5 Common Mistakes When Setting Goals with Kids 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Successful goals are within reach.

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

Make Goals SMART

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

setting goals with students worksheet

Use Mini-Goals

You have to break goals down. Say I wanted to lose 100 pounds. It's much easier to break that down into 10 pounds at a time. Plus, what I must do to lose the first ten will be different than what I must do to lose the last 10.

When a football team has the ball, their goal is the end zone, but they have mini goals to keep moving the goal 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

Setting goals with elementary students is a perfect way to motivate students and build this key skill from a young age. I have found that books are a great medium

6 Books for Setting Goals with Elementary Students


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

Goal Setting: Self Reflection

Focus on 1% Better

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

Let Them Set the Goals

Often, we think we know what students should work on. It's not that we don't, but if it's not essential or personal to them, they will not care. Students need to think about what they want to work on and improve. Not necessarily what adults want them to do better.

SMART goal Brainstorm sheet

One of the most important skills we can teach students is how to set goals and keep working on them. When children feel confident that they can make progress, they

11 Simple Strategies to Help Elementary Students Achieve Goals

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 with SMART goals using one of the resources below.

Goal Setting Activities


SMART Goal Activities in Print and Digital

Five 15-minute lessons in print and digital that break down the goal setting process into manageable chunks. 

Football-Themed Goal Setting Activities

This football-themed resource tracks student progress, keeps them motivated, and teaches them to set individual goals.

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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.

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  1. 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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