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How to Help a Child Set Goals?

Tornike Asatiani - Co-founder & COO of Edumentors

In the kaleidoscope of childhood, passions flourish, dreams bloom, and interests multiply. As parents, guiding our children through this vibrant, evolving landscape involves more than steering them toward what we perceive as beneficial. It’s about nurturing their unique interests, fostering resilience, and arming them with the skill to navigate their path forward. This path is paved with goals, individual milestones that fuel growth, inspire confidence, and shape the contours of a fulfilled life.

Why Teach Children to Set Goals?

Understanding the importance of goal-setting is crucial as it provides children with a sense of purpose and control over their own lives. Goal-setting is not merely about achieving specific targets; it’s a vital skill that can shape a child’s life in significant ways. It is, in essence, the first step in helping them transition from being passive participants in their lives to becoming active, responsible individuals shaping their own destinies.

Teenagers Reaching Their Academic Goal

One of the primary benefits of teaching children to set goals is that it fosters a sense of self-direction and self-motivation. When children learn to set their own goals, they are essentially learning to chart their course. This sense of ownership can be a powerful motivator, prompting them to work towards their objectives with enthusiasm and determination.

Furthermore, goal-setting helps children to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. As they break down their larger goals into manageable steps, they learn to approach complex tasks systematically. They learn to anticipate potential hurdles and think strategically about ways to overcome them.

Moreover, goal-setting can boost a child’s self-esteem. Achieving a goal they have set for themselves gives them a sense of accomplishment and boosts their confidence. It teaches them that their efforts can lead to success, reinforcing their belief in their capabilities.

In the long run, goal-setting helps children prepare for adulthood by instilling essential life skills. As they grow older, they will face more complex challenges and responsibilities. The skills learned through setting and achieving their goals—such as planning, perseverance, problem-solving, and resilience—will be invaluable as they navigate these challenges.

Teaching your children to set goals isn’t just about achieving specific outcomes. It’s about equipping them with the skills and attitudes they need to succeed in life, fostering a sense of self-determination, and nurturing their potential.

Guide, Do Not Dictate!

When it comes to raising children who are goal-driven, resourceful, and passionate, the role of parents is integral. However, this role should be one of guidance and support rather than dictatorship. As parents, it is our instinct to ensure the best for our kids, but this doesn’t mean imposing our dreams and ambitions on them. It’s vital to let children explore their own interests, recognise their talents, and decide what they want to achieve. By asking open-ended questions about their interests and supporting their aspirations, we help them identify their goals – not what we think their goals should be. Remember, the ultimate objective is to equip our children with the skill of setting and pursuing goals, a tool that will serve them in all walks of life.

Nurture Children’s Passions

As children grow and begin to discover the world around them, they start developing specific interests. Whether it’s dinosaurs, piano, coding, or writing, every child has a unique passion that excites them. Our task as parents is to guide our children in channeling these interests into achievable goals.

Asking your children questions about what they love to do, who they admire, or what qualities they aspire to have can be instrumental in helping them set meaningful goals. For instance, if your child loves to play guitar and admires a famous musician, their goal could be to learn a song from their idol by the end of the month. This personalised approach to goal setting not only provides motivation but also makes the journey towards achievement enjoyable and rewarding.

However, there could be instances when we may disagree with our child’s choice of goals. It is crucial to tread gently in these circumstances, offering guidance and suggesting alternatives without curtailing their enthusiasm. By supporting our children in the pursuit of their chosen goals, we empower them and build their confidence. And, who knows, they may end up discovering talents and passions they never knew they had, just as the teenager who desired to create a YouTube channel ended up discovering a love for video editing. Remember, our role is to nurture our children’s passions, allowing them to transform their interests into meaningful and achievable goals.

Steps to Achieving Goals

Just as a builder needs a blueprint to construct a building, children require a clear plan to achieve their goals. This is where understanding the difference between long-term goals and intermediate steps becomes essential. We must teach our children how to break down their bigger objectives into manageable, bite-sized pieces, thereby enabling them to make continuous progress without feeling overwhelmed.

Take, for example, a child with a goal to run a 5K. Instead of focusing solely on the end goal, it’s crucial to map out incremental steps towards it. This could involve starting with shorter distances, gradually increasing the mileage, and incorporating strength and flexibility exercises to prevent injury.

Teenagers Running - Setting Goals

Encourage your child to take charge of their goal by asking them what the next step might be. Do they need to research more about the topic? Should they practice a skill? Or perhaps, is there a small task they can complete to move them closer to their goal? By asking the right questions, you enable your child to take ownership of their goal and also learn the crucial skill of strategic planning.

Remember, it’s not just about achieving the goal itself. The journey holds equal significance. Through this process, your child will learn invaluable life skills like perseverance, patience, resilience, and the satisfaction of seeing their hard work bear fruit. The process of crafting the blueprint towards their goals will arm them with tools that they will continue to use throughout their lives.

Progress Check-ins: The Power of Encouragement

Frequent progress check-ins are not just about assessing how far your child has come in achieving their goals; they’re also about reinforcing their commitment, boosting their morale, and nurturing a growth mindset. It is essential to create a safe and encouraging space for these check-ins, where your child feels comfortable sharing their victories, no matter how small, and their obstacles, regardless of how big.

Think back to the simple Sunday tradition of eating blueberry muffins and discussing goals. While it may seem small, it provided a routine, familiar platform for open dialogue about progress, setbacks, and learnings. You can create similar moments in your own household; it might be during a weekly drive to their sports practice, during bedtime routines, or even while cooking dinner together.

