Setting Back-To-School Goals

Helping Your Kids Manage the New School Year

young girl with gold star in classroom
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Getting ready to go back to school should involve more than just going through a checklist and making sure your child has all the right supplies in her backpack. It also involves making sure your child has the right mindset and some idea of what it is she wishes to accomplish during the school year. Setting back-to-school goals is an activity that can help your child become a more self-directed learner and improve her motivation and independence.

It's a great way to bond with your kids before the new school year starts.

The Importance of Setting Goals

Setting goals is an important part of your child gaining some independence and realizing he has some control over his own life. When your child begins to decide for himself what he wants to accomplish, he'll be motivated to complete things for his own satisfaction, rather than for the satisfaction of others or for tangible rewards. Below are some tips for helping your kids set their own educational goals.

Define the Word "Goal"

It will be hard for your child to set goals if she doesn’t know what a goal is. She may know that in soccer or hockey, a goal is when a player gets the ball into the net, so that’s a good place to start the explanation. Let your child know that when a player gets a goal it’s the end result of a lot of hard work. It took a lot of trying and maneuvering for him to reach that goal.

Using that idea as a base, you can help your child understand life and learning goals. You can say something like:

The goal is where the soccer players wants to get to in the end. The word "goal" can be used to describe where you want to get to or what you want to get done, too. Setting a goal means to plan something you want to be able to do better or understand better.

Don’t Just Talk, Listen

Your goal in the goal-setting exercise is having your child decide for herself what’s important for her to achieve. So it’s more important to listen than to talk. You can give your child some example of goals you’ve set for yourself, and you can suggest to her some of the things that she does well and where you see room for improvement, but let her tell you about herself. Ask questions like: Is there anything that you’re worried will be hard for you? I noticed you’ve learned how to ___________. What would you like to do next with that skill?

Provide the Language for Goal-Setting

Teaching kids how to talk about their goals is key in getting them to understand their goals. The language of goal-setting can be broken down almost into a formula:

I want to [do this] by [when]. I already know how to [related skills].

Help Refine Unrealistic Goals

Sometimes your child may have lofty goals that you’re not sure they’re going to be able to meet. Instead of telling them you don’t think they can do it, you can help to refine these goals into smaller, related goals. For example, if your child says he’s going to learn how to play ice hockey and doesn’t yet know how to skate, you may want to suggest he makes learning how to skate an initial goal.

 Help your child break down his goal into the smaller steps (or skills) that are needed to get to the bigger goal.

Create a Visual Reminder of Goals

A visual reminder can take many forms. For kids who need to focus on the steps, it can be very helpful to use a worksheet that has a goal on top and a ladder on which to list the steps to the goal. You can also use other goal-setting worksheets or help your child make a goal board—one that looks like a soccer goals is a great visual—or you can simply ask him to write down his goals.

  • Goal Ladder worksheet

  • Make a goal board

Note Progress and Success

Help your child keep track of how she’s coming along toward her goals. Take a look at the goal ladder with her and mark off any steps she’s accomplished. When the goal itself is achieved, take it off the goal board or list and celebrate!