I know the great pressure I put on myself as a teenager. I finished in the top of my class while managing a schedule that included sports, extracurricular activities, work, and family commitments, all while traveling over an hour a day to and from school each day. Today, things aren’t much different — I work and blog and podcast, I have three kids to teach, and I own a business. My overachiever ways are alive and well, and this, good or bad, affects my parenting style.
Now, before I lose any of you to gasps and eye rolls, I want to be clear that my kids are never treated as tiny adults. They live the ultimate child-appropriate lives — basketball in the driveway, family bike rides through the woods, and video games on weekends. My goal is to teach — not force — them how to mature gracefully, and also, how to achieve whatever they want to in life.
So, before the school year began in 2017, we called a Family Goals Meeting over pizza, fruit, and juice boxes. Here’s what happened:
The goal-setting session
The best way to approach a goal-setting session with your little ones is to meet first with the adults involved in supporting those goals. For us, this included my husband, but I could have easily included my parents as well. They are very involved with our children. My husband and I brainstormed some goal categories we wanted to frame our kids’ choices with. We narrowed it to academics and extracurriculars, and we decided the children would choose their goals and we would help develop those goals so they were measurable. We were not allowed to choose the goal for them.
When it came time to goal set, I reviewed what goals were (definition and example), we discussed which goals they’d achieved already (relatable content), and we pointed out examples of how I or their dad reached our own goals (case studies). We set the firm requirement of one academic and one extracurricular goal minimum, each, and we went to the whiteboard to hash out the actual goals.
Our fifth grader wanted to:
1. Make the basketball team and play as a starter.
2. Get perfect attendance.
3. Make the honor roll.
Our fourth grader wanted to:
1. Write two songs for the piano.
2. Get perfect attendance.
3. Earn great grades (satisfactory, meets expectations, weird stuff).
4. Learn violin.
5. Get one triple-double in each of her basketball games.
Our 3-year-old wanted to:
1. Go to the zoo.
Outcomes: Wins and fails
Fifth grader’s outcomes:
1. Award for perfect attendance since first grade.
2. Made the fifth-grade basketball team after two-day tryouts (#awesome).
3. Became the starting shooting guard.
4. Did receive the honor roll — but had a slight hiccup in the middle terms.
Fourth grader’s outcomes:
1. Wrote 2 short songs for the piano.
2. Missed perfect attendance this year for a trip to Harry Potter World (of course!).
3. Excellent report card
4. Played well in the violin recital AND piano recital (“No One” by Alicia Keys).
5. Had a few triple doubles in her basketball games — not all games.
1. Would not, could not forget about the zoo. We went at least a dozen times this year.
A prize for hard work
We won’t allow ourselves to be all work and no play. We have planned a family cruise in celebration of birthdays, graduations, and an overall EXCELLENT and rewarding school year.
Why you should try this approach
This exercise is not about placing pressure on our children to succeed and overachieve. It is about coming together as a group and setting common focuses. It is about letting our children know they aren’t just going to school because they are mandated; they have control over what happens during their school year. They own the year and can affect all outcomes. This exercise is about learning what is important to our kids. Whether the importance lies in playing at the zoo or making the honor roll, these are the experiences they choose to shape their lives with. Therefore, these focus points become important to us. And as a family, working together and focusing together, we know we can always make any goal happen.