Help your kids reach their goals - Make a plan

Parentree-editors 2009-05-29 08:25:36

Many of us parents, often set goals for ourselves, either in our personal lives or in our professional lives.   And as most of us would have realized, no goal can be reached without a good plan behind it.  This is something we need to pass on to our children also.

Many of our children have big dreams - "astronaut", "architect", "marine biologist" etc.,.  As parents we encourage them to reach their goals, and try to help in every way we can but we also need to help them make and implement a plan to get to their goal.

This goal setting and plan creation can happen at any time.  But for a major goal like a career to pursue etc., it should take place as children start approaching class 8/9/10 when they start defining what their goals are and can continue even through to their early professional careers.

Here are some tips on how you help your children plan to achieve their goals.

Define clear end goals

The first step to a plan is to understand what needs to be achieved.   Work with your child to understand what their interests are and what they would like to achieve. This is a very sensitive decision because there is a fine balance between what you recommend based on your experience and what your child wants, even though their view may be immature. Do not push too hard and impose what you want your child to be. Remember, when they think it is their goal, they will be committed to it.

It may help to have your child talk to others who have achieved the goal your child has an eye on.

Once this process is over, you should have an end goal. Here are the characteristics you need for a good goal:

  • Must be clear and simple
  • Must not be too narrow
  • Must not be too broad

For example, "I want to become a lawyer" is too broad.

On the other hand, a goal  "I want to get an electrical engineering degree from IIT Kanpur" is too narrow. Imagine what will happen to your child if they don't get into IIT Kanpur or even if they did, and then not get Electrical Engineering.

A good goal is clear and allows enough leeway without being too broad. For example, "I want to earn a law degree from one of the Top 20 law colleges in India".

Sometimes, you may want to start with a smaller goal and get your child used to planning and working towards goals. This will serve as practice for the time when they create their larger goal and plan.

Identify the efforts required

Sit down with your child and determine what he or she needs to work on to reach their goal. As mentioned before, someone who has achieved the goal your child has in mind, may help them understand what they need to do.

This is also the time to do a candid assessment of strengths and weaknesses of your child. This assessment will help your child prioritize their efforts. For example, if they need to become very good at physical and chemistry, but they are strong in physics but not as much in chemistry, the plan should be to spend more time on the latter rather than the former.

When your child has identified the efforts required, make sure that each of them is tied to intermediate goals and the end goal. Ensuring that this relationship exists will help your child spend efforts on the right things.

Define intermediate goals

For a plan to succeed, there should be intermediate goals against which you and your child can measure progress.  These intermediate goals also help your child modify the plan in cases where they fall behind some intermediate goals while exceeding in others.

Write down the plan

This is an often missed but critical step. Nothing gets done unless it is written down and updated periodically. Make sure your child writes down their plan and updates it periodically.  This must be their plan, not yours!!

Track the plan and modify when required

Sit down with your child every month and assess progress together. Encourage and motivate your child to reach the goals they have set. If they have not achieved an intermediate goal, work with them to modify the plan to catch up with what they need to do.

Motivation and incentives

Always motivate your child with positive encouragement. In addition, build in incentives into the plan. Tie the incentives to the achievement of goals. For example, you may take them on a trip to a certain place if they reach a milestone on time. Occasionally, when you see them really struggling, help them relax by taking them out to a movie or helping them take a break.

By creating the right plan and executing it well, you can help your child reach their goals.


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