Help Kids Set Realistic Goals and Make Positive Change


It’s human nature to want to feel happy. Research shows that some individuals, because of their temperament and personality traits, seem destined to be happy despite major life setbacks. Others seem destined to cling to unhappiness regardless of their situation. It’s important for kids to recognize that happiness isn’t about the “things” in their lives; it’s about changing behaviors and habits that create a negative outcome. The best predictor of a person’s future happiness is their past experiences. When students feel frustrated about academic setbacks and their inability to achieve personal goals it’s critical for them to take a close look at their behavioral patterns over the last several months. When you and your child review past choices it will become clear what changes need to be made to ensure that future choices will lead to a positive outcome. 



1.  Stop waiting!


Take time to talk with your child about how he or she spends their time during school and at home. This will help them recognize that poor time management skills may be contributing to poor performance. Encourage them to understand that how they choose to manage their time has a direct correlation to their success and personal happiness. If your child is spending too much time waiting, wishing and wanting things to improve but isn’t willing to try then it’s time to teach them the importance of setting goals. Creating a realistic plan to achieve goals and make positive change will help students feel empowered and in control of life outcomes.

2.  Stop blaming others!


Nobody wins at the “blame game.” Help your child evaluate how they respond to setbacks and teach them to stop blaming others for their mistakes or failures. Kids need to take responsibility for their thoughts, choices and actions because this is a critical step to achieving personal success. Often students feel that it’s easier to point the finger at someone else instead of “owning” their choices. Passing off personal mistakes as someone else’s fault is a short-term solution but in the long run kids will learn more by taking responsibility for their mistakes and choosing to make positive change. Personal growth comes from the day-to-day process of making choices – positive and negative. Reinforce behaviors that will help your child stop the “blame game” and encourage them to begin taking responsibility for his or her personal thoughts and actions.


3.  Stop trying to be perfect!


Perfection is not reality. Many students strive for perfection and when they fall short, they feel frustrated, are consumed by negative feelings and want to give up. Encourage your child to recognize and appreciate all aspects of themselves: their talents, strengths, flaws and imperfections. It takes courage to recognize personal weaknesses, but it is the first step to making positive change. Prompt kids to be true to themselves, to not pretend to be someone or something they’re not and to practice self-advocacy skills. Self-advocacy is the ability to speak up and feel comfortable with expressing personal needs and wants. This is an important skill for your child to acquire and will help them to feel empowered by setting personal boundaries and having more control over important life decisions.


4.  Stop listening to negative messages!


Teach kids to take control of their inner GPS. A driver determines the route a car will travel, not the passengers. Encourage kids to take control of their personal and academic destination by setting and evaluating goals and working hard to achieve these goals. Help your child understand that when they’re told that they can’t do this or that because it is too difficult or impossible – they need to stop listening! Encourage kids to take control of their inner GPS and to not be controlled by the negative messages around them.


5.  Stop the negative self-talk!


Begin by asking your child to reflect on their mental messages. Next, ask them to identify if these messages are most often positive or negative. Too often kids self-sabotage certain life choices and outcomes due to negative self-talk.  Kids need to understand that they are what they think, and all actions and outcomes begin with a single thought. Encourage kids to stop sending negative messages to themselves and encourage them to focus on behavior change that will bring positive outcomes. Help your child understand that if they want to be happy they must think happy and stop the negative self-talk.                                            

6.  Stop feeling entitled!


A sense of entitlement creates feelings of unhappiness and decreases self-esteem and motivation. Help your child understand that the world does not owe them anything and that hard work is a strong predictor of happiness. When kids stop feeling entitled and begin to recognize that success in life comes from hard work and gratitude, they will begin to feel increased self-worth and motivation.


Happiness is available for everyone and the New Year is a perfect time to help kids engage in a “fresh start.” Begin by having your child review his or her academic goals, setbacks and identify solutions to improve personal performance. Assist them with setting goals and identifying consequences if the goals aren’t met. Begin the New Year by encouraging your child to “own” his or her actions and to have a positive attitude that will lead towards increased success and happiness!

About the author

Vikki Carrel

Vikki Carrel

Academic Language Therapist, Multi-book Author, National Speaker

Vikki empowers people! She is an Academic Language Therapist, multi-book author and a national speaker. Vikki grew up in Salt Lake City, met her husband at the University of Utah, and has owned several companies across the United States. In 2010, Vikki and her husband moved back to Utah from Doylestown, Pennsylvania and she founded Vikki Carrel & Company, a speaking and training organization. Read more about the Author

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