children bring to our attention, parents should help them set goals that allow them to help themselves.

By listening to her child and framing problems as obstacles that can be overcome, Jessica Carolo of Fishkill is giving her daughter the tools to develop the grit she will need to attain success as she gets older. When Carolo's daughter was in first and second grades, she struggled with academics. Carola worked with her to establish new study habits and a different homework schedule to increase her academic success.

Carola also helped her daughter stick to their new plan, as changes in routine can be hard for children to adapt to on their own. Carola's daughter's new routine included starting to study for tests earlier than she'd done before and taking a short break after school before beginning her daily homework assignments.

By sticking to the new schedule along with her mother's consistent support, Carola's daughter 's grades improved from ones and twos to threes and fours, along with overwhelming postive report card comments. It is likely that Carola and her daughter will continue with the new schedule and study habits for the foreseeable future, and that Carola's daughter experienced firsthand how the possession of perseverance, tenacity, and grit can lead to success. 

READ MORE: Teach your kids to love school

Your child has set a goal. Now what? As seen with Carola and her daughter, as parents, our assistive role does not end after helping our child select a goal.

When Jennifer Colucci of Hopewell Junction's then-12-year-old daughter approached her with a specific goal, Colucci jumped in to help her achieve it. Last summer, Colucci's daughter, along with her best friend, came up with the idea of running a camp to raise money for charity. Colucci gave her complete support of the girls' project and provided assistance in numerous ways.

She helped the girls create a plan for their goal of running a camp for charity. With experience as a mother and a teacher, Colucci helped the girls decide what age range to serve at the camp, as well as what projects they would do with their charges.

Together, they decided on a week-long Kids' Craft Camp to run two hours a day. Colucci helped the girls secure a donated location for the camp and took the kids shopping but had them create their list of supplies to give them as much autonomy as possible. Colucci also helped the girls create a Google Form for camp sign-up, with more than 20 children ending up attending the program.

The girls saw their goal through to the end with help from Colucci and experienced invaluable learning experiences, including sharing duties and responsibilities as camp owners, organizing and doling out responsibilities to volunteers, and managing a large group of young children. In the end, the camp was a success, and the girls were able to donate $150 to Sparrow's Nest, a Hudson Valley charity that provides meals to the families coping with cancer.

Colucci's daughter and her best friend have set a new goal to repeat their camp experience next summer, and likely, already possess the 'grit' needed to make that happen.

With its tie to a renewed start, the beginning of a year is great time to help kids set and meet their goals, two skills they can learn and grow from as they grow into adulthood.

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two, elementary educator, and lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley.