We wanted to take our kids camping; all six of them with their cousins and friends. We were so excited we rented a Yurt. But we had a challenge. There were six of them! Just getting our family through day-to-day chores, school and both our full-time jobs was exhausting. How would we find the time to pack, shop and get ready?
We did what we had done a hundred times before. We had a family meeting. At the family meeting, we told our children what we needed and what we wanted to do. We asked them to help us set a goal and make a plan.
By including them in the plan and decisions, they owned it. They wanted to go camping with our friends and family as bad as we did. They offered to keep the house clean while I was at work and to have their chores done before I got home. We made sure all the food and gear was ready and the camp spot secured.
For a week, I had excited kids encouraging each other to make sure we met our goal. At the end of the week, we packed up two vans full of kids and stayed in a heated Yurt. We might as well have been in a foreign country. We had an amazing experience that was almost totally stress-free.
Oftentimes, there are things we want to do for our children or encourage them to do. You could just hand gifts and trips to your children, or you could use your resources as tools for teaching goal setting and important life skills, like delaying gratification for an earned reward.
Kids who carry out goals alone or with their family have the opportunity to feel good about themselves. They believe they have the power to make things happen.
Here are some tips for setting goals as a family
1. Learn what interests your children
Start by finding something your children are excited about. It can be something they want to learn to do, a trip they want to take or a community service they feel is important. For example, if your child came to you and told you he was worried about children who didn't have enough to eat, you could use his interest in helping others as an opportunity to teach goal-setting.
2. Set a family meeting
Meet together and let the child with the idea help lead the meeting. Let them explain what they want to do. Throw the idea out on the table and ask for ideas and comments from family members. Assign someone to take notes big enough for everyone to see. This lets kids feel like their ideas are heard and important. Choose one thing to focus on. Don't throw away unused ideas. Put them in a special book to try later. This way you honor everyone's ideas.
3. Break goals into small steps
Start small. Choose a goal that is easily reached and ensures success. Set your kids up to be rewarded and recognized. For example, if you decide to help feed hungry children break this into smaller steps like the ones listed below.
Feed the hungry.
Sample steps to reach the goal
- Find an organization that feeds the hungry.
- Collect food from friends and neighbors.
- Earn money by doing chores to buy food.
- Donate food to the local organization.
- Celebrate your success by making a page for your family scrapbook or a YouTube video.
It is important to acknowledge every success along the way. Rewards do not have to cost money. Rewards can be as simple as a chore-free Saturday or a special thank-you card from Mom.
5. Record your successes
Each time you accomplish a goal as a family you teach your children that they have the power to make things happen. Watch out! They may begin to believe they can change the world and make it a better place. Record your journey as a family in family and individual journals, through pictures, video and keepsakes.
6. There is no way to fail
Every failure is a learning opportunity. In life, we can never hope to meet all our goals. But along the way we will learn and have amazing experiences. When we fail, our children get to watch us lose with grace and dignity. They also get to watch us get up and try again. They can learn to do the same.
Teach your children about Thomas Edison. After trying and successfully creating a light bulb, he went on to work on moving pictures or movies. While watching most of his experimental labs burn to the ground and knowing all of his work in film was being destroyed, the New York Times interviewed him. Edison was watching all his work burn when he was quoted as saying,
"Although I am over 67 years old I'll start all over again tomorrow. I am pretty much burned out tonight. But, tomorrow there will be a mobilization here."
He told all of his more than 200 employees to report to work the next day.
7. Do it all again
Don't lose your momentum. Have another family meeting and repeat steps 1 thru 6. Here are some more tips on how to set family goals.
During this New Year get the whole family involved in setting and meeting goals. Treat yourself to the opportunity to work together, succeed and celebrate every little step along the way. Don't be afraid. You can do it one step at a time.