Goal setting for teens
Help your teen find purpose and direction.
Very few teenagers are excited about their school work and a lot of them are rather stressed with the spectre of exams looming. Other teens are fine academically, but don't participate in sports or extramural activities, even though they may want to. Now is an excellent time to help them set goals for the rest of the year and start ensuring that what is important to them is achieved.

Goal setting exercise

Create a dream map.

Give your teen some magazines and a big piece of cardboard. Then give them some time and space on their own and let them build a collage of what they want for their life (not just for now, but the rest of their lives). What type of job do they want? What kind of house? What do they want to do with their spare time? What is important to them? What is their big dream? Let them fill their collage with pictures of what they want to achieve.

Now that they see the big picture, it is easier to set goals for today.  For instance, if they want to be an engineer, then maths and science right now suddenly becomes very important.  Ask them what they want by the end of the year: more close friendships, better grades, more involvement in sport, etc.  Let them write these ideas down.

Ask them to choose their top 5.  These will be their long-term goals.

Create meaningful goals
  • Goals need to be personal and academic (not just the latter) and should ideally be only a handful. Too many goals becomes too much to focus on.
  • The goals need to be their own.  Thrusting your goals onto them without their input will do nothing at all to motivate them. Their goals need to link to something they are passionate about (e.g. Science isn't exciting now, but it is a step on the road to me becoming a Zoologist).
  • Now that he/she has long-term goals, help them to break these into smaller, short-term goals. For example, if the long-term goal is to go from a C to a B in maths, then short-term goals could be: Go to extra maths lessons once a week for 3 months. Do extra maths homework by using study guides at least twice a week.
  • All goals need to be measurable (you must be able to see when they are reached) and achievable (for example, a goal of going from an F in Geography to an A in one term is unrealistic).
  • Goals need to have a time-frame.  Ensure that your child states when he/she wants to achieve each goal.
  • Write all goals down - the more your child sees them, the more they will be on his/her mind.  Post-it notes on the fridge, above their desk or on their walls are good examples.
  • Praise and celebrate all goals that are reached, even the small ones.  Frequent affirmations like this motivate your child to keep pursuing their goals.  Be careful to not make rewards the only end goal though - your teen needs to be motivated by their goals themselves, not the rewards you give them.

The perks of goals

Your child will feel in control of their lives and will believe that "I can directly make that happen. It's up to me. "Reaching goals improves self-esteem and self-confidence. Achieving what they set out to do means that your children are making progress and taking vital steps in achieving the big dreams they have for their lives.  

Goals for younger children

Should goal setting happen in a formal way? Should teens be taught to be realistic or dream big?

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