Teach Your Kids To Set Goals

The Healthy Family Connections Podcast

Episode 076 · Duration: 00:14:13

Teach Your Kids To Set Goals

Is your teenager going through the motions of life, without solving problems, or setting goals?

Goal setting is a vital part of our lives. Think about it. If we live simply day to day, without aspiration, or trying to get someplace, our lives become dull and boring, and our mental health goes into decline.

Teach Your Kids To Set GoalsWhat are your current goals? They could be about parenting, or getting on a better financial footing, or getting in shape, or advancing your career in some specific way. It doesn’t matter. It just matters that you have goals, things you’d like to accomplish or get better at. Kids who don’t have goals and simply go through the motions every day are far more likely to have mental health problems, behavior problems, and substance abuse problems.

Some goals are about trying to solve problems. We’ll never run out of problems, so the skill of defining a problem, identifying the causes of the problem, and creating and then upgrading the strategies or solutions to the problem is a very important skill set. If we teach and empower our kids to identify and solve problems, life will go well for them.

Let’s look at a few important goal setting or problem solving areas to think about here.

Problems With Schoolwork

A common area is problems kids have with their schoolwork. Since the school year is just starting out, sit down with your son or daughter and discuss their previous problems and establish some goals and solutions. Don’t let the conversation devolve into blame and scolding or youth defensiveness.

Here’s a mistake I implore you not to make: Last year you were constantly on your teen to do their work, and they were constantly avoiding, misrepresenting what was done or needing to be done, and schoolwork was a Control Battle. So, starting out your teen says, “Just let me handle it. If you quit bugging me, I can do it all just fine. It’s your bugging me that makes me mad and then I don’t want to do the work.”

When parents agree to this, invariably they are setting up a failure and their backing off just becomes another element in the Control Battle.

Here is a way you can respond.

"I too want to avoid fighting over getting you to do your work. You’re right, it should be your job to make sure your work gets done and gets done well. But telling me to back off is unconvincing. That’s more of the same from last year with poor results. Don’t tell me; show me! If you are active in prioritizing your work, trust me, I’ll get it and back off. If you need support, I don’t want to find out about it by seeing you fail. Let me know so we can get you the support you need. If you own doing your work, I’ll own seeing it, and providing the support you need, and not the support you don’t need."

Social, Health, and Mental Health Problems

Many kids will have social problems, health problems, and mental health problems and often these are related to each other. Sit down, and discuss the problems and some ways to address them. Then make a plan, a plan with follow through and accountability.

For instance, let’s say your daughter has social anxiety and depression and reports that all the kids are mean. Her way of dealing with it is to be in a chronically bad mood, eat junk food, watch YouTube videos, and miss a lot of school because she’s too anxious or depressed to go.

Talk with her about the problems of social anxiety and depression, and how she can address them. A little research will validate good nutrition and exercise as two critical components of mental health. Then she needs to create a strategy for growing her social self. She, or you and she, can talk with the school counselor about where in the school she can build relationships. It could be in the band, the school paper, the performing arts program, if not acting, certainly in set design and building, or any other part of the school community where kids interact by virtue of having a role. Your daughter should have a plan for how she can learn to engage socially, maybe with the support of a therapist or a book on developing social skills for teens.

Good nutrition and exercise are two critical components of mental health.Click To Tweet

My publisher New Harbinger Publications, who published my book Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle, has several social skills workbooks for teens available. Just go to their website or any online bookstore.

Often these youngsters can be pretty negative and can resist taking positive steps on their own behalf. Here’s the kind of conversation you can have with them:

"I know you’re having a rough time right now; adolescence is a tough time for many kids, particularly sensitive introverted kids like you. You are a terrific kid and deserve to feel good about yourself. You don’t need to be popular, you do need at least a few friends and the ability to make good personal decisions so that you can stay positive and move forward. So let’s look at the things you can do that will make this school year a successful one for you. Any solution will mean challenging yourself; whether it’s working out, eating healthy, or joining a group or activity. But problems deserve solutions so let’s work together to identify the problems and agree on some solutions."

Parents, if you show faith in your youngster and if you are clear that they will succeed, and you insist on them taking action, they will take action and they will learn and grow through their issues.

If you show faith in your teenager and if you are clear that they will succeed, and you insist on them taking action, they will take action and they will learn and grow through their issues.Click To Tweet

Setting Family-Centric Goals

Parents can ask kids to set goals to provide real value in to their family; cooking, cleaning, pet management, even childcare for younger siblings. Do not let this idea become a place where parents bug kids to do chores and kids avoid them. Have an in-depth discussion about the need for their help, support, and competence in the family. Decide together where they can add their support, and both of you need to realize it will be a learning curve.

Learning to cook, clean and do childcare all involve learning. So once you and your teen have decided on a goal, say to be able to cook a family meal independently, or clean bathrooms, or provide gardening tasks such as weeding, trimming, harvesting, watering, do the tasks together until they get the hang of it and can do them with increasing independence. If you tell a kid, “go clean the bathroom”, if it does get done, it won’t get done well. If that is going to be their job, identify the steps, and go through them with them a number of times. Be sure to check on it after they’re done and, before you give any suggestions for what needs to be done better, acknowledge the part well done.

Goals Families Can All Set Together

There are general self-improvement goals for kids and parents alike. It’s great to role model learning a new thing, maybe together; such as a physical activity, yoga, watercolor painting, drawing, reading, vegetable growing, etc. Then talk about how it’s going. It puts you and your child or teen in a positive place together. It’s a way to be friends with your kids the right way, not by winking and nodding when they do things wrong and not holding them accountable. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with being friends with your kids as one aspect of your relationship. Friendship is about sharing positive things together and supporting each other.

Friendship is about sharing positive things together and supporting each other.Click To Tweet

A number of years ago, when my older son was in his teen years, I started taking trumpet lessons and was enjoying it. At least until my teacher told me I needed to participate in a trumpet recital. That was mortifying to me; the idea of standing up in front of a group of family and friends of my teacher’s students and playing a solo, which would definitely be and sound amateurish, was less than exciting to me.

My son Daniel, who was 15 at the time, agreed to accompany me on the piano, which was much more palatable to me. At 15, he was already a good jazz pianist and I knew it would take some of the attention off of me, and it would make things generally sound better. The project of putting a tune together was a fun activity for us. In that case, Daniel and I were, much as we are now 14 years later, friends.

So parents, let’s all take it upon ourselves to role model and teach goal setting to our youngsters. Whether their goal is to solve a problem, or to grow or invest in some aspect of themselves, it’s the ability to set goals and take actionable steps on a regular basis towards those goals that invites health and an empowered “can do” attitude towards life. And isn’t that exactly what we want for our youth?

The ability to set goals and take actionable steps on a regular basis towards those goals invites a healthy and an empowered “can do” attitude towards life.Click To Tweet

Thanks for tuning in today everyone. If you’re enjoying the Healthy Family Connections Podcast, do me a favor and go to the iTunes site, and leave a review. That way you’ll help other folks know they can benefit from it as well.

Please remember, take care of yourselves; you need it, you deserve it, you’re worth it. Bye for now.


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