Goal Setting for Children
As dads, and parents in general, our responsibility is to give our kids the tools they need to succeed in this life. We strive to get them to become self-reliant, encourage them to become their own advocates, and help establish values to live by. Another tool at our disposal that will lead to their success is teaching them about goal setting.
My son told me his goal is to simply get better at baseball. What my nine year old lacks in talent, he certainly makes up for in his drive and hard work. He puts in countless hours of baseball in the front yard, always working on his hitting, fielding, and pitching. Then he will go dribble a basketball to work on his ball handling. Not necessarily mindlessly, but certainly not focused on a specific goal.
In the spirit of teaching our kids to fish rather than give them a fish, I decided to take this opportunity to teach him how to set and achieve goals. I told him that practicing is great, however, focusing his practices to improve his skills in a measurable way is the best method to actually get better.
We sat down and went over the general idea of SMART Goals. I explained that actually writing down goals is the best way to stay accountable for them, to have them as a constant reminder. Then we went over the reason we create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Sensitive goals. If you are unfamiliar with this method, there are countless resources online. As it is an incredible method for our personal and work lives to achieve our goals, certainly it can be equally valuable for our children.
I looked online for some printable resource he could hang on his walls. I found something I could use then edited it to fit our needs. You can download it here.
Step 1: Write Down Your SMART Goals
I asked my son to think about five goals, five areas he wants to improve. I did have to tell him that his goals couldn’t all be baseball and that he did have to include reading.
His first goal was certainly specific and measurable. He wants to get better at hitting so he can hit a home run. However, he is nine years old. Few nine year olds are hitting home runs, so I helped him adjust his goals to something achievable that will allow him to hit home runs when he is eventually able and hopefully sooner. We started with a distance goal and a ball exit velocity off his bat, both measurable and achievable thanks to his Scorpions baseball team having the technology. His goal is to hit these metrics by November 1st.
His other goals needed similar adjustments. He had hitting, pitching, basketball shooting, jiu-jitsu, and reading goals. All his goals were right in line with the work he was already putting in, now we are just fine tuning what he needs to do to attain his goals. And importantly, his goals were positive things that he loves to do. His goals are in line with our family ideals of sound mind, sound body, picked up from my time in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.
Step 2: Identifying Steps to Reach Goals
Now we needed to identify steps to reach these goals. Hitting off the tee for hours on end is great, however, he needed to add more components to actually increase his distance and his exit velocity.
We sat down and discussed five things he could do to get closer to his goal. Fortunately, his goals mostly overlap on the physical side so creating an easy body weight workout routine checked off half the work ahead.
His first step is to always give 110% effort at his practices. Ok, for him, this was the low hanging fruit. He doesn’t mess around too much and is more often than not too serious at practice. We are still working on dropping the intensity level just a notch, but it is a useful starting point.
We discussed the physical requirements needed for hitting a home run or pitching 60 miles per hour. Again, he is only nine years old, so heavy weights are unnecessary and out of the question. He currently does two cross-training workouts a week at UFC Gym which are a great opportunity to get stronger using light weights and his own body weight. We added a few things he can do at home when he wakes up or before bed. Simple things kids should be doing anyways: push-ups, planks, running stairs, lunges, and squats. And all these things helps move in forward in all his goals, except for the reading goal which is purely a relaxing, quiet time.
For his technique, he just needed to keep doing what he was doing. Making every practice, playing in the front yard, hitting off the tee, and a little resistance training in his throwing and swinging.
Step 3: Execution
While all of this initially seemed like a lot in my mind, the reality is that he does most of this stuff already. We just needed to write it down, post it on his wall, and focus him on what he was doing. The best part is that he does all of this with his little brother who has incredible mirroring neurons thanks to always watching his older brother. However, now I will be sitting down this week with my six year old to write his goals down which will certainly be an interesting exercise!
Also, of note, all these goals were his personal goals and also goals that his best friend is also working towards. I find it unnecessary to remind him to work on his goals. And his progress seems to reinforce the idea that writing SMART Goals actually improves his performance. This past weekend in a tournament he crushed three balls deep into the outfield…that the outfielders each got under. After being pissed for a few minutes, he moved onto the idea that he needed to keep working to put it over their their heads. Kids crack me up!
Goals for Kids
Despite how it sounds (even in my own head), I am not trying to develop a major league player here. Rather, I am trying to develop a well rounded adult who has the tools needed to succeed in life. My goal as his dad is to give him the tools to succeed in life, to kick this world’s ass, and earn (and deserve) everything he gets. The purpose of this exercise is to help him develop a method he can use for the rest of his life to pursue success. For a nine year old, it happens to be sports related.
If you enjoyed this article, check out Baseball and Mental Toughness and A CIA Officer’s Guide to Teaching Kids Situational Awareness. As always, thanks for your support.