The older kids get, the deeper they dive into their own things. My tween and teen sons spend a lot of time exploring their interests. At some point a few months ago, I started to wonder how we could use their interests to start them on the path of being intentional about setting goals.
I think the best approach for setting goals with tweens and teens (or anyone, really) is to keep it low-key, relate it to real life, and make it awesome. So how do we do that?
It started out as a simple conversation. I asked the boys what they were working on in their free time, and what were some goals they wanted to accomplish with those things.
You guys, doesn’t that seem simple? Well, it is simple. But so many times we parents don’t ask. We think about goals as relating to the distant future or college or career planning. We don’t think to have kids relate them to the things they are doing right now.
After my sons had exploded with conversation about the things they were doing in their free time, (and I shared some of what I was working on), we all decided it would be a good idea to write our goals down and post them in a place where everyone could see what we were working on. Then we would check on each other’s progress throughout the week.
I really wasn’t sure if it would work. In fact, I figured it would die out.
You guys. It hasn’t died out. Every Monday morning, my sons and I grab some coffee and settle into a comfy spot. We chill out and chat about the goals we’d set for the last week. Then we set new goals for the week ahead. We write them down. We post them on the message board in the dining room where every one can see our goals and check on what we’re doing.
Why does this method of setting goals seem to work?
Setting Goals: Kids get to talk about what they like.
You might not understand a word of what they’re into, but they sure love to tell you about it. Anyone who has witnessed a kid blow up about their love of Minecraft or Pokemon Go (while you nod your head, completely confused) knows what I’m talking about.
Setting Goals: It helps parents know what’s going on.
Maybe they aren’t just “sitting on the computer all day”. Maybe they’re actually sitting at that computer working on how they can, “launch SB, finish TDSCP, etc.” Yeah, I have no clue what any of that means either—even though he’s explained it—but those things are what my oldest wrote down as his goals for a recent week. It makes sense to him, and it’s what he is working furiously on. That’s all that matters.
When someone hears guitar strings being plunked on in our basement, they might think my youngest is just messing around. As it turns out, he’s actually learning to read tablature to be able to play the electric guitar better. He wants to be able to play the songs he’s hearing in games and on the radio, and he’s taking the matter into his own hands. Who knew?
You will, if you ask them.
Setting Goals: It helps kids know more about parents.
Kids generally aren’t all that concerned with how you’re spending your time. All they know is that you’re busy doing stuff. What my boys have learned from this whole setting goals thing is that there are a lot of things on my goal list that they actually know more about than me and can offer help. (Technology, anyone?) They have suggested so many things to me over the past couple months to make my goals easier to reach that I’m sure I would be miles behind if I hadn’t let them in on some of the things I personally want to accomplish.
Setting Goals: It creates points of conversation.
Since we started our little chat sessions about setting goals, do you know how many times one of my sons has asked me, “so, mom, how is it going with your ____?” Do you know how nice it is to be able to turn to my sons and ask, “did you ever find a site with the tablature for _____ ?” or “how is the coding going for your new game about ____?”
Setting Goals: It helps you know how to help each other.
While online recently, I saw an ad for a music instruction app. Had I not known my son was looking for more guitar based stuff, I would have never known to tell him about it. My sons have also heard about things that I’m wanting to improve on or learn about or add to my life and they will say, “You know what I saw in this book/movie/website? That might help you, Mom.”
Setting Goals: It helps to define “specific” and “attainable”.
When we first started with setting goals, my sons would make broad goals like “YouTube stuff” or “play guitar better”. We spent some time talking about the broadness of those goals, and how it’s hard to figure out if you’ve met them if there is nothing specific to point to. We’re working on making our goals specific: “upload two game play videos and update the information on my home page” or “look up the music for the Don’t Starve theme song and try to master the first 16 measures of it on the guitar.” We’ve also worked hard on setting attainable goals. That means looking at what else you have going on and what materials you have available to you during that week. We want the goal to be something to work for, but not something so out of reach for that week that you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Setting Goals: It is a time management tool.
In order to meet the goals that have been set, one needs to learn time management. Using your time wisely is such a hugely important life skill, and it’s great practice to work on it using things you’re already invested in. How do you need to arrange the free time you have so you can meet the goals you’ve set? And when things come up (because Life happens), how do you need to reconfigure your time to still meet those goals?
Setting Goals: It makes you accountable.
Sure, it helps your kids to be accountable, but believe me when I say it really helps you to be inspired to get your stuff done. There is something really refreshing about showing up to our Monday morning chill out and knowing you can say you met a lot (if not all) of your goals. There here have been plenty of times I wanted to let a goal slip by unmet out of pure laziness…but I knew that my sons would hound me (in good nature, of course) about why I hadn’t accomplished it. If my sons pop into my office and catch me chatting on Facebook with someone for the 7th time that day, you’d better believe they’re going to ask me how my goals are coming along.
And they should.
Setting goals with tweens and teens doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does work best when it relates to things they are already interested in. Help your kids to succeed in setting goals by keeping it low key, and relating it to things they’re already doing. And don’t forget to have some transparency and let your kids know about your goals, too. A family that sets goals together can help each other meet them.