How to Help a Teen Set and Reach Goals

Teaching Your Teenager How to Reach Their Goals

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Learning how to set goals is an important life skill for teens. It is a useful skill that will help them throughout their life and something that parents can help teach them.

Goals do not have to be significant. It can be as simple as saving up for a prom dress or making it on the varsity football team. A goal can also be long-term, such as getting into an Ivy League college or learning to play a musical instrument.

The important thing is for teenagers to realize what it is they want and learn how to make that happen. Anything is possible if you have a plan and are determined to achieve it!

Why Are Goals Important for Teens?

People are always asking themselves: What do I want and how do I get it?

  • Defining what it is you want is called setting a goal.
  • Figuring out and taking necessary actions is how you obtain that goal.

Both of these are important life skills. It doesn't matter if you are talking about getting the perfect job or eating an Italian sandwich for lunch, you need to take some action to obtain your goal.

Learning how to set and obtain a goal are necessary life skills your teen will need to be a happy and successful adult. It's a pretty simple concept, except life is not that simple.

Let's take getting an Italian sandwich for lunch as an example. At noon, I can go to a pizza shop, order a sandwich and pay for it, then eat it.

I am able to do this because I have a car, there is a pizza shop in town and I have the money to pay for the sandwich. If I didn't have a car, I'd have to find another way to the pizza shop, making my goal harder to achieve.

That is where our teens are at in the grand scheme of goal setting and attaining.

They can set a goal, like 'I want to be really good at playing the saxophone' but they don't have all of the tools and abilities to get to that goal easily. This the point where parents come in.

How Parents Can Encourage Teens to Reach a Goal

Much of what your teen needs to do to obtain a goal comes through you. You may have to give them a ride or the money to pay for the saxophone lessons.

As our teens get older, they will slowly be able to do the actions that produce the goals they want on their own. For instance, when your teen gets a license, they will be able to drive themselves to their lessons.

In order for you, the parent, to teach your teens how to master the life skills of setting and attaining goals, you should help your teen clarify their goals, shed some light on the actions required to get to their goal and aid them in getting the tools they need. This takes time and practice. 

Create a Goal Setting Worksheet for Your Teen

One of the keys to setting and reaching your goals is understanding the steps needed to achieve it.

Writing it down is the best way to organize your thoughts and come up with a game plan.

Parents, share this exercise with your teens and help them work through all of the steps.

Get out a sheet of paper and create a worksheet for your goal.

  1. Write out the goal.  At the top of the page, write down what it is you want to achieve. Be as detailed as you need to be.

    For example, there is a big difference between saving up enough money to buy 'a car' and having enough to buy a '2016 red Corvette.' (Be realistic about your goals! Maybe 'a car' is a better place to start when you're working part time at the local pizza joint.)
  2. List the tasks needed to obtain the goal. Think about every step you need to take in order to reach your goal and write each down. If one task needs to be done before another is started, write them in order.

    For example, you cannot save up for that car unless you have a way to make money. 'Get a job' would logically come before 'deposit $50 into the savings account each week' on your list.
  3. Begin working on the tasks.  Leave some room between tasks to jot down notes or thoughts as you progress toward the goal. 

    Sticking with our car example: You may have been hired at the pizza shop and now need to figure out how much money you will make each week. Can your savings plan be adjusted to reach the goal faster?
  4. Add to the tasks as needed. Even the best-formed plan can meet the unexpected. You may think that you thought of everything, but be prepared to make changes and add to your list of tasks if something new comes up. It happens all the time!
  5. Check off the tasks as they are completed. Few things are more satisfying than looking back at a list of things you have to do and notice the progress you've already made. It will keep you motivated!
  6. When all of the tasks are complete, determine if the goal has been met. If so, create your next goal. If not, revise the goal.

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