One question comes up the most during parenting classes, “Why is goal setting so important when we talk with our children?” Read this real life conversation:

Me: “What is that you want to achieve?”
Boy: “ I want to play football and score 5 goals in the next game” (excited and thrilled)
Me: “Wow, that sounds like a lot”
Boy: “Yes, but that’s what I really want”
Me: “How many goals do you score normally in a game?”
Boy: … Silence
Me: … Silence
Boy: “Not many. In most games I don’t get to score a goal at all”

This script is a real situation from my kids coaching session with an 8 years old boy a few months ago. Goal setting is in every part of our lives, yet we struggle to do it properly.

From very early on we set goals for ourselves, we want to achieve something good, we want to validate ourselves. As parents, we also set goals to push our childrento do better and enjoy more.

However, what we don’t realise is the effects a bad goal might have on us or them. Over ambitious goals are as bad as too low goals or no goals at all. We all seem to know that. In the corporate world everybody talks about SMART goal setting and things like that, yet, only few people do it themselves. The situation is not different in parenting classes.

Finding the right goal and defining it in the right terms will be the difference between failure and success. Here are two simple techniques I use when coaching kids to set their goals

The excitement scale. How excited are you about your goal? Really excited? Thrilled? Then, change it as chances are that you won’t achieve it.

In our kid coaching sessions, I ask children to create their excitement scale. We represent it on a 1-10 scale in which 1 is boredom and falling asleep and 10 is hyperactive excitement. Then, I ask them to fill the gaps in between with whatever representation comes to their mind (ie. 8 is fireworks going off, 5 is a clock, precise and constant).

I ask them, “What level do you think you need to be to achieve the goal?” The normal answer is 7 or 8, sometimes they even want to be 10. We then rehearse through the journey to achieve their goal. Through games and talk they quickly realise that the more excited they are the worse they perform. Working as a life coach for kids I have realized that too much excitement can be counterproductive. The excitement can wear out with the slightest difficulty.

Eventually, they tell me things like “I think that I need to be at a 5 or maximum 6. If I go higher I get excited and with that I get nervous”

Then we work on defining the goal itself.

In that goal you set for yourself, what is under your control? What factors are mostly under your area of control?

The goal is to separate the part that he or she can really do, from the outcome. The effort and work that they have to put towards something vs the outcome. Most likely the outcome will be affected by a lot of other things that they can’t control or even know. During kids coaching session I help them to figure this out.

I can’t control who wins the race but I control how I prepare for it.
Its not under my control to achieve 25/30 right answers in my speed test, but I can control how I train and practice for it.
I can’t make that girl to be my friend. But I control how I talk to her or what I say.

In my last corporate job before I took to life coach for kids I used to tell my team, “You don’t control whether the client will sign the contract. However, you control how you prepare for the meeting, the communication you send, how you answer their questions”.

By focussing the energy on the things that we have more control over, we gain strength and confidence and perform our best. Also, we just have to wait for the results to come.

This is my kids coaching session conversation with the boy I mentioned at the beginning. This is how the conversation ended after a few other talks.

Boy: “I scored a goal today!”
Me: “That’s great, well done. what else happened?”
Boy: “I had a great time, I was in a good mood because I had gone to practice every week.”
Me: “Well done. Anything else?”
Boy: “Not really. I was just having fun and enjoying playing with my friends.”

And here is me thinking: “Just having fun and enjoying playing”.