Is It Important to Set Academic Goals for Kids?

Does your child get easily frustrated by new or challenging material in school?  Have you noticed a decrease in your son or daughter’s motivation towards school?  All too often kids feel overwhelmed by global expectations and large, general goals.  And when miracles don’t happen overnight, confidence and motivation take a nosedive.  This can be particularly true for children with perfectionist tendencies.  These kids want to ensure everything is just right before moving on.  Setting clear expectations and specific goals along the way will allow kids to understand the steps they need to take and what is needed to successfully reach a larger goal.

Set Clear Expectations with Kids to Set Them up for Success

Let your child know what is expected up front.  Make it clear and break it down into small chunks.  Praise proper completion of each step along the way.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, for those of us with strong executive function skills it is, but for our kids, it’s often easier said than done.  If your child understands what is expected of them and what is needed to meet a goal, they are much more likely to be able to reach said goal.  We often assume kids understand what is expected or necessary but in reality, it may feel very fuzzy and unclear to them.  When setting expectations or outlining steps for achieving a goal, confirm that your child fully comprehends the steps and expectations.

After all, how can your child succeed if he or she does not know what is expected?

Make Sure to Tie Praise and Effort Together, Not Praise and Grades

What did your child do right today?  While it may be in our nature to point out the wrongs and the negatives, it’s more important to praise the positives.  Be sure to point out the good and praise effort, especially on a hard day.  Praising effort equates rewards with hard work, rather than grades.  This is important for instilling resiliency in kids.  This positive encouragement will help keep your child on track for achieving goals, rather than leaving them feeling defeated after a rough day.  Work to make specific goals attainable; this way you can praise your child for accomplishing steps along the way to reaching the bigger goal.

Providing Consistent Feedback is Key to Keep Students on Track

Praise the positive and reprimand the negative.  But remember, especially when reprimanding, be consistent and specific.  Consistency helps reinforce clear expectations and allows your child to understand what is expected to achieve a goal.

Bottom line, work with your child to break down large and seemingly overwhelming tasks into smaller, specific goals, which are attainable.  Praise your child along the way for accomplishing smaller tasks.  Your student will feel motivated and achieve those milestones, which once felt overwhelming, in no time! If, however, you find that the parent-child relationship is hindering your child’s academic progress as it often does, I encourage you to learn about Educational Coaching – goal and action oriented tutoring.