Setting goals and learning to achieve them is an important life skill. It isn’t complicated or time consuming, but it can seem scary. Here are my ideas on how to gently introduce your teen and get him or her into the habits of planning. It will pay off for all of you. Frame it as a game, the point of which is to show him how to go after what he cares about.
Over dinner, talk about his goals, achievements, and concerns from 2016. Celebrate what worked; explore what didn’t. Walk the walk – discuss your own too. Remind him that mistakes are a healthy part of learning. Share how you and your spouse go about it, and why. Remind yourself to facilitate; don’t do it for him. Next week, kick off a discussion of what he’d like to accomplish in 2017, and what you’d like to accomplish.
Tips for helping your child learn to plan
- Help him understand the benefits of goal setting and the advantages of beginning to think about how he’d like life to flow for him.
- Help him specify goals in terms of what he wants to bring into his life rather than what he wants to exclude from it.
- Help him select attainable goals he cares about. There are no right answers and it is likely they will evolve as you work the process together and he becomes more skilled at planning.
- Encourage him to design SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).
- Check in with him periodically to discuss his progress, and yours, and possible concerns or issues in meeting his goals for 2017. Dinner is great for this. The arrival of report cards is another good time to devote a dinner conversation to how he is doing overall. You want to have a natural, low-key conversational structure in place to support him and keep things moving. Planning requires practice, as does anything at which he wants to excel.
- Consider the use of free goal tracking apps such as Strides. The app tracks SMART goals and helps keep him or her accountable and motivated.1 The Strides app, recommended in The New York Times and Forbes, is available for the iPhone, iPad and Web. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, 92% of teens go online daily and 24% say they are online “almost constantly.”2
- Encourage him to proactively begin actions to meet his goals. Help when he asks for it. Struggle, failure and success are all part of the process. Help your child expect disappointments and the opportunities to learn from them. The key is for him to understand that making mistakes is a part of life and it does not define him.
- Listen, mirror and validate his emotions. Don’t prescribe solutions.
Topics he might include in his annual plan
- Community involvement and relationship building
- Family communication and relationship nurturing
- College testing
- Internship and Co-operative work opportunities
- Financial aid and ways to reduce college loan debt
- School activities and athletics
- Additional sources of healthy play and fun activities
Don’t let him overwhelm himself. Listen to his preferences and interests as he prioritizes his goals. Help him commit fully to and focus on his goals; encourage him to discard the others. Annual assessments and planning focused on your child’s goals can make a great impact on his future peace of mind and wealth. Let him learn by doing.
Check out the articles on my blog. I cover each of the topics mentioned above related to goal setting and success. Work with your child to help him understand the investment and commitment required to achieve his goals. Mark your calendar for periodic dinner conversations with your child now. It should pay big dividends in his short-term and long-term future.