Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Young children are really quite amazing when it comes to goals….because goal setting in its simple forms is a very natural and very instinctive process. Kids can quickly see the connections between what they do and what their results are, and they are empowered by making those connections.

The “Joy School” pre school* curriculum that we created many years ago has a unit called “the joy of order and goal-striving” which focuses on giving three and four year olds experiences which lead to a sense of personal accomplishment and control over parts of their environment. We have had quite remarkable feedback about preschool goal-setting experiences from parents/teachers….

One three year old set his goal to stop sucking his thumb. The timeframe was two weeks, and after the first week he was pretty discouraged. “I just can’t help it!” he said. The second week, we were showing the kids how to make a plan to reach their goal, and this little guy brought his little piece of tattered blanket that he rubbed when he sucked his thumb and said “put this up on the refrigerator and don’t let me have it because if I do, I will never reach my goal.”

Another joy school kid, a four year old girl, set a goal to learn to tie her shoe by herself. We made her a pie chart with eight wedges and she decided to color one in each time she worked on the goal. By the time she had colored in all eight wedges, she could do it, and you have never seen a prouder face!

Once a child has really set a goal of his own—one that has come out of his own head, one that he feels ownership of—a magical transformation takes place; and it is a transformation not only of the child but of you! Instead of his manager (or his Drill Sergeant) you now have become his consultant! You are in a position to say “can I help you with your goal?” The initiative has shifted. Since it is his goal, he is responsible for it, he is invested in it, and he cares about it and is motivated to work for it. And your help becomes something he begins to appreciate and even seek rather than something he resents or is intimidated by.

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