Our 5 Step Guide to Goal Setting with Your Kids

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In one of my favorite TedxTalks of all time, thirteen year old hackschooler Logan LaPlante begins his presentation with a really inspiring observation:

“When you’re a kid, you get asked this one particular question a lot, it really gets kind of annoying. What do you want to be when you grow up? Now, adults are hoping for answers like, ‘I want to be an astronaut,’ or ‘I want to be a neurosurgeon.’ You adults and your imaginations!

…But if you ask a little kid, sometimes you’ll get the best answer, something so simple, so obvious and really profound. When I grow up, I want to be happy.

— Logan LaPlante

 

Can’t that be a worthy goal for your child– to be happy?

Logan goes on to talk about how our society doesn’t focus on cultivating happiness in young people. Traditional schools make all students learn in largely the same way, know the same things, have the same skills, and achieve the same learning goals.

But what if you could help your child center her learning on her deepest and most wanted goals for herself?

It’s not an easy task, but we believe that is the true vocation of education: to cultivate a meaningful and happy life.

When people ask us how our learners structure their day, I tell them that the backbone to our learning is helping our learners to set clear long term goals for themselves.

For example, every few months Felix will end his learning cycle and we will help him evaluate his long term goals. Right now he has seven main goals: Be Happy, Be a Role Model, Be Influential, Be Tolerant, Have Friends, Lead a Meaningful Life, and Be Creative.

Now that we have his goals in place we can evaluate the rest of his learning based on these goals.

But how did he come to these goals in the first place? How can you help your child to set long term goals for herself? We have some helpful ideas below that you can use with your child:

  1. Set Goals as a Family
    A great way to help your child set goals is to be a role model and set goals as a family. Find out what your long term goals are for yourself, write them down, and post them somewhere prominent. Have a family meeting and begin discussing what kind of impact your family wants to have on the world. Hang it somewhere everyone can see and take steps to achieve your goals.
  2. Start with the End in Mind
    Ask your kid to imagine her life in 50 years, 25 years, 10 years. What does it look like? Instead of saying, “What do you want to do?” take her through a guided visualization of her future. Be creative and whimsical (it’s okay to say she lives on Mars, for instance) but try to come to a sense of how she wants to feel about herself. What does she want other people to say about her? Does she want to be happy or creative? Does she want to be powerful or caring? This exercise can help uncover deeper emotions and goals.
  3. Choose BE over DO
    A lot of adults fall into the idea trap that a career choice defines children’s dreams and aspirations. Instead of,  “what do you want to do when you grow up?,” ask, “who do you want to be when you grow up?” In reality, our children are multi-passionate, creative, and have complex ideas for their own future. Simple answers like neurosurgeon or lawyer don’t do justice to where young people might want to go in their lives. Encourage choices like: solve complex problems, help the world, and lead a meaningful life. These are the true underlying goals that can manifest in many different career paths.
  4. Encourage the Outlandish
    Especially for younger kids, give them the the freedom to be bold and unique. For a long time one of Felix’s long term goals was to have his own island. If you teach your kid that she can achieve anything, she will grow to be confident and independent people. It’s also a great motivator. Felix can see how learning English or algebra will help take him to his goal of owning an island.
  5. Give it Time
    Setting long term goals with your child takes a long time. Don’t expect it to be a one-time conversation! Over a series of months or years have deep, real discussions with your child about her life and who she wants to become. You must show your child that helping her achieve her real goals is something you care about and want to help her to do.

It’s a difficult process to set goals with your kids, but it is definitely worthwhile. It’s easier to guide your life if you have a clear compass pointing to your true North.

Keep reaching for the stars,

Kassandra

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