MOTIVATING KIDS THROUGH GOAL-SETTING
"WHAT CAN YOU DO TODAY TO MOVE TOWARDS YOUR GOAL?"
This is such an important question to ask our children! Not only does it remind them of the importance of planning and goal-setting, but it helps them prioritize and connect daily tasks to the bigger goal.
As the changing COVID-19 regulations send parents and school districts scrambling for safe and effective plans for students’ return to learning in the fall, the question that I see most often in my social media feed is “How do I keep my child motivated while homeschooling, hybrid-schooling, or online-schooling?”
For one, most likely, your child wasn’t very motivated at school either, so the real challenge is not to keep them motivated, but rather to begin to motivate them. But that’s an entirely different story.
To understand how to get kids to be excited about schoolwork, it is important to remember that motivation is closely connected to goal-setting.
Children are unmotivated when they don’t understand WHY they are being required to complete tasks and assignments that seem to them disconnected from reality.
Two ways to remedy the situation are:
1) Help kids make connections between things that they are learning today and their future career goals. If your kids don’t yet know what they want to do when they grow up, this is an excellent chance to start the conversation. Whether you're parenting a toddler or a teen, keep in mind that kids’ career goals can change frequently - sometimes daily - and that’s absolutely fine! If you welcome your child’s career exploration and dare to dream with them, you can provide them with invaluable guidance as they “try on” different professions. All too often I encounter parents who shut down their children's dreams by pointing out that a certain career choice “requires too much schooling”, or “is in a niche field”, or “doesn’t guarantee a good salary”. I understand that parents mean well in their attempts to warn their kids about the hurdles that they will encounter on the paths to achieving their goals, but all too often the parents’ warnings come off as reproaches. I’ve worked with so many teens who were motivated while they considered the careers of their dreams, only to be told by their parents that their choices were less than desirable and, as a result, lose all motivation for learning!
2) Align yourself with your child, not the requirements. As parents, we’ve all come across an assignment that is, what I call, “unjustifiable”. It is so redundant and unnecessary that there’s no way to make a connection between the task and present or future reality. Yet, there’s no way around the requirement. In this case, as a parent - and as a tutor - I always align myself with the student, acknowledging that the assignment or requirement is ridiculous, but that such is life and we all, at times, encounter tasks that we resent yet must complete. I also remind kids that we need to maintain a healthy balance in learning and in life. We must make sure that such soul-draining tasks are few and that, ideally, the actions that we take every day should connect to create a bigger picture and help us achieve our monthly and yearly goals.
Remember, too, that "doing well in school", "getting all As", or "maintaining a high GPA" are not end-goals. Rather, they are means to achieving a bigger goal. As parents, we need to help our kids backtrack from the end-goal - "becoming an astronaut" - to the present day by showing them how to break down the path into micro-goals and meaningful daily actionable steps. The beauty of this approach is in the fact that, when backtracking, we invariably conclude that the next actionable steps to achieving the end-goal are maintaining a certain GPA and, generally speaking, "doing well in school" (although "doing well" is so vague that it cannot be considered a true goal). By walking this path with our children from the future big picture to the present tiny next step, we hand over to our kids the responsibility for working towards the goal. If we involve our children in goal-setting, we won't need to make sure that they stay artificially motivated while learning. They will be eager to do so in order to advance to the goal that they themselves have set.
The 2020-21 academic school year is just around the corner. LET’S SET SOME S.M.A.R.T. GOALS!