Life is filled with opportunities to stretch ourselves. These can be some of the most difficult and wonderful experiences of our lives. For our kids, we can encourage them to take on these challenges by creating a path for them to follow.
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How to Help Your Child Set Effective Goals
When our kids proclaim a goal like “learn to speak Chinese” or “learn to play the guitar”, the mom in me squeals with excitement. But the teacher in me knows that the difference between a wish and a goal is a plan. To help our kids create those plans, we can look at other projects which have successfully adopted the idea of milestones.
People often set the goal to run a 5k race. They wake up early, put on their running shoes and begin the laborious journey of preparation. After a couple of weeks, they begin to grow discouraged and within a month, the goal moves quietly to the “maybe next year” list.
Josh Clark had the same goal. But instead of throwing himself on a wing and a prayer, he broke the goal of running a 5k race into a collection of achievable steps. His program has been copied by hundreds of thousands of wannabes and turned them into successful racers. His idea has become an incredibly successful app called Couch25k.
Instead of a blanket goal like “learn to speak Chinese”, could your family build in a set of smaller steps and rewards designed to break that large goal into micro-nuggets of success?
Examples of Breaking Large Goals Into Actionable Steps
Learn to Speak Chinese
- learn to say hello and introduce yourself
- learn to order a meal
- learn to ask for directions
- look at a Chinese article and read the title
- listen to a Chinese song and understand some words
- write a letter to a Chinese penpal
- visit a Chinese grocery and have a conversation
Want to Learn to Play the Piano?
- learn the keys
- learn a simple melody (chopsticks)
- learn a simple song you must read the music staff to play
- memorize a more difficult song
- perform a piece in front of friends or family
How Could You Break the Goal of Daily Reading Into Milestones?
- set a daily reading goal
- choose books, magazines, comics and other things you want to read
- as you complete each book, mark them off a list or fill in a page with each title
- choose a variety of books in varying genres
- read aloud with your people
For each success, plan a fun reward. Remember that our lives are a sum of our small steps. By teaching our families to create a system of milestones, we do much more than teach them to speak Chinese. We provide them a powerful tool for splitting any goal into a series of achievable steps with a system or rewards to keep them inspired for a lifetime.
Creating Celebrations for Small Accomplishments
According to Dan and Chip Heath, authors of “The Power of Moments”, milestones create opportunities for pride. Not just once, but a regular sense of pride with each small accomplishment.
These points are little check ins that keep your child (or yourself) feeling interested, accomplished and motivated to continue. Working toward the eventual outcome also raises the stakes of the goal. The Heath brothers call this element elevation.
Creating celebrations does not have to be a big affair. When celebrations are simple and seamless, they become more a part of the everyday-ness of small adventures.
Children begin to find ways to build celebrations into simple accomplishments which is a skill adults can learn a lot from.
Celebrations can involve a meal or snack, a perfect example might be a Chinese meal or even some tea and fortune cookies. Other steps of the journey might call for a more elaborate celebration-maybe a visit to hear a famous guitarist play for a celebration of when your child learns to play his first song. Whatever the reward, it is important for it to make the milestone distinct and special.
So, get your kids outside and start to celebrate. Start small. The summer is a great time to test out this kind of practice because there are so many hours and treasures to experience this season.
Teach your children how to get into celebrating by starting to celebrate the little things that catch your attention, the things that surprise you and the things for which you are most grateful. We bet your children will start to suggest little celebrations, showing you that the seeds you’re planting are taking root!
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