Let’s talk about teaching your kids the success habit of GOAL SETTING.
I’ve got plenty of habits I’m trying to break, but I’ve had a habit for the last 16 years that’s actually a good habit – goal setting about my kids. I’ll show you a quick view of what I do, but I actually want to encourage you to have your KIDS use this method to make their summer meaningful while developing the great success habit of goal setting.
Luke 2:52 says, referring to when Jesus was a child, “And Jesus grew in WISDOM, STATURE, FAVOR with GOD, and FAVOR with MAN.” (NIV)
I’ve used this verse for many years to set goals twice a year regarding my kids in the following four categories:
1. “Wisdom” – Academic Goal (What is a weakness I see that they need extra time to work on in this area? It could be handwriting, memorizing multiplication tables, or learning how to research topics. What is a strength that I see in them that I want to foster extra time in this area? Maybe they love studying astronomy or have had questions about music theory.)
2. “Stature” – Physical Goal (What is a weakness in their physical ability or health? It could be that they don’t have good posture or don’t drink enough water or they need to eat more veggies. What is a physical strength you see in them? You could have noticed that they’re really good at ball handling.)
3. “Favor with Man” – People Skills/ Relationships Goal (For most of us, people skills are one of the top determiners of our life’s success both personally and professionally. I need to identify my child’s weaknesses in how they interact with others and be sure they’re having healthy relationships with people. What type of difficulty does your child have in communicating with others -such as a shyness, poor enunciation, lack of confidence, not giving eye contact, etc? Is there a relationship that is especially in need of mending with your child?)
4. “Favor with God” – Soul Goal (Does your child have a personal relationship with Jesus? What do you see as a weakness in their character that you should be praying about for them and creating opportunities for them to develop regarding that area? What is a passion about God that you could foster – such as missions, or caring about the elderly or helping with babies?)
I try to pick one weakness and one strength in each of these four categories which ends up being eight goals about my kids for the next six months. Then I focus on PRAYING for my kids in those areas as well as PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES for them to grow in those areas. I don’t always share the list with my kids. It just depends on whether I think their knowing about each item would HELP or HINDER their growth in that area, which varies by child and by item.
Then, some summers, when I really have my act together, I show this Bible verse to my kids and have them set their own goals in these categories for the summer. One of the greatest success tools we can give our kids is goal setting. Teach your kids to pray before they begin goal-setting, while they’re goal setting and making a plan, and while they work to implement the plan as you want them to always be seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness in all their endeavors.
THE MOST EFFECTIVE GOALS WILL BE
1. PRAYED OVER BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE GOAL-SETTING SESSION.
2. WRITTEN DOWN. WRITE IT OUT AND GET IT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE REGULARLY. MAYBE HAVE THEM PUT THE LIST ON THEIR BATHROOM MIRROR OR ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND – OR BOTH.
3. INCLUDE A TIMELINE OF ACHIEVABLE LITTLE STEPS ALONG THE WAY. IF YOU ONLY HAVE THE BIG END GOAL, IT MAY STAY TOO UNATTAINABLE. YOU AND YOUR KIDS NEED SOME LITTLE SUCCESSES TO CELEBRATE ALONG THE WAY TOWARD THE BIG GOAL. BESIDES, YOUR KIDS NEED TO KNOW THAT SUCCESS IS IN THE JOURNEY AS MUCH AS IN THE END ACHIEVEMENT. EVEN IF WE NEVER REACH THE END GOAL, WE HAVE SUCCEEDED BY MAKING PROGRESS. ALSO, MOST OF THESE GOALS THAT PERTAIN TO THE FOUR CATEGORIES THAT I SHOWED YOU ABOVE ARE NOT SO LIMITED IN SCOPE AS TO HAVE A SPECIFIC ACHIEVED END.
FOR EXAMPLE, LET’S SAY WE SET A GOAL FOR YOUR CHILD TO BECOME MORE COMPASSIONATE AND EMPATHETIC WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS AS THEIR “FAVOR WITH MAN” GOAL. COMPASSION AND EMPATHY CAN DEFINITELY BE IMPROVED IN LIFE, BUT WE DON’T REALLY REACH FULL ACHIEVEMENT OF TOTALLY COMPASSIONATE AND EMPATHETIC – WE CAN ALWAYS GET BETTER AT IT BUT NEVER FINISH THE TASK COMPLETELY.
That’s why it’s important to have attainable little steps along the way. Such as, if I want my child to be more compassionate and empathetic I might provide some opportunities for my child to help at a food bank or watch a documentary about a child who grew up in a difficult situation or read some books that illustrate what obstacles some people face. There are many great books that would help them grow in empathy; I’ll only mention two: Joni by Joni Eareckson and A Man Called Norman: The Unforgettable Story of an Uncommon Friendship by Mike Adkins. (These books make enjoyable family read-a-louds if your child is too young to read these books on their own. Neither is written to children, but my kids loved them.)
Goal setting doesn’t have to be just in these four categories, but it’s a great place to start because it gives your growing child the perspective that our goals need to be about self-development and about God’s will, not just about our own desires and indulgences. Some of my favorite memories with my children have been times when we’ve gone through this goal setting process together because it has been so incredible to watch God work in their lives in ways they could clearly see that it was HIM at work. We had set such lofty goals, at times, that it would take a miracle for the end result to happen (though the little steps along the way were attainable goals). Let me give you an example.
My son wanted to go on a church youth trip to Chicago that was going to be quite costly and he also was hoping to purchase a guitar. We mapped out the costs of these goals and we brainstormed a list of all the things we could think of that he could do to make money, but he was only 12 so the list was rather limited. I told him, “Now, Nathan, if God wants your goals to be reached, He will provide some opportunities for you, but you need to know that He will expect you to follow through with those income opportunities even if they’re not exactly enjoyable options. So, I think you should tell God ahead of time that you are willing to do the unpleasant if it’s things He wants you to do.
His prayer was something like, ‘God, whatever opportunities you bring my way, I will do them even if I don’t want to. And I only want these goals if You want these goals for me. Please have your will and I will praise you either way.’ ” Would you believe that the next five days straight God had someone call each day with a different job that they wondered if Nathan could do for them?! One was helping out on someone’s farm, another was watching their boys a few days a week for some months, another was mowing lawns, and some other opportunities as well. None of these people had been notified by us and had no idea about Nathan’s goals. It was so faith-building to see God at work in miraculous ways in Nathan’s life! If we don’t set goals that are a little out of reach, we won’t recognize God at work in bringing opportunities. Teach your kids to set big goals but to do so with little attainable steps along the way.