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You may have heard the term “SMART goal” in the past, but how does this apply to familial success? Well, children of all ages need goals to be specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and timed. Curriculum such as Incredible Years and Nurturing Parenting walk parents through the most effective and rewarding systems for correctional training.

Specific. Specify exactly what it is that you need your child to do. Set out notes or a board of reminders so the child can see this and be reminded clearly and effectively each day of their goals or expectations. With older children, sitting down and having a conversation about expectations is typically beneficial.

Measurable.  How are your children measuring their goals? Are you held accountable equally as much as they are in their new expectations? Children need praise and tangible rewards to know their adults are noticing the good behavior that is asked of them. Try setting up a reward chart or coin jar to measure their compliance. For example, when your child has taken their shoes upstairs 10 times, they receive a small incentive or extra privilege.

Action Oriented. It’s important that children are encouraged to take action for their new goal and equally given opportunity to be successful. Parents commonly complain about lack of household organization or children being non-compliant with hygienic rules. In those instances, we ask our parents, “How tangible is this plan?”. If a child is being requested to clean up their toys, do they have a toy bin? Is there a designated space for this task? Furthermore, is the parent scheduling time for the children to play and giving them the opportunity to clean up afterwards?                                     

Realistic.  How realistic is your goal for the child? Often times when a child is not meeting an expectation it’s because they are either not willing to or they are not able to. In some cases, it is both. By assessing the child’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZOPD), one can revise an expectation and better support the child’s growth and development. For example, maybe doing the dishes is too advanced for one child, but not drying the dishes with assistance from dad.

Time Limit. Small wins are important. Even as adults, goals that are too daunting can be discouraging. By setting goals that are achievable short term, children have more opportunity to succeed. Additionally, cumulative goals can be set for children who need more support and guidance in one area. If the goal is for a child to clean their room weekly, and it just hasn’t been happening, maybe we should start by focusing on making up the bed, putting away shoes, or folding clothes first.

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