7 Strategies That Work in Teaching Children Perseverance and Goal-Setting

self esteem and swimming

There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t experienced the frustration of their children failed attempts at activities – whether learning new skills or playing on a team or something else – that you know your child is perfectly capable of doing.

There is something you ‘can do’ about fostering a can-do attitude with your child. It’s all about setting and meeting incremental goals.

This is something that is a process. It isn’t going to happen for your child immediately. Fortunately, we have 7 strategies to offer to you that will help with the process. It’s possible that by the time you reach #7, your child will understand the power of goal-setting and want to become involved in reaching the goals he sets.

Strategy #1 – Getting the Idea Across
Use an example that your child has already been able to accomplish to get the idea of what goal-setting means. Your kid will be excited that he has already unknowingly done this and have some idea of how to replicate this one purpose.

Strategy #2 – Start Small
Prevent your child from getting overwhelmed by starting with a small goal with a short timeline so the fun and positivity stays in the process from the beginning. Finish a craft project, book or drawing so that they are moving with the energy success creates toward a bigger goal.

Strategy #3 – Let Them Choose
These are his goals, not yours, so let your child choose what he wants to achieve. You can help them articulate it into something specific and make a plan to achieve out that keeps the fun in it. Nagging and getting angry they your child isn’t working hard to achieve goals doesn’t work, but keeping him focused on small milestones toward their goal does.

Strategy #4 – Be Alert to Opportunities
Listen to your child. Often children say things they want or wish they could do. Use this information as ideas for a goal-setting opportunity. You can suggest this and help them to turn the wish into a goal and a plan. Remember the importance of incremental milestones – even with something they have wished for – because distraction or frustration can set in.

Strategy #5 – Show Them How
Your child mimics you, so be his example. Share your own goal-setting and progress with them so they can see how it works and want to achieve something for themselves. You can share goals with your child – maybe creating your spring garden – where he can be involved in how to break a goal down into steps from turning the dirt to watering the newly-planted flowers.

Strategy #6 – Keep it Real
One thing children are usually not good at is estimating things: how difficult something is, how long it takes to do something or even how many people it takes to do it. If these elements are integrated into the goal, the child isn’t going to be successful. He will be discouraged by falling short. Maybe your child wants to set the goal of learning to play the piano. Be encouraging but be realistic in pointing out the challenges and the dedication it will take to reach his goal. This isn’t an attempt to make the goal seem impossible to reach but to share with your child the seriousness of taking on the goal by planning it out and taking it step by step along a realistic timeline.

Strategy # 7 – Praise The Effort
Share how proud you are with your child. Applaud it when they begin to set goals and work toward them. Be impressed and let them know it. Acknowledgement works much better than nagging in giving your kid inspiration to keep working toward his goal.

What about when your child falls short?
The time is going to come when your child isn’t successful at reaching a goal. How can you help?
• Review the goal with your child. Maybe it was too vague or too ambitious.
• Ask your child for suggestions. Children are more likely to follow through on their own ideas about what else they can do.
• Help him see the benefits.
• Share your own frustration when you didn’t reach a goal as a child. Your child might feel better when he knows that failing happens to everyone.
• Compliment him. Even if your child doesn’t exactly reach his goal, it’s important to praise him for trying.
• Don’t use threats or bribes. Offering a video game in exchange for an A, or a punishment for a D, won’t help your child in the long run.

Here is a little help with a 5-Step Plan.

  1. Write it down. Become a better baseball player, for example.
  2. Make it specific. “I want to be able to get a base hit once each game.”
  3. Consider Pros and Cons.Pros: It will be much more fun and much less embarrassing to be on the team.Cons: I already have practice twice a week. Extra practice will cut into my free time.
  4. Define small steps by asking the Three W’s.
    “Who can help?” A coach, parent, or friend, for example.
    “What do I need to do?” Practice more, go to batting cage.
    “When?” 30 minutes twice a week.
  5. Monitor Progress. Have my parents videotape my swing. Get feedback from my coach.

Little Otter Swim School provides quality swim lessons in a safe and fun environment, taught by caring and enthusiastic teachers. While the children are learning they are also gaining respect and love for the water. Little Otter Swim School is an alternative from the typical swim lessons. The school proudly provides year-round, small group instruction in a warm indoor swimming pool where parents can watch their children’s progress from the comfort of a viewing gallery. 

Jim Wiltens, author of Goal Express