I have spoken quite a lot about how goal setting is one of the most important skills for any student to learn. The ability to set goals, plan how to achieve them, and learn from your success or failure is a skill that all successful students possess, whether they are in prep or university.

But, as I’m sure you know, goal setting is not as simple as just saying “I want to be a doctor” and hoping that it will magically happen. It probably won’t. If you want your child to achieve their dreams, then now is the time to teach them to set smart goals, using the S.M.A.R.T principle.

The S.M.A.R.T principle states that goals should be

Specific – It’s all well and good to set larger general goals such as “I want to be a doctor,” but it’s important to recognise that these larger goals do not happen all at one; they are made up of many small specific achievements: organising your study notes, creating a study timetable, getting an A or A+ on your next test, creating useful study notes, performing well on an exam. Encourage your child to think about the smaller, more specific short term goals that they can focus on.

Measurable – There is no point in making goals if we can not learn from them. In order to learn from them, you need a way of knowing how successful you have been. For example, if your goal is to get 95% on your next SAC, you can easily measure whether or not you have achieved this goal, and how far off you are from achieving it next time. This information should be used to modify study plans, set new goals and learn what works and what does not.

Achievable – If you were training up to run a 10km race, would you go out tomorrow and try to run 10km? No. If you are getting D’s on all of your Maths test, would you expect to get an A+ for your next one? Possibly not. If your child sets unrealistic goals for themselves, they are likely to become demoralised and give up. However, if your child sets goals that are too easy, they are not likely to be particularly motivated to work hard. The trick is to set goals that are both challenging and achievable, so that your child can feel what it’s like to work hard and achieve their objective.

Rewarding – People are more likely to work hard towards goals that make them feel good. When your child achieves their goal, you should make sure they feel rewarded for their effort. This doesn’t mean that you have to give them money or buy them a present. Sometimes a simple “good job! I’m proud of you” can make it all worth it.

Timely – Students are very bad at thinking about the future. This is how procrastination works. It is so much easier to say that you will do something “tomorrow” or “next week” that do it right away. If your child’s goals are too long-term, then it is likely that they will put off working until it is too late. This is why it is important for your child to set goals with short time frames. Instead of looking ahead to the end of the year, encourage them to think about what their goals for the term, or even the week are.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to help your child develop valuable goal setting skills, then click here to download our FREE goal setting guide.