How to Help Your Kids with Realistic Goal Setting

Mom talking with daughter

As parents, many of us have experienced frustration when our children don’t complete a project or reach the level of accomplishment we know they are capable of. Maybe the solution is to sit down with them and talk about setting realistic goals.

“Setting reasonable expectations is key to success when setting a goal,”  says Jamie Grollman, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist at Children’s Medical Center. “For example, if the goal is to drink sugary drinks only at special times, parents can help by discussing a step-by-step approach. Instead of going from zero to 100%  all at once, encourage your child to cut back to a set amount — maybe one sugary drink per day for a period of time, then three per week, then only at special times.”

If your child slips or doesn’t meet the goal, talk with them about balance. You can review the goal, what your child was successful with and where they got stuck. Then revise the goal,” says Dr. Grollman.

As your child begins to set goals and work toward them, don’t forget the encouragement. Compliment them by saying something like, “Look at what you’ve done already! That’s a big improvement.”

Realistic Goals For Kids of All Ages

courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics

1.I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
2.I won’t tease dogs or other pets – even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
3.I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help or am scared.

Kids, 5 to 12 years old
1.I will drink water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
2.I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
3.I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week.
4.I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
5.I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
6.I’ll be nice to other kids. I’ll be friendly to kids who need friends or who may have a hard time making friends – like someone who is shy, or is new to my school.
7.I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
8.I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
Kids, 13 years old and older
1.I will try to eat two servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and I will drink sodas only at special times.
2.I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
3.When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or talking about my problem with a parent or friend.
4.When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
5.I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without forcing them to do something or using violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
6.I will resist peer pressure to try chewing tobacco, cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.
7.I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

Goal Setting For Kids With a Chronic Illness

“When discussing goals with a child with a chronic illness, it’s essential to remember that they already have a unique set of responsibilities,” says Jamie Grollman, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist at Children’s Medical Center. “It’s important not to add burdensome goals on top of these.”

“A realistic goal for a child with a chronic illness might be taking better control of their medication. For example, instead of the parent needing to remind the child three times to take their medicine, maybe only one reminder should be the goal,” says Dr. Grollman. Additional examples include switching from liquids to pills or creating a system for keeping track of when medication is taken.



Sign up for the latest information from Children's


, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply