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Considering fewer than one in ten people achieve their goals, teaching children to set effective goals while they’re young can be very advantageous to them in the future. What’s more, with the constant uncertainty of the economy and job market, we all want our kids to be prepared to be competitive job candidates in the future, and learning how to set SMART goals will help them get that extra boost they need.
We have talked a lot about setting goals–and more specifically, setting SMART goals–but we usually only think of the goals we are setting for ourselves as adults. But if we want our kids to grow up having a growth mindset–recognizing that with hard work and dedication, they can always achieve a bit more–we need to also focus on teaching kids how to set SMART goals. After all, parents play an important role in demonstrating and teaching children how to set goals for themselves.
So in this article, we are going to look at 10 SMART goals that are geared toward a younger audience. But first, we will review what SMART goals are and talk a bit more about why it’s important to teach this concept to children, and then we will get into the examples.
Let’s start by reviewing what SMART goals are.
What Is a SMART Goal?
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. And the great thing about the SMART goal method is that it can be used for any kind of goal from building confidence as a child to retiring early as an adult (and everything that happens in the meantime). This is because the SMART goal method teaches people how to break their large ambitions down into bite-sized, actionable steps that they can realistically follow through with, meaning they will be more likely to reach their goals.
Let’s look at each component of a SMART goal:
Goals that follow the SMART goal method will help children organize their goals in order to take that first, second, third (etc.) steps so they can achieve them.
Why Should Kids Set SMART Goals?
As parents, we want to teach our kids life skills that actually matter, and learning how to create targets for what we want to achieve gives us a vital sense of direction in a life that can otherwise become very…routine.
Setting goals and following through with them can be especially difficult for kids because their mindset is not set on the future like it is for us as adults. Children can be easily distracted from focusing on working toward their goals because it’s difficult for them to recognize the impact that their actions of today may have on tomorrow.
When kids develop the skill of setting SMART goals, it gives them a confidence boost and offers a sense of purpose as they make progress toward their accomplishments. Setting SMART goals also helps children focus and make positive choices about their future. Finally, following the SMART goal method can help keep kids motivated to achieve whatever they’re aiming for as they hit their smaller milestones along the way.
One thing to keep in mind when teaching your children how to set SMART goals is to make sure that you’re allowing them to set their own goals. You want your child to be intrinsically motivated and have a true desire to reach their goal, so while you can help him or her brainstorm and consider some things they want for their future, it’s important to ultimately allow them to make that choice. This will also allow them to have a sense of ownership over their subsequent actions that they take to be successful.
Now that we know why we want to teach kids how to set SMART goals, let’s look at some examples. If you find an example that you believe your child could relate to, you can use it as a framework and alter the details accordingly.
10 SMART Goals Examples for Kids
1. “I will increase my reading Lexile level from 620 to 820 by the last day of third grade in order to finish the year near the top of my class. To accomplish this, I will read for 30 minutes a day during the week and 45 minutes a day on the weekends.”
S: This statement addresses what the child will do to reach the goal, why he wants to do it, and when he will be taking action.
M: This goal can be measured throughout the year by testing where the student’s Lexile is at any given time.
A: This is an achievable goal, as a Lexile score of 820 is within the normal range for a 3rd grader.
R: All students need to learn to read to be successful in school, so this is a relevant goal.
T: The deadline for this goal is the last day of 3rd grade.
2. “I will make an extra $10 in allowance by the end of the month so I can afford to buy a new game. I’ll do this by asking for more responsibilities at home such as feeding the dog and taking out the trash.”
S: This child will be doing additional chores to reach their goal so he can buy a game he wants by the end of the month.
M: This goal can be measured throughout the month by counting how much additional money the child has made versus what he usually makes (or would otherwise make, had he not done additional chores).
A: This is an age-dependent achievable goal, and the numbers can be changed easily depending on the child and circumstance.
R: Children need to learn to take responsibility for working for things they want, and most children have their eye on something they don’t have, so this is a relevant goal.
T: The deadline for this goal is the last day of the month.
3. “I will get an A in Science class this year so one day I can help find cures for chronic diseases. I will do this by reviewing my material for 30 minutes every night and meeting with my teacher as needed.”
S: This child will be spending extra time on his Science homework and projects in order to end the year with an A, which will then set him up to continue to be successful in Science class as he advances.
M: This goal can be measured throughout the year by keeping track of test, quiz, and project grades.
A: This is an achievable goal, as long as the child takes the appropriate steps and meets his milestones.
