FYI Before you read below, I've embedded this SAME text in video format for your listening pleasure!
I know what it's like to watch your own kid suffer, not realizing it was needless and totally in my power to help him.
I had the child who was so insecure about himself and thought he couldn't make a mistake. His anxiety was off the charts. It was keeping him from enjoying school - he was breaking down in frustrated tears in front of his peers and teachers. He was withdrawn, increasingly quiet, and his love of learning was fading.
It was like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. It broke my heart that I couldn't figure out what to do to help him.
I’ve heard a resounding CHEER from parents everywhere, so if this all sounds too familiar, I get it.
- You’re afraid your child will have to struggle with this for his entire life.
It seems there's no one out there that can help you (you’ve asked everyone - this is FRUSTRATING AS HELL)
You feel helpless and it’s totally gut-wrenching to watch your child shrink in discomfort.
Maybe your child is having big emotional reactions, crying, being really clingy, not listening, starting fights, stomping off, getting all the tummy aches, even hurting themselves...
And you worry that not only might this never change, but you also wonder deep down if this is somehow your fault (how did I fail them, where did I go wrong)...
I’m here to tell you that you’re NOT alone and it’s NOT your fault.
I get it. All of those things were happening here in my own home. So I know exactly how you feel and it was unacceptable to me that no one out there had the answers to help me.
I created resources for YOU and parents just like you because there werent any until now. And this is a huge problem - 1 in 4 children (the young ones!) deals with some kind of anxiety. That only goes up the older they get.
I’ve been researching and learning about growth mindset now for several years… and it finally dawned on me that these same concepts can be applied to our children.
Today I want to talk to you about SETTING GOALS.
Setting goals might seem a little advanced for your first or second grader. It feels like a future-focused skill, but the reality is that you can help your child learn how to set goals now, and it’ll help them develop grit and resilience for later.
Plus they learn early how to get what they want out of life.
When he learns goal setting skills, your child will actually start taking responsibility for his own behavior. This new can-do attitude goes hand in hand with a lifelong habit that sets them ahead of most people.
Plus how GREAT does it feel when we achieve what we set out to achieve?
DING! MAJOR CONFIDENCE BOOSTER.
Did you know about 92% of people never achieve their goals?
Like people anywhere, of any age, no discrimination here. People as a collective. All 7.4 billion of us.
That number astounds me. Part of the problem is that we don’t know how to properly set goals and go after them in a way that ensures our success.
How do we teach our kids how to set & achieve goals now?
And then... how do we keep them motivated to stay on track?
(I know, I know. All you need is ONE MORE way to be constantly reminding your kid. Stick with me. This one counts.)
This is a simple 4-step process to build this skill in your child. And just like anything else they learn (except putting away laundry), this one lasts for life.
Pick a goal.
Easy right? Here's the catch:
Pick a goal your child is excited about. Better yet, let him pick what it is. He probably already has a million ideas.
When we’re passionate about a goal and it’s important to us, we’re way more likely to take the steps and stay motivated to keep going.
For example, if you don’t care about baseball, chances are less likely you’re going to bother practicing. It's a meaningless waste of time in your world.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important not to push our kids to reach goals that we think are important.
Let me say that again. :)
If they don't care about straight A's, making their bed, or being the best at a sport, let it go for the purposes of learning this skill.
What’s more important is what’s interesting and exciting to him.
To find out, simply ask:
- What’s something you want to get better at doing?
- What’s something you wish you could do that you can’t yet?
- If you couldn’t fail, what would you try?
Brainstorm ideas (you listen and write them down) and have him pick one to focus on.
It's helpful if the goal has measurable progress. Points scored, distance traveled, number of rewards, visual cues that give definite answers, etc.
This helps your child be able to recognize his own progress as he moves towards his goal.
Why does it matter?
What’s the purpose of this particular goal?
Why this particular goal?
Investigating this goes hand in hand with the excitement level of your child. The more purpose and reason to achieve it, the more likely he or she will be motivated to reach it.
Your child may not know an answer except they're simply the most excited about it. It lights them up. It feels good to them. They feel inspired. It sounds fun. They can't wait.
All of these are completely acceptable reasons, by the way. We've been taught to be overly practical and logical about too much in life. We forget to follow our feelings and our gut on most things that excite us, and we sacrifice that natural pull because we can't put words to it. We judge it as silly, and then we wonder why we're anxious and depressed.
You can also think about it in your own terms.
For example, if you’re like me, you’re much more motivated and purposeful about losing weight when there’s a trip to the beach in your future, right? If there were no exciting trip where a swimsuit is involved, I personally wouldn’t feel that pressure and urge to get my act together and start changing my eating behaviors.
BONUS: When our goals end up helping other people, we end up more successful as well.
