Happy New Year – Teaching youth how to set and pursue goals

From Backpacks to Briefcases

By Vincent Lyles
President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

Vincent Lyles

Vincent Lyles

Happy New Year! January is a month when many people make resolutions to pursue throughout the year.

Everyone has different motivations for wanting to make changes in their lives; some people want to live healthier lives, others may wish to be more financially sound.

We tell our children to set goals like “do well in school” but do we tell them why they should set goals?

More importantly, do we show them how to pursue and achieve their goals?

Goal setting is easy.

It’s the goal achieving that’s hard to do, even for us adults.

Let’s help make 2014 a great year for our youth by encouraging and supporting their efforts to set and reach their goals.

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, we talk a lot with our members about the value of setting goals whether they’re age 5 or 18.

When children and teens set goals, the process becomes more than just a thought or a dream.

It becomes reality.

Goal setting is a lifelong skill.

According to child development experts, an ideal time to teach children how to set goals is when they are young (elementary school age).

Start goal setting with things or activities your child already uses.

For instance, your child wants the newest Monster High doll.

Rather than simply buying it for her, talk to your child about the steps she needs to take to get the toy.

Her steps might include earning money from household chores and saving gift money she receives.

Talk about how good she will feel when she meets her goal.

The same steps can be used for other challenges.

When teaching your child how to set goals, let him or her choose what goals to set.

The goals should be realistic, not difficult and suited for their age and abilities.

Help your child write down the specific action steps needed, and help him or her create a timetable to meet each one.

From time to time, check in with your child to see how he or she is doing and to keep them focused. When the goal is reached, it’s time to celebrate!

In addition to encouraging children to set goals and supporting their efforts, there is more we as adults can do.

One way adults can help prevent bullying is to model respectful behavior.

One way adults can help prevent bullying is to model respectful behavior.

First, we need to be good role models.

In an earlier column, I mentioned how children and teens learn the most by watching what we do. Involve your child in your goal setting.

Show them how you plan to break down your goal into smaller steps.

Any time there are goals, there are also challenges to face – both expected and unexpected.

Remind your child that challenges come with any goal, and it takes dedication to overcome them.

That’s why it’s important to be enthusiastic and supportive of their efforts, even when things go wrong.

Give him or her encouragement with statements like “Keep up the good work” and “I’m proud of you.”

Words of encouragement from a parent, relative or concerned adult really boost a young person’s confidence and self-esteem.

And when the goal is reached, celebrate and encourage them to set new goals.

The discipline it takes to set and pursue goals carries over into other areas of a child’s life and into adulthood.

Introduce your child to goal setting this New Year or any time of the year.

It will teach your loved one how to build a future of his or her choosing.

Until my next column, you’re invited to visit a Boys & Girls Club nearest you.

Visit our website at www.boysgirlsclubs.org to find a location.

Keep up-to-date about Boy & Girls Clubs and other youth-related news through www.facebook.com/bgcmilwaukee, on Twitter at @bgcmilwaukee, or at www.boysgirlsclubs.org.