5 Common Mistakes When Setting Goals with Kids 

By: Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min

SMART Goals are an incredible tool to teach students when they are setting goals. Well, that is if they do anything with them. Sometimes, we set goals with students and then let them collect dust on the shelf. We all know that with our own goals, we have to track them and keep our focus on them or they are never going to happen. So why don't we do that with students? If you are working on goal setting with students, check to make sure you are avoiding these 5 mistakes.

1. Not Making Goals SMART

Goals are not wishes and hopes. They may start there, but effective goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Clearly defining goals is key to a student eventually reaching them and being able to reflect on slow moving progress.

SMART Goal Posters

2. Not Using Mini-Goals

You gotta break goals down. Say I wanted to lose 100 pounds. It's a lot easier if I break that down into 10 pounds at a time. Plus, what I have to do to lose the first time will be different than what I haveto do to lose the last 10, right?

When a football team has the ball, their goal is the end zone, but they have minigoals to keep moving the goals posts down the field. Breaking down big goals helps us feel successful, see our progress, and know we are on the right track.

Goal Setting Resource Football Theme

3. Not Reassessing

Sometimes a student sets a goal that is too ambitious, not ambitious enough, not relevant, too vague. The list goes on. It is important to build in opportunities to reassess and reflect on the goal and see if any changes need to be made.

Goal Setting: Self Reflection

4. Not Focusing on 1% Better

Some of the goals students will set will be big. There will be setbacks. It is important that they focus on the small improvements and steps forward. Celebrating 1% improvements is essential to staying motivated and also understanding that improvement is a continual process.

5. Not Letting Them Set the Goals

Often we think we know what students should work on. Actually, it's not that we don't, but if it's not important or personal to them they are not going to care. It is important for students to spend time thinking about what they want to work on and improve. Not necessarily what adults want them to do better.

SMART goal Brainstorm sheet

To Wrap It Up

When you are setting goals with students make sure they are:

  • actively thinking about their goals,
  • breaking them down,
  • reflecting and tweaking, 
  • celebrating small successes,
  • and working on what matters to them. 

Get Started!

Get started with SMART goals using one of the resources below.

Need more info? Check out these posts:

6 Books for Setting Goals with Elementary Students

Set Goals Together with Students

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I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.
  • Valuable tips! Teaching your child to set goals and achieve them is one of the main tasks of a parent and an educator.
    You know, nowadays adults even pay money to other people to be taught how to set goals. What a silly thing to do!
    That’s why it’s important to teach kids this at a young age.

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