While your elementary-aged child might not be planning for Harvard just yet, it doesn't discount the importance of setting goals for your little one. Goals don't necessarily have to be set aside for adolescents and teens -- you can start now to help your child understand the importance of working toward something and the positive feelings from achieving a goal.
Kids aren't exactly well-known for their ability to focus on one specific task. But putting goals in place can help your child focus on a project, task or end result. If you want your child to improve his math grades, for instance, creating a tangible goal -- doing an extra credit project -- can help him focus his efforts and work toward something specific. Of course, that means you must create specific goals to create that focus -- "Get a better grade" isn't as specific as "Do an extra credit project," which is easier for your child to grasp.
Goals are usually synonymous with one thing -- rewards. Offering rewards for reaching set goals can help motivate your child to follow through with the actions necessary to achieve that goal. Whether it's a sticker chart for good behavior or a special night out with mom and dad after achieving a sports- or academic-related goal, even a small reward can be enough to motivate your child so you're not the one doing the coaxing and prodding to get a task or goal completed. While it may start out as extrinsic motivation for rewards, that motivation can become a personal and intrinsic value for your child.
Setting goals with your child can give him the opportunity to explore a number of different interests. The University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension suggests setting a number of goals with your child, including academic, personal, sports and financial. Setting a number of different types of goals for your child can help him become a well-rounded individual who is willing to put forth the effort to achieve goals in all aspects of his life.
Your child needs to see the fruits of his labor to feel accomplished. While it might be difficult, pushing forward to achieve a goal gives your child the ability to see the direct line between effort and accomplishment. As he realizes that he has the power to reach goals, he gets a sense of self confidence, notes the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Goals teach children to be responsible for their own behavior -- if your child doesn't do the work, he doesn't reap the rewards or the satisfaction of reaching a goal.