During these check-ins, strive to be more of a mirror reflecting your child’s thoughts rather than a problem solver. When they express concerns or setbacks, validate their feelings, reiterate what they’re saying to show understanding, and guide them towards finding their own solutions. This not only empowers them but also helps in developing their problem-solving skills.

In moments of frustration or perceived failure, remind them that it’s a part of the process, a stepping stone towards success. Even in the face of obstacles, a comforting word or two of encouragement can motivate them to keep going. At the same time, remain patient and supportive even when things are not going as planned. By doing so, you model an attitude of resilience and tenacity, showing them that it’s okay to stumble and, most importantly, to pick themselves up and try again.

Building Resilience

In the journey of pursuing goals, it’s inevitable that children will encounter obstacles. These hurdles, while challenging, provide essential opportunities for children to develop resilience, a vital attribute for personal growth and overall success in life.

Resilience, or the ability to bounce back from adversity, is not an innate trait but a skill that can be cultivated. As parents, guiding your children through the process of overcoming obstacles can enhance their resilience and foster an enduring spirit of tenacity.

Firstly, it’s important to create an environment where it’s okay to fail. When children understand that failure is a natural part of the learning process, they are more likely to take risks and step out of their comfort zones. Reiterate that success is not about perfection but progress and that every misstep is a stepping stone towards achieving their goals.

Next, encourage problem-solving. Instead of jumping in to fix the problem, guide your child through the process of identifying the issue, brainstorming possible solutions, and implementing an action plan. This not only empowers them to tackle their challenges head-on but also develops their critical thinking skills.

Offer emotional support during challenging times. Obstacles can be emotionally draining. As a parent, being a pillar of emotional support can help your child navigate through these trying periods. Listen empathetically to their frustrations, provide comfort, and reaffirm your faith in their abilities.

Lastly, model resilience in your actions. Children often learn more from what they see than what they hear. When you face adversity in your life, use it as a teaching opportunity. Show them how you cope with disappointments, adapt to changes, and persist in the face of challenges.

The journey towards achieving a goal is often filled with bumps and detours. However, each obstacle presents a valuable opportunity for your child to grow stronger and more resilient. Through overcoming obstacles, they learn that persistence and determination are key drivers of success. And it’s these very experiences that build their character and shape them into resilient, goal-oriented individuals.

Celebrating Every Win

Mother and a GCSE Student Celebrating Good Mock Results

The final, yet crucial, step in the goal-setting process is celebrating every win. It’s not just about crossing the finish line, but acknowledging the hard work, persistence, and resilience that led to the achievement. This step is often referred to as the “Cheerleader Effect“, where the role of a parent transforms into that of a cheerleader, bolstering their child’s confidence and reinforcing positive behavior.

Firstly, it’s essential to acknowledge every achievement, no matter how small. Did your child just complete a tricky maths problem they’ve been struggling with? Or maybe they finally tidied their room without being asked. These might seem like small accomplishments, but they signify progress towards bigger goals and should be celebrated.

As you celebrate these wins, use it as an opportunity to provide positive feedback. Highlight your child’s efforts and the qualities they’ve exhibited. Did they display perseverance, creativity, or initiative? Let them know, and they’ll be more likely to repeat these behaviors in the future.

It’s also important to allow your child to revel in their success. Children need to feel a sense of pride in their achievements. This sense of accomplishment can boost their self-esteem and motivate them to set new goals and reach for greater heights.

Lastly, remember to join in the celebration. Share in their excitement and joy, let them know how proud you are, and reinforce that their hard work paid off. This can create a positive association with goal achievement, encouraging them to continue setting and pursuing goals in the future.

The Cheerleader Effect is more than just a celebration. It’s about reinforcing positive behaviors, instilling a sense of pride, and encouraging further goal-setting. As a parent, your enthusiastic support can be the motivating force that propels your child to reach their full potential. So put on your cheerleader hat, and let’s celebrate every win.


In the course of every child’s life, they will set countless goals and dreams. Some may seem fantastical, others purely pragmatic, but all are vital stepping stones on the path to their unique potential. As parents, our role is not to dictate what those goals should be, but to guide our children, providing the tools and encouragement they need to chart their own course towards success.

Remember, the journey of goal-setting isn’t a straight path, but a winding trail filled with trials, triumphs, setbacks, and victories. This journey helps them develop crucial life skills such as resilience, grit, and the confidence to face challenges head-on. It’s a journey of self-discovery where they realize their strengths, capabilities, and areas of growth.

There’s something incredibly empowering about being able to set a goal, break it down into manageable steps, navigate through obstacles, and finally achieve what was set out. This empowerment can propel them towards not only academic success, but success in all realms of life.

If your child needs some extra support in their academic journey, Edumentors can provide that helping hand. Edumentors is an online tutoring platform staffed by tutors who are students at top UK universities. These tutors, having recently navigated the path your child is now on, can offer insight, guidance, and the secrets to their own success. They can teach your child not just the subject matter, but also how to study effectively, how to set achievable goals, and most importantly, how to believe in their own potential.

Remember, every big dream begins with a small goal. Let’s empower our children to dream big, set goals, and build the confidence to reach their potential. With your guidance and the support of platforms like Edumentors, there’s no limit to what they can achieve. Let’s help them explore the vast landscape of their capabilities and watch as they create their own unique path to success.


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