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How to Have Measurable Goals for Troubled Kids

by Tiffany Raiford

Whether your child has behavioral issues, suffers from depression or has a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to feel like he can succeed, setting goals is important. Even if your child is troubled to the point that he feels he cannot accomplish the things he wants to accomplish, he needs specific, short-term goals to reach for instead of long-term general ones that can feel overwhelming to implement. Setting clear-cut measurable goals for your child gives him inspiration for improvement and success.

Talk to your troubled child about what success means for her. According to Stephen Gavazzi, Ph.D., psychologist, family therapist and professor at The Ohio State University, talking to your kid about what she feels success means and reciprocating by telling her what you think success means can help her to figure out what steps she needs to take in order to become successful. Knowing what type of behaviors and steps she needs to accomplish to succeed can help her avoid troubled behavior that may derail her plans for success. For example, if she wants to go to a good college to become a veterinarian, she needs to focus on behaviors such as studying hard, making good grades, researching veterinarian schools, applying for colleges, applying for scholarships and setting small goals to help her accomplish each step.

Help your child set goals for himself. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, when you as the parent make it a habit to set short-term goals, your kids learn to set their own as well. For example, if the big goal is to get better grades, you can help your child accomplish this goal by creating a reward system to ensure it is measurable. For a younger child, you could create a colorful chart that depicts the days of the week and the homework he has for each class. When he finishes a homework assignment, you can put a sticker in the box for that day and that particular class to measure his goal in progress. For an older child or teen, you could use a reward system, such as a later weekend curfew or bedtime each time he meets his goal of getting his homework and studying done for the school week.

Keep goals reasonable and attainable, even if this means breaking big goals into smaller goals that should be accomplished a little at a time and cheer your child on every time she accomplishes one of her goals. If your child's learing disabilities or stressful life situations such as a divorce or loss of a loved one have affected her grades, help her set a goal to bring her grades up by the end of the school year and then break that goal into smaller goals. Her first small goal toward reaching her big goal could be finishing her homework before dinner every night. Once she masters that, she can set a goal of studying for every quiz and test. She can then make a goal of working with her teacher to improve areas that trouble her most. Cheer her on and you can help her reach her big goal a lot more successfully because it boosts her self-confidence, advises Kids Health.

Focus on your child’s strengths instead of his weaknesses, advises Gavazzi. For example, say your child gets a "C" on her spelling test instead of the "A" she hoped for. Instead of focusing on the fact that she is bad at spelling, focus on the fact that she passed the test and her study habits are becoming impressive. This helps her to focus on that strength rather than dwelling on defeat.

Tip

  • If your child’s troubles extend into the realm of depression or criminal activity, you should contact a mental health professional or therapist to help.

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