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Teaching Kids Goal Setting

We all know how good it feels to set our sights on a goal and then achieve it. It’s empowering and invigorating – and it’s not just a matter of chance. Goal-setting is an important life skill we teach in the martial arts.

The good news is that studying the martial arts can help your child learn:

1. The importance of setting goals
2. How to set realistic goals
3. How to pursue goals in a way that maximizes the chance of success

Our online martial arts classes use a series of goalposts to teach kids. You probably know them as belts – and each belt has tape tips too. Each new tape tip or new belt indicates a level of achievement.

The instruction provided in a karate class is carefully calibrated to provide students with achievable goals. They’ll never be asked to make big leaps in ability. Instead, they pursue small goals that allow them to experience the joy of steady improvement.

Karate teaches kids that a big goal can be broken down into smaller goals, and small goals can break down into individual tasks. That’s information they internalize, and they can use it to set goals at home, at school, and when the time comes, at work. We also talk to them about long-term and short-term goals and the differences between them.

Pursuing goals also teaches kids that it’s important to challenge themselves. And because they’re competing against themselves in martial arts, they learn the importance of being the best possible version of themselves.

Teaching kids to set goals can be incredibly motivating in the karate classroom and the school classroom. Some children struggle with having the motivation and drive to accomplish their goals. An inspiring instructor can teach kids how to set realistic goals, it gives them something significant to reach for, which in turn motivates them to work hard.

Once they are performing well in karate class and at school from the increase in hard work and motivation, they gain self-confidence and a sense of pride from their accomplishments! This will then lead back to more motivation and the cycle repeats itself. They’re feeling great about themselves and feeling very proud of all they’re able to accomplish with motivation and hard work.

There is a simple 5 step process that can be used to teach goal setting for kids. The concept is called SMART Goals. It’s an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. This is a formula for setting goals that allows kids to see success by the end.

First, set a goal that is specific. If you only set a goal that is very general or vague, you’ll never know when you meet this goal. Or, you could meet this goal too quickly. As an example, let’s say your child’s goal is “I want to read more” Well, it’s a good start. But it’s far too general and he could technically meet this goal by reading anything for any length of time. It doesn’t push them hard enough and isn’t specific enough to know when they reach this goal. There are too many unknowns and lots of questions left unanswered.

Next, a quality goal must be measurable.
You can’t measure a goal that vague. You don’t know when you reach it, so there’s no way to track it. Now, if we change the goal to say “I want to read an extra 10 minutes each night,” it is something that is able to be measured. You’re able to track when you do or do not read those extra 10 minutes. See how much better that is?

Make sure your child’s goal is achievable.
Let’s say you have a child that is a serious overachiever. They come with the idea they want to read 4 hours every single night! For a serious bookworm, they might be able to do it. But if your child is active in sports, clubs, and activities with friends and you barely see them before dinner…. They might not be able to make that happen. Be sure you remind them they need to make sure they achieve their goals so they don’t end up discouraged.

The next part of a quality goal is that is relevant to your child’s needs.
If they don’t struggle with reading, that may not be a good goal for them since it’s not an area they need to be working on. Maybe they’re having trouble in school because they’re not paying attention. Or maybe they are often tired and need to work on getting to bed earlier. It’s important to choose goals that are relevant to their needs and target an area they’re struggling in so they can grow and see improvement.

Last, help them choose a deadline. They should have a date or timeline in which they plan to reach this goal. This helps them to keep chasing the goal and to maintain the motivation we previously mentioned. Without making it time-bound, the goal could continuously get pushed out and potentially never happen.
Maybe their goal is “I want to read an extra 10 minutes every night for 1 month.” A similar example could be “I will finish my chapter book by December 30th.” Each of these is bound and you know when you will reach them.

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