Mid-school-year can be a challenging time for students and families. Often, academics begin to feel like a drag as the long countdown to summer break begins. Helping your child set academic goals can help freshen up their feelings about school while building an important life skill. Goal setting can help students feel more in control of their academics, and in turn, can lead to better study and work habits. Here’s how to get started helping your child become a lifelong goal-setter:
Helping Your Tween or Teen Set Academic Goals
Step 1: The brainstorm
Sit down with your child and help them brainstorm the academic areas they want to improve. Write down all their ideas and don’t strike any down just yet—this is an opportunity for your student to get all their thoughts on paper so that they can narrow them down later.
Once your child has written down all the areas they would like to improve, ask them to circle the ones they think are the most important at the moment. Looking at the circled ideas, see if there are any common themes or if one idea sticks out as something they want to target with their goal writing.
Step 2: Writing an actionable and measurable short-term goal
Once your child focuses in on what they want to achieve, it’s time to write a goal. Ask them to draft a goal for themselves based on the idea that they chose. It’s okay if their first draft isn’t perfect. Once it’s written, you can review the written statement with your child to make sure it’s realistic, measurable, and actionable. You may have heard the term SMART goal, that’s what we’re looking for here.
To test whether the goal is realistic, make sure the aim is something that stretches your child while still being within reach.
To test measurability, ask “how will you know, without a doubt, when you’ve accomplished this?” Your student should be able to answer with a specific measurement that they can use (like when I get an A on the test, or when I turn in my homework for a whole week). If the goal is not measurable, make suggestions on ways your child can make adjustments.
To test whether the goal is actionable, ask “what steps can you take to make this happen?” If they aren’t able to give solid actions, help them edit the goal to be more actionable.
Finally, you need to make sure the goal is short-term. Anything that can be accomplished in the next few days to the next few months is a great place to start. If your child is new to goal setting, it might be a good idea to start them out with an objective that takes less than a month to accomplish. If you’re working with an experienced goal setter, it’s perfectly okay to let them set an aim for the quarter.
Examples of well-written goals:
- I will get a B+ or higher on my math test next week.
- I will turn in all my homework assignments on time for five days straight.
- I will get an A or higher in social studies for the third quarter.
- I will write in my planner every day for two weeks.
Step 3: Outlining an action plan
Now that your child has a well-written goal in hand, it’s time for them to make a plan to accomplish it. Have them list out the actions they will need to take in order to make their goal a reality. Try to keep the list between three and ten items, as listing more action steps could become overwhelming.
Have your students put the sheet with their goal and action items in a safe place where they can access it daily to ensure they’re taking the needed steps to get where they want to go.
Step 4: Staying accountable and making adjustments
As your child sets out to accomplish their goal, it’s important that they stay accountable. You can promote accountability by checking in with them daily or weekly to see how they feel they’re progressing. Ask your child what they think they’re doing well from their action list and what they think they can improve upon. Check-ins are also a great opportunity to make adjustments to the goal or action steps if needed.
What if my child doesn’t achieve their goal?
Even if your child doesn’t achieve their academic goal, the process was still valuable, and chances are they’re better off than when they started. Whether your student achieves their goal or not, it’s important to help them reflect on their goal and the actions they took to achieve it. You might ask things like: Would they write their goal differently next time? Is there something they could have done better? Is there something they did really well throughout the process? Are they better off now than before? This reflection will help your child become a better goal setter and highlight the value in their process—even if they didn’t get the result they were hoping for.
Once your student achieves their academic goal, or the time frame is up, it’s time to write a new one. As your child gets the hang of writing goals, let them take more control over the process.
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