Goal Setting for children to help them flourish in life
goal setting and how to flourish

The negative impact of taking rewards away from children

Joshua had given his all to the team and they had achieved the impossible. They moved from the bottom of the junior football league to the 1st division, only to find the team manager then benched him and brought in new players. His self-image hit rock bottom, what do you do as a parent?

You would do whatever you could to help your child to become happy and motivated, but what is it about this that is so important?

The key to long-term happy and motivated children

We are goal-centric beings, no matter how big or small we are. When you observe successful people over a period time you will come to the conclusion that they have clear goals in mind.

These are not artificial goals imposed by someone else; these are goals of your own choosing. I was watching my 3 year old daughter playing with tubes of water; she wanted a boat to run through a maze of tubes she had created. It took 20 minutes of focused persistence and attention before her face suddenly lit up like the morning sunrise having achieved it.

In the scenario above, the football team manager had ripped the goal of football glory away from Joshua. The images going around in Josh’s head were subsequently ones of failure.

Imagination is more important that facts

Why are the images in Josh’s head so important? The brain thinks in images and this in turn creates direction for the conscious mind to follow. All human beings will follow the strongest image in the mind. All the logic in the world has little impact in this situation. Yes, people can just sit back and accept these negative outcomes and take them to be lessons in life. Life can be hard and sometimes we tell ourselves to grin and bear it as we cannot think of anything else to do.

But there is an alternative approach so that we can become more resilient for the future.   In this case, the issue becomes much more about how to plant a seed in Josh’s mind so that he really does learn how to handle and overcome setbacks in life.

Planting the goal

Josh was inevitably disappointed and so his Mum had a frank conversation with him about what had happened. She simply challenged him by asking him what he would do differently if he were the manager. The discussion took on a fresh perspective and once it had gained a little momentum Josh’s Mum asked “why don’t you become a football manager?” He gazed up and replied, “But I’m only 12”.

“Mum’s are so wise,” she said “I know you’re 12, but what could you do?” They sat in silence for a full 5 minutes. Then out of nowhere, he said “You could be the unofficial manager, but I could be the real one.” The seed had germinated and began growing into a young plant, with buds of ideas, which was ready to be fed and nurtured.

Watering the goal

Together they both started planning what was needed to develop this idea and began with some research. Josh had to find out what was needed in terms of qualifications and the steps that would be required to become a team manager. Within a week he had booked Mum onto a football coaching course, decided on a name for the team, the team colours and where the local pitches were.

Josh had developed a thirst for success and the goal had begun to grow and come to life. However, it is wise to proceed with caution as you can sometimes meet objections when you least expect them.

“I object!” the parent said

Josh and his Mum did run into some objections. One came from a teacher at his school who pulled them aside and said “He is taking this new football team very seriously; maybe he should relax and just play more?”   He was having fun, playing teaches children to solve problems as well as socialising, creating self-esteem and boundaries. He was in fact doing the same thing, i.e. solving a problem, socialising, building self-esteem and extending his boundaries.

Another parent got upset when Josh’s mother shared the previous conversation and her tactics. At first she did not understand why, until the other parent shouted “I object. You should not be setting goals for your children, in such an underhand way” and stormed off. Interestingly, she had not set the goal for Josh, she had only encouraged him. Josh had set it himself and therefore he became committed to achieving it.

Goal setting is a skill that can be learnt. It is too important a skill to leave to chance and using any means at your disposal to help create a meaningful goal is vital. Unbeknown to the teachers and other parents, Josh’s Mum was actually an NLP Master Practitioner and was highly proficient in the ways of persuasion.

A simple persuasion technique

In the UK there is series on TV called Super-Nanny which features Jo Frost who helps parents with difficult children. A nightmare for some parents is taking children shopping because these little angels have been known to turn to The Dark Side as they kick, scream and pull things off shelves. Jo, teaches the parents a little technique, she likes to call ‘Setting Expectations’. She has the parent talk to the children beforehand before an event to explain what is expected of them and what is going to happen. As we have already said, we tend to place images in the mind and so the child will begin to do this.

Then at the supermarket, Jo suggests that the children are given specific jobs, i.e. goals to achieve within the shop. This could be as simple as carrying the shopping list, putting the food in the trolley or helping to decide which brand to choose. So simple and yet it works.

So what have we covered so far?

  • The importance and value of setting goals
  • The mind follows the strongest image
  • Goal setting is a skill, do whatever you have to do to develop it
  • Motivation and happiness can be grown from goals

The outcome

Within 3 months Josh and his Mum had set up the ‘Selsey Rams’. The team ran for 3 years and Josh got pretty good at planning practice sessions and forming strategies for games. He soon made it to the top of the 3rd division. However, it was far more important to note that Josh’s levels of motivation and confidence grew year on year. From that early seed of an idea, Josh had now become a proud annual perennial flower and grew taller and stronger each year as he continued to flourish.

Next steps

At the heart of goal setting is the ability to ask questions that truly make you think. I have a set of questions that have been modelled from people who consistently achieve their goals. Email me now and I will send you a copy [email protected]

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Article written by John Cassidy-Rice