Teaching Children About Goals

Mormon FamilyGoal setting can prepare your children for a productive and meaningful life. This family night lesson will help them begin to set goals.

Learn how to hold a family night.

Give each child—or have him make—something that symbolizes progress, such as a road, a ladder, or a mountain. He will write the steps to the goal on each division, with the goal itself at the top or the end.

Ask each family member, including parents, to come to this family night with a goal written down or drawn. This should be a goal that is important and will take a long time to complete. During the week, meet individually with children to help them choose their goal. It should be a goal they are willing to share with others.

Plan a project that everyone can work on together that can be done thoughtlessly or with planning. As an example, you might give each person a stack of blocks or building toys and ask them to start putting them into a central area one at a time very fast. They are all putting them together as if they were working together to build something. However, they are not to talk about what they’re doing and the time limit should be so short there is no time to think.

When you’re finished, ask them what they built. Most likely, it won’t be anything at all. Now undo what was done and invite them to work together to plan something they could build as a group. Let them build it.

When the project is complete, ask the family what made the difference between the two projects. The difference was planning. They set a goal, made a plan, and worked together to carry it out.

Ask your family what their lives would be like if they never made plans or set goals. Most likely, they wouldn’t get very far in life. They’d never learn anything, improve, or grow.

Show a sign with this information on it:

“Life is an adventure, full of joys and sorrows. Your life is what you make of it—your values and attitude affect your actions and reactions in all aspects of life. Making changes and improving is what life is all about. Setting goals and making plans according to your values is essential to change. Having the vision of what you want to do keeps you not only inspired but on track. The need to change needs to be strong enough to carry you through the process. With specific things to do you will gain a sense of confidence and self-worth. Remember that change takes not only effort but also commitment.” (Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.)

If you did the family night lesson on education outlined on this website, remind your children of the letters they wrote to themselves. They wrote a description of what they want their lives to look like when they are twenty-five. If you didn’t do this activity, have your family do it now. Those over twenty-five should choose another future age.

When your family is finished, ask them how likely it is they will be living that way if they don’t set goals. Tell them that today you’re going to help them set goals to make life a true adventure and increase the chances they will live the life they want to live.

Help them understand goals can also help them overcome their weaknesses and sins, as well as to help them achieve their dreams. Without goals, there is no movement and life stands still.

Give each person a copy of the chart you made earlier. We will use a mountain drawing as an example.

At the top of your mountain, write a goal you want to achieve. Tell your family this is your goal, and it’s at the top of the mountain. However, you can’t just wish yourself to the top of a mountain. You have to work to get there. In goal-setting, the climb consists of intermediate goals.

Draw several lines coming out of various points on one side of the mountain. Let’s say your goal is to write a book. The markers along the way might include:

Read three books on how to write a book.

Talk to a friend who is a writer.

Choose a topic for the book through study, thought, and prayer.

Outline the book.

Choose a time to write each day and decide how much you will accomplish toward the book each day.

Begin writing.

As you add each step to the path up the mountain, you can point out there may be even smaller steps between these larger ones, such as finding out which books are best to read, and then purchasing or borrowing them. As you begin your work, you may find you need to add steps, perhaps finding additional books to help you with the writing segments that are hard for you.

There may also be setbacks. You might decide to write a chapter a week, but then get sick or have an emergency that will prevent you from writing for a while. You may realize you’ve chosen the wrong topic and have to start over. Show them the goal at the top of the mountain isn’t really the end—there will be a whole new mountain involved in getting published. But without this plan, the book will never get written at all.

Invite each child to write the goal he chose at the top of his mountain. Give each person several strips of paper on which to write the steps. This allows them to make changes or alter the order for a while before gluing them on. Work with your family to help them identify the steps involved in completing their goal. Suggest they also create a timeline for completing each step, writing in pencil the target date. Having it in pencil will keep them from giving up when a deadline isn’t met. They can simply erase it and write in a new date. If they don’t know how long it will take, have them pencil in only the first date, adding the others as they complete each step.

Although the goal at the top of the mountain may seem very large and impossible, the small steps make it seem manageable. Every giant task has many small steps, and focusing on only one step at a time makes it seem less overwhelming. A 250 page book may seem like too much, but an author can only write one page at a time, and a single page is very manageable. If only one page were written each day but Sunday, the first draft would be done in less than a year. This can be applied to any goal if the goal-setter creates small, non-intimidating steps.

Give each person this handout, containing advice from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.

Use “S. M. A. R. T. goals” that can ensure success:

  • Specific—clear and concise
  • Measurable—subject to evaluation in order to determine progress
  • Attainable—realistic and achievable
  • Relevant—important to the overall vision and purpose

Once a month, invite family members to show how their mountain is coming along. Invite them to create other mountains for their personal goals, but remind them not to be realistic. It’s unlikely they can learn writing, painting, baseball, soccer, music, and skydiving all at once. It’s better to focus on a few goals at a time.

  • Time-bound—a beginning and projected duration
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