This is the perfect time of the year for teaching your children about goal setting! From academic (think: finishing homework on-time and accurate) to athletic (think: making the travel team) to extracurricular (think: practicing your instrument for 30 minutes a day), teaching your kids to set goals at an early age gives them a tool set they can use for the rest of their lives! Here are 5 helpful strategies to help your child set SMART goals this year.

SMART is traditionally a mnemonic device which represents criteria for a set of objectives or goals – the letters usually correspond to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. So using the SMART acronym, here are 5 ways to help you and your children set SMART goals this year, and to stick with them!

S=Specific – Children sometimes have a hard time thinking specifically. For example, if they mention that getting homework done is one of their goals, maybe suggest they set a more specific goal such as getting their homework done by a certain time each day, getting one day ahead on their homework packet, or completing their most difficult homework subject (math, anyone?) first. The more specific the goal, the easier it is to stay accountable to the goal, and to measure your effectiveness in achieving it.

M= Measurable – Speaking of measurements, help your child take an active role in determining whether or not the goal has been met. Oftentimes as parents we simply assume the role of judge and juror, letting our kids know when they’ve done well or missed the mark. By inviting your child to take an active role in measuring his/her success, you help them stay accountable to the goals they set while also teaching them independence and responsibility.

A=Attainable – Children (especially young children) also sometimes struggle to set realistic goals [“I promise I will NEVER do that again, mom.”] Help them think through goals that you know are realistic and attainable in the established time frame. This will help them also to feel a sense of accomplishment when the goal has been met!

R=Relevant – Everything is relevant to a child, so this one is sometimes easier said than done! Try helping your children understand the word relevancy in terms they can understand. The important thing to remember with setting relevant goals is to pick goals that matter. A goal of saying the word “the” 1,000 times a day doesn’t really matter much to anyone. A more relevant goal for your child may be to finish their weekly homework assignment by Wednesday night so they have Thursday night for free time or an extra 20 minutes of computer or television. That represents a goal that matters to the child, as well as the parent.

T=Timely – The last criteria for SMART goals is simply to make sure that a time frame is assigned to the goal. In other words, when do you want to achieve the goal? How quickly is it possible to achieve? Establishing an appropriate time frame also helps with measuring achievement!