R: This is a relevant goal because the child clearly wants to be a scientist when he grows up. Studies have found that children are often more successful in their learning when they recognize that their knowledge can benefit other people, which is true in this case.
T: The deadline for this goal is the end of the year.
4. “I will attend 4 out of 5 birthday parties that I am invited to this year to help me make new friends and overcome my shyness.”
S: This child will be attending more social events with other children in order to get used to being around new people and being in new environments. In order to do this, she is going to accept invitations to other children’s birthday parties to give herself a chance to be social.
M: This goal can be measured throughout the year by keeping track of the ratio of invitations she is accepting vs. declining and even counting the number of close friends she has made as a result of going to birthday parties.
A: This is an achievable goal, as kids’ birthday parties are plentiful, so there will be many opportunities.
R: This is a relevant goal as children are developing their social skills during their younger years.
T: The deadline for this goal is the end of the year.
5. “I want to run a mile in under 10 minutes in P.E. during our end-of-semester exam. I will do this by practicing running a mile each week, decreasing my time by 15 seconds per week.”
S: This child plans to run a mile in under 10 minutes by the end of the semester by pushing himself a bit further every week to take time off of his run.
M: This goal can be measured throughout the semester by timing his weekly runs and watching his progress.
A: This is an achievable goal that can be easily adjusted to meet a child’s individual needs.
R: Children all need to participate in P.E. to set themselves up for a healthy future, so this goal is relevant.
T: The deadline for this goal is the end of the semester.
6. “I will practice playing my instrument for at least 20 minutes per day over the summer and memorize five songs by heart so I can make the band team.”
S: This child plans to practice playing their instrument of choice for 20 minutes a day over the summer because he wants to be a part of the band for the upcoming year.
M: This goal can be measured throughout the summer by timing his practices and counting the number of songs this child learns to play by heart.
A: This is an achievable goal for a child who is dedicated to the process.
R: This is a relevant goal for those who enjoy participating in a musical extra-curricular activity..
T: The deadline for this goal is the day of tryouts!
7. “Over the next month, I will spend one hour per weekend sorting through all of my old toys so I can donate toys that are gently used to others and declutter my space.”
S: This child plans to spend one hour each weekend cleaning out his play areas to put aside toys that can be donated to help other kids and to make room for new things.
M: This goal can be measured using time– set a timer each day this activity is set to occur!
A: This is an achievable goal for any child–as most probably have toys or clothes they have outgrown.
R: This is a relevant goal for all children–plus, it will teach them about being generous to others.
T: The deadline for this goal is in four weeks.
8. “I will raise my hand and contribute in class at least twice per day to stay engaged and focused on what is being taught.”
S: This child plans to raise her hand twice a day to help her continue to pay attention in class.
M: This goal can be measured using the number of times the child raises their hand.
A: This is an achievable goal for any school-aged child.
R: This is a relevant goal for all children to help them be successful in the future.
T: The deadline for this goal is every day when school lets out.
9. “I want to be offered a main part in the school play. I will work toward this goal by practicing my lines for 30 minutes per day until the day of auditions.”
S: This child plans to practice lines for the school play for 30 minutes a day.
M: This goal can be measured with time and the number of days left until audition day.
A: This is an achievable goal, as someone has to get the leading role.
R: This is a relevant goal for all children who are interested in theater.
T: The deadline for this goal is the day of auditions.
S: This child will be spending two hours every weekend selling cookies to reach her goal so she can be the top seller of Girl Scout cookies in her troop by the end of the season.
M: This goal can be measured by counting how many boxes she has sold and comparing the numbers to the top seller from the previous year.
A: This is an achievable goal, as one child in the group will be the “top seller” for the season no matter what.
R: This is a relevant goal for those who are in a program such as the Girl Scout program and are tasked with raising money to help other causes.
T: The deadline for this goal is the last day of the Girl Scout season.
Do your best to encourage your child to move forward with pursuing their goal. If they want to give up, remind your child of the original purpose of the goal and why they wanted to achieve it in the first place.
Or, if your child isn’t meeting their milestones, try to focus on the improvement that they have made and brainstorm on how you may be able to alter your path a bit in order to be more successful. Teach your child how to give themselves pep talks and be positive about their efforts and progress.
Final Thoughts on SMART Goals for Children
Celebrate your child’s effort and persistence toward reaching their SMART goals. And, if they experience a setback, acknowledge the sense of determination they showed during the process of working toward their goal.
Setting SMART goals with kids will help teach them that they can be just a *bit* better each day at whatever they’re working toward in the long run. Use these examples as templates for your own children to help teach them how to set SMART goals and set them up for a successful future.
Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.