Why? Because it feels good to contribute. It feels great to help someone else while you get something out of it too. It's a win-win.
Think about doctors, scientists, even computer technology and how they’ve changed the world. No real meaningful, lasting success comes from selfish motives.
Break it down into steps.
Identifying step-by-step exactly what it takes to reach your goal does a number of things:
Your child will be able to see if it’s too easy or too hard. If it takes 100 steps to get there, they might want to reconsider (or not). If there's only 2 steps, then it's too easy.
Why does it matter? A goal that's too hard means it feels unattainable. Your stamina wears thin and you wonder if you'll ever get there. For a beginner at goal setting, you want something that is a challenge but not impossible. A goal that's too easy means you lose the learning process of overcoming obstacles and sticking with it until the end. The reward is smaller and less fulfilling when you don't really have to try.
Breaking down a big goal into steps helps your child focus on the process instead of the end result. It's like creating a bunch of tiny goals to achieve along the way. With every 'win' he gets another confidence boost and more motivation to keep going. This allows more chances for success and reasons to celebrate. The pressure on the end goal lessens because you've spread out the focus to the entire journey.
An easy way to break down the steps is to simply make a list with your child.
First I'll do this...
Then I'll do this...
After that I'll do this...
And so forth.
You'll be able to spot missing pieces and can help them fill in the gaps. Ask questions. Let them connect the dots. Even if it's not perfect, they'll learn along the way.
Think about obstacles.
Simply put: Plan ahead. What could go wrong? What unexpected challenges might arise?
I love giving my clients permission to indulge themselves in the worst case scenario. It's like the freedom they always wanted but were ashamed to admit they loved. I LOVE the worst case scenario. Why? Because then I can decide if I can live with it or not. I can also start to see how it's not the end of the world, but simply an obstacle that can be overcome.
If you know what these obstacles are on the front end of the goal-setting process, your child is much less likely to be derailed by a frustrating situation or setback. If he believes it’s all going to go perfectly (and then it doesn’t), he sets himself up for disappointment and loss of motivation.
How much do you hate it when you get a bad surprise out of left field? Some people can roll with it, but I just get stressed out.
It trips you up, gets you off track, knocks you off your groove. You lose momentum because you didn't see it coming.
I know you've been there.
Let your child's mind wander and come up with problems. It's ok.
Thinking ahead and finding obstacles actually keeps the optimism alive because you can then brainstorm how to overcome it instead of being blindsided. Your child will more easily continue on his charted path because he's made room for those hiccups and bumps on the road.
Which means there's more confidence there.
There’s a simple acronym - WOOP - you can use to remember this.
WISH - OUTCOME - OBSTACLE - PLAN
When you use WOOP, you think about your ultimate goal (wish), the best possible outcome, the personal obstacles that stand in the way, and the plan for getting around those roadblocks.
Developed by Professor Gabriele Oettingen at New York University, WOOP has more than 20 years of testing in classrooms, gyms, and health care settings.
In schools, WOOP significantly improves effort, homework completion, attendance, and GPA. Outside of schools, WOOP has been shown to reduce stress, increase engagement, improve time management, and promote physical fitness.
BUT ERIN, (I hear you wondering) … my kid quits everything. Is this REALLY gonna work??
Here’s the thing. You’re teaching them a skill, so you’re in it too.
Eventually you’ll be able to leave them to their own devices and they’ll know what to do. But in the beginning? You’re in it every step of the way to solidify the learning process.
Just like bike-riding, shoe-tying, teeth-brushing, and ever other life skill.
Which means? You've totally got this.
Your job is to encourage, comfort and keep their motivation high:
Remind him why he wanted to do this in the first place (he'll want to give up at some point)
Remind him of the plan he created (he'll forget)
Work on obstacles together
Celebrate each step of the way. Recognize any and every tiny achievement. (I cannot stress this enough)
Focus on continued improvement (even if your child completely fails at his goal).
Celebrate his efforts and determination.
Share your own struggles when he is struggling.
If you’d like to work together, send me an email. I'm helping parents help their kids every single day, and I'd love to help you too.
I have spots open right now in my new 9-week program - Build Confident Kids.
We’re diving deeper into what we talked about today, but we’re also getting into other areas your child is most likely struggling in:
Coping with stress / anxiety
Developing grit / resilience
This is 9 weeks of in-depth powerful content for you. I hold LIVE sessions for the group. I teach strategies you can implement at home, activities to do with your children to change how they think about themselves and the world, plus you get countless resources and support you can apply immediately.
All of this in a private Facebook community where I am available to answer your questions and troubleshoot on the spot.
If you’re lost and confused about how to help your child, it doesn't have to be that way. No one has to suffer like this anymore.