2015: Try Setting Goals Instead of Making Resolutions

January 6, 2015 by Dr. Yannick Pauli

The dawn of another year is the perfect time for kids with learning and developmental disorders like ADHD have a fresh start. While kids with ADHD may want to do better in school or other areas of their lives, they often have trouble sticking to a plan and completing tasks. This is because of the slow development of their brain’s executive function. However, setting goals and working towards them is a critical skill that every child – ADHD or no – needs to develop at an early age.

In 2015, teach your child to set goals instead of making resolutions. Here are some research-backed tips on how:

Start with a “personal best” goal

Inspire your child to become even better by identifying an accomplishment he or she has made in the previous year, and aiming to beat that this year. Research from the University of Syndey shows that helping kids set a goal based on a “personal best” results in greater engagement in school, better planning, and more enthusiasm for after-school activities. In fact, the study showed that ADHD kids benefited from this approach more than other children.

The “personal best” goal can be something as simple as the most number of days your child did chores without being reminded, to something bigger like getting all A’s in a report card. Whatever this goal is, get your child excited about beating it this year.

Put goals to the SMART test

A great way to determine goals is to make sure they pass the SMART test – that is, they must be specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic. This approach results in clearly spelled out goals like, “Get homework done with 2 or less reminders.”

Track goals with a token system

Try a “home token economy” to track your child’s progress and keep everyone’s expectations in check. Once goals have been agreed upon, assign a token value for each goal. Simple goals are worth less, while more difficult goals are worth more. Your child earns tokens when certain milestones are achieved, which can be traded in for rewards or privileges. Failing to meet milestones results in tokens being removed. Keep your token system simple and cover only several goals at a time.

Demonstrate goal setting

Serve as a good example for your child to follow by demonstrating your own goal setting process. Let your child know about something you personally want to achieve this year, and ask your child to help you notice whether you are succeeding. For instance, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds by living a healthier lifestyle, get your child to run with you on weekends or prepare healthier meals together.

The beautiful thing about helping your child map out goals for the year is that he or she will experience success in small ways. This will motivate your child to want to keep repeating the behaviors that generate these good feelings. And this chain of success creates a positive feedback loop so that your child grows more confidence as he or she recognizes new strengths and capabilities.