Why You Should Teach Your Teen About Goal Setting

Life moves along a lot quicker than we expect. That means helping your teen prepare for important life events by setting up both short- and long-term goals.

Creating and effectively carrying out a plan is an essential life skill. Start your teen with short, clear tasks that can get them thinking about what they want to do down the road.

Setting Goals

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The practice of setting goals, whether they’re short- or long-term, can be tricky. The more thought and planning your teen puts into them, the better chance they have of meeting their objectives. A good framework for setting goals is by following the criteria for SMART goals:


First, define a clear and simple goal by outlining what your teen hopes to achieve and why it’s important. If it is not specific enough, the success becomes too arbitrary and does not make for as satisfying an item to cross off their list. For example, a specific goal can be getting an A in Math class; it’s important because it ensures your teen will pass high school and move on to university where they can work on the long-term goal of attaining their dream career.


Next, your teen needs to have a way of tracking their progress so they know if they’re making any gains towards accomplishing their goal. You two can work out a list that outlines tasks that should be completed before your teen can move on to the next level.


While your teen might be interested in the general idea of being rich or famous or a Kardashian, those do not make for realistic, attainable goals. Instead, help them determine how they can achieve their goal by considering factors like finance, resources and time.


Your teen should be invested in the goals they set. Make sure it is something relevant to their interests. For example, do they want to learn how to play an instrument or do you want them to? If it’s the latter, your teen won’t be as motivated to achieve their goal because they’ll be working to please you rather than following their own aspirations.


Lastly, you and your teen should set a deadline for meeting their goal. Otherwise, they may let other everyday tasks take precedence over accomplishing this goal. Consider what you both expect to be accomplished within a month, six months or a year.

Developing Good Habits

Some goals will be met and immediately checked off your teen’s list, others are ongoing. They’re behavioral habits that your teen will have to work towards and maintain.

These habit-based goals take patience and dedication. The long-standing myth is that it takes just 21 days to form a new habit, but more recent research shows that it can take around two to eight months to change your behavior. Identify any obstacles or distractions that will keep your teen from developing this new habit, and find workarounds together.

Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

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Often, people will set goals and work towards them for a little while, only to be derailed and forget them completely. There are a few ways to help your teen keep a goal in their sights.

  • Make a vision board with images that remind them of their goal. They can put the board up somewhere where they’ll see it every day, like their bedroom wall.
  • Repeat an affirmation. They can create a positive and inspirational message that they recite daily.
  • Get support. This is where you can be most helpful. Be there to gently push them in the right direction when they get off-track.

Acknowledging the small victories along the way will help encourage them as they go after their long-term education and career goals. Let them know you’re proud of them and that they should be happy with themselves for all they’ve accomplished!

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