What are your goals for 2020? For adults, the most popular resolutions include exercise more, quit smoking, learn a new skill, and manage money better. What about for kids? Should they also be making New Year’s resolutions? Studies show child goal-setting can build their resilience, confidence and motivation. Yet it is important that we understand how goal setting is different for children. With the right approach and tools, building our children’s ability to set appropriate goals can put them on a path to long-term success.
As caring adults, we can set the conditions for our children to learn the benefits of goal setting. In fact, experts agree that most children learn how to set goals by continually watching their parents and mentors. Teaching children how to set and achieve goals helps them learn the values of reflection and self-improvement. And reflective self-improvement, also called a growth mindset, has been found to be a better predictor of future success than IQ.
To be effective, children must drive the goal-setting process. To ensure that the goals are truly those of the child and not a reflection of adult overreach, caring adults must play a supporting role, allowing the child to identify their unique goals. One approach, the ABCs of Goal Setting, from Psychology Today, highlights that goals should be achievable and believable, while involving personal commitment. EdWeek proposes a simple “noun plus verb” structure, such as “read every night” or “attend homework groups.” With any approach, it’s important to review plans regularly and to anticipate that setbacks may occur and adjustments will be needed.
While goal setting can be started with children as young as 3 or 4, it is important to adjust the approach based on the child’s age. At any age, start the conversation by simply asking children what they would like to do this year. Michelle Borba, parenting expert and author of the book “UnSelfie,” suggests then using this formula: “I will” plus “what,” “when” and “how.” For younger kids, the formula simplifies to “I will” plus “what.” Goals such as learning to tie shoes or memorize simple addition facts are realistic for little ones and can later grow to be more complex.
Psychology Today says a key in goal setting is to listen to the child and focus on the process of improvement rather than the product. We also can help by ensuring that our kids don’t set too many goals or select goals that are too complex or too simplistic. Many experts suggest that by selecting goals that are just out of reach we can teach children to try new things.
At the same time, kids need to see and understand that self-improvement takes time and that setbacks are normal. Show them the struggles you’ve encountered to reach your own goals. There are many great biographies, such as those of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and many Olympic athletes, that highlight the essential connection between goals, failure and success.
Goal setting holds the promise of helping kids in many parts of their lives, and experts recommend looking beyond academics. When youth are overscheduled and stressed, they may need to identify goals and action steps that foster relaxation and fun as part of their lives. Borba recommends we promote this balance by helping children set and achieve character goals. Character goals aim at cultivating “we-thinkers” instead of “me-thinkers,” helping kids become better individuals and community members through building traits such as caring, courtesy, respect, patience, generosity and truthfulness. Another way to reinforce the importance of these character goals is for the entire family to identify and work towards a shared goal, such as listening more or reaching out to elderly relatives.
In 2020, instead of just telling your child they are smart, you can teach them that they are capable of taking on challenges that can result in growth. Listen to their goals, help them define the larger strategy and necessary daily actions, then provide lots of cheering, encouragement in the face of setbacks, and unconditional support. As we aim to grow and nurture our future leaders, goal setting may be the key to building motivated, resilient and hopeful kids. And it’s a goal we can all share.
Tami Silverman is the president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we are highlighting the growing number of Hispanic children in our state while sharing with youth workers – teachers, after-school providers, coaches, mentors and families – how they can join in the celebration.
History of Hispanic Heritage month:
- Takes place every year from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15
- Started in 1968 as a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures and extensive histories of Americans who came from — or whose ancestors came from — Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
- Started during President Lyndon Johnson’s term as a 1-week celebration and was extended to a month during President Ronald Reagan’s term in 1988.
Indiana’s Hispanic youth population and national trends:
- Indiana’s child population has increased in racial and ethnic diversity over the past 10 years and is more diverse than the adult population (children = 27.3% race or ethnicity other than white, non-Hispanic vs 18% of adults race or ethnicity other than white, non-Hispanic).
- The Hispanic population has seen the largest demographic increase over the past 10 years (+2.5%).
- The Indiana Hispanic youth population has increased to 11.3% (2018), up from 8.8% in 2008.
- Between 2014 and 2018, the population of Indiana Hispanic youth ages 0-17 increased from 165,610 to 176,634. The Hispanic youth population has increased between 2,000 to 3,000 each year since 2014.
- Indiana’s Hispanic youth population (176,634) is third largest among neighboring states and 21st largest nationally. Among Indiana’s neighboring states, Illinois boasts the largest Hispanic youth population (710,873), followed by Michigan (182,786).
According to research conducted by Pew Research Center, by 2035, one-third of American children and youth will be Latino. U.S.-born people, rather than immigrants, are driving the Latino population shift.
The U.S. Department of Education, Smithsonian Education and the National Education Association have easy to use lessons, student activities, quizzes and media/videos that can be used to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month. Resources are organized by grade level and cover topics such as:
- Hispanic history and leaders – help students learn about famous Hispanic Americans, from early settlers to scientists, athletes, musicians and civic leaders.
- Comparing cultural holidays – students in grades K-4 compare Halloween and El Día de los Muertos by looking at traditions, music and visual art.
- Journal of Time – Students in grades 5-8 use photographs as inspiration to write journal entries from the point of view of someone living during the Great Depression in California.
- Common Visions, Common Voices – students in grades 9-12 analyze similarities and differences between cultures by investigating themes and motifs found in literature or visual arts.
Local and state organizations, such as the Indiana Latino Institute, the Indiana Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, La Plaza Indianapolis and Girl Scouts, provide programs, events and materials that celebrate this month and Indiana’s Hispanic children and families.
National Hispanic Heritage month is a great reminder that there is more we can learn about American history while also reminding us that we can do more to engage this growing student population. Some recommended actions for youth-serving professionals include:
- Tell students that they can succeed, and reinforce with new English speakers that they can overcome language barriers.
- Recognize that seemingly little things, like making positive comments or taking the time to discuss a student’s work, can go a long way toward building connections and confidence.
- Help kids start thinking about and preparing for college very early. Do not be dismissive by assuming students do not want to go to college or graduate. Far too many Latino students have heard that they are not ready for college.
- Continue and expand the work many school districts are already doing to increase their cultural awareness, including both training and ongoing professional education.
- Expand engagement strategies involving Latino parents and extended family members as partners in their child’s development and success.
Indiana and American classrooms, afterschool programs, teams and clubs are becoming increasingly diverse. National Hispanic Heritage month is a great way to celebrate Indiana’s fastest growing group of children and youth. Hopefully, the events and actions taken this month will increase our ability to learn and build on the rich array of cultural and community norms of students and their families. After all, the better we understand our students, the better we can support and champion their success.
Tami Silverman is the president & CEO of Indiana Youth Institute. She may be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @Tami_IYI.