We recently had the chance to sit down with Autumn, a popular mom-blogger & passionate proponent of the Montessori educational method. Our chat centered around the transformative power of goal setting within the Montessori framework—known for its deep emphasis on intrinsic motivation and practical life skills.
Autumn's insights provide a roadmap for introducing and nurturing the concept of goals in children, while emphasizing the importance of the journey over the destination.
Read on for our insightful Q&A, which offers practical advice & anecdotes to guide parents in cultivating a growth-oriented environment at home!
Little Sleepies: What is the importance of goal setting for children and families?
Autumn: From a Montessori perspective, goal setting holds significant importance for both children and families. It aligns with the core principles of the Montessori philosophy: Intrinsic motivation, development of executive functions, practical life skills, and cultivation of a growth mindset are all indirect objectives of a Montessori environment.
Goal setting can help the child excel in each of these areas! Additionally, goal setting enhances the collaboration between the child and parents, creating a supportive environment for overall growth and development.
LS: How can parents effectively introduce the concept of goals to children?
A: Firstly, you may consider beginning early by modeling. Parents play a crucial part as role models. You can demonstrate goal-setting behavior by setting your own goals and openly discussing your aspirations, challenges, and achievements with your child. This provides them with a real-life example of goal-setting in action.
It’s important that you understand your child’s interests. Observe and understand what activities and subjects captivate your child. Use this information to guide goal-setting discussions, ensuring that goals align with their individual passions and interests. Goal setting should be child-led to ensure they are motivated intrinsically.
LS: Should parents encourage short or long term goals?
A: Begin with short-term and achievable goals. This helps children experience success early on, building confidence and motivation. As they become accustomed to the goal-setting process, gradually introduce longer-term objectives.
Montessori philosophy values the process of learning over the end result. Encourage your child to focus on the effort they put into achieving their goals rather than solely on the outcome. This mindset fosters a love for learning and perseverance.
LS: Can you provide specific ways to teach kids about goals & examples of achievable goals for different age groups?
A: Sure! Here are some activities I’d suggest.
For Preschoolers (age 3-6):
- Try visual aids: Use simple, engaging stories with relatable characters that illustrate the concept of setting and achieving goals. Introduce visual aids such as pictures, drawings, or books to represent short-term and long-term goals.
- Start simple: Start with simple daily goals that are achievable in a short period, like completing a puzzle, cleaning up toys, or finishing a drawing. Reinforce the idea that goals are part of their everyday activities, and they’re already achieving goals all the time!
For Lower Elementary Schoolers (age 6-9):
Begin a nature journal: Encourage your kids to set short-term goals like
observing different plants or animals during a nature walk. A long-term goal could be maintaining a nature journal over the whole season!
- Introduce time management: Introduce games or activities that help children understand the difference between short-term & long-term. For instance, a "race against the clock" game for short-term goals and a project that spans several days/weeks for long-term goals.
- Reflect upon their progress: Engage in discussions about the goals children set. Ask questions about their progress, what challenges they faced, and how they can adjust their strategies to have different outcomes!
For Upper Elementary Schoolers (age 9-12):
- Introduce project-based goals: Introduce project-based learning activities where children can set long-term goals for a project. This might involve research, planning, and execution over a longer period of time. One idea could be to create a vegetable garden in the backyard, or organizing and executing a science fair with their friends.
- Introduce SMART goals: The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A SMART goal for a child of this age could be to develop a reading habit. For example, "Read 10 age-appropriate books in three months."
LS: Can you share an anecdote about one of the first goals you set with your children, and how you went about achieving it?
A: One of the very first goals we set with our toddler was putting his socks on independently from start to finish. This was a long-term goal as it took months of practice. We did this by scaffolding, which means we worked up to the goal with bite-sized appropriate steps:
Set the child up for success with appropriate materials. We used large socks that would reduce complications for our son. (I’ve also seen toddlers practice with scrunchies!)
2. Model the action. We began by sitting with our son and demonstrating how to put on socks using clear and precise motions.
3. Invite the child to practice opening the sock. It takes more coordination than we sometimes realize as adults! Invite them to try to place the sock over their toes. If they struggle to the point of frustration, offer to help.
4. Continue practicing. We added each step slowly and went at our son’s pace. Then one day, he got it from start to finish! A sequential approach helps children grasp each component of the task.
LS: What are some tools or techniques to track and celebrate goal achievements for kids?
A: In a Montessori-aligned approach, tracking and celebrating goal achievements for kids should emphasize self-reflection, and the intrinsic joy of learning. You may consider goal-setting journals where they can document their short-term and long- term goals.
Encourage your children to write or draw about their achievements, challenges faced, and reflections on their learning journey. Acknowledge their efforts & invite them to share how they feel about their accomplishments!
LS: What advice would you give to other parents based on your successes and challenges with family goal setting?
A: Be sure to maintain feasible expectations. Start small as a family and work up to bigger goals! Parenting is not easy as it is, so try not to add unnecessary pressure to your plate. I have a tendency to overload myself and that is not a trait I wish to teach my children.
We choose to focus on the process over the end result and I highly recommend you take that approach!
We hope this discussion with Autumn has shed light on how goal setting can positively impact children and families.
Now, we'd like to hear from you! Share your experiences and successes in introducing goal setting to your children. What strategies worked for your family? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?