Work with your child to identify one goal they'd like to set for themselves. Make sure it's a realistic goal so they have a positive and successful experience. Early success with goal-setting builds a sense of mastery, which makes it easier for your child to set and reach more challenging goals in the future.
1. Write across the top of a large piece of paper, “My Goal Road Map”.
2. In the upper left-hand corner of the page, have your child write a sentence describing the goal. Make sure it's specific. For example, rather than writing, "I will get good grades," write, "I will get a good grade on my graphing project for math class." Put a circle around the sentence and decorate the circle so it's clear that this is where you want to go.
3. Write the word "START" in the bottom right-hand corner and draw a series of footprints between the word START and the goal in the upper left-hand corner.
4. In each footprint, help your child write a short description of a step he or she can take toward reaching this goal. For example, if the goal is to get an "A" on a graphing project for math class, the footsteps might read:
- Step 1: Read over instructions and ask the teacher any questions
- Step 2: Buy materials with Mom or Dad
- Step 3: Look in books and on the internet (with Mom or Dad) for ideas for the hypothesis
- Step 4: Make the hypothesis and collect data on 15 kids
- Step 5: Draw a rough draft of the graph
- Step 6: Write first draft of the explanation
- Step 7: Ask Mom or Dad to look over rough drafts
- Step 8: Redo the graph and the explanation
- Step 9: Check for mistakes and make corrections
- Step 10: Turn in the project — Yay!
Of course, simply having a step-by-step plan doesn't always ensure that nothing will go wrong. Most of us encounter at least a few obstacles along the way, and your child will too. To help your child stay on the right path, encourage him or her to identify some of the obstacles that he or she might face and have your child draw the obstacles as mountains or ditches on the map. Then, identify "Walk-Arounds", or ways to get around those obstacles and continue toward the goal. The "Walk-Arounds" could be wings that help your child fly or shovels that he or she can use to tunnel under whatever is in the way.
Here's an example of obstacles and "Walk-Arounds" based on the graphing project example:
- Obstacle 1: I'll want to watch TV instead of working (Walk-Around: After I complete a step, I will watch 15 minutes of TV).
- Obstacle 2: I'll put it off until the night before it's due (Walk-Around: I will put dates next to each step so I know exactly when I have to do each part).
- Obstacle 3: I'll get bored and sloppy (Walk-Around: I will remind myself that I want to do well, and I'll save the most fun part—coloring it in—for last).
Once your child has done this exercise once or twice, he or she will learn to think a goal through without having to create a Goal Map. Although the Goal Map can be time consuming, it is a worthwhile investment of time because it will help to develop the skill of goal-setting early in life, and your child will have fun with you while doing it!