Goal Setting Sets the Tone for Confidence & Improvement

Goals

At the start of every tutoring session or parent meeting I ask my clients: What are your goals for our time together? This helps set the tone, providing structure to what is often a difficult moment in time — the moment someone asks for help.

Goals versus Expectations

Setting goals is different than having expectations. Goals are specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Expectations, on the other hand, are the “I wish you could’s” and the “I want you to’s” of life. Most of us have those sore childhood memories where our parents wished we could just do this differently or wanted us to do something that way instead. That’s a lot of pressure on a kid! Of course, parents want only the best for their kids but when your best is not your child’s version of best, then there is a conflict.

Conflict comes in many forms and one of those is having unattainable expectations. You want your child to go to Harvard? Okay, let’s really think about this: (1) What does it take to get into an Ivy League school? , (2) Is this really the best school environment for my child?, (3) Am I helping my child become a life-long learner and not just creating a “teach to the test” kind of student?

Shoot for the stars, yes! But combat the pressure of high expectation with a loving dose of reality.

Set Daily Attainable, Specific Goals to Build Your Child’s Confidence & Productivity

Nothing gives a student a reality check like setting daily attainable, specific goals. Child-led goals work best because they learn to take ownership and responsibility for their own actions or inactions. A life lesson, for sure!

To do this effectively, start with two goals – both should be things they could slightly improve upon but for the most part got it already – and one challenge goal, something new or something they have wanted to try but keep putting it off.

If your child is on the younger side, a sticker chart visibly placed in their room or in a common area is helpful. Let them choose where they’d like to put it. Some kids prefer to be more private as they learn something new and aren’t quite ready to shout it out to the whole family. Immediate gratification (ie: small prizes) and verbal praise helps younger kids solidify their confidence and keep coming back to challenge themselves further. If your child is a little older, say a ‘tween’, have them keep their own self-created reflection chart privately where they can earn bigger prizes for things that take a week or two to accomplish.

Set specific goals, such as complete math homework between 4:30-5:15 or write one paragraph for your English paper before dinner. Goals are baby steps.

Goals can also encompass something that’s difficult outside of homework like social skills (ie: invite one new friend over for a play date this weekend) or trying a new food (ie: asparagus, yum!). Learning is not limited to just academics. We need to broaden our goals to challenges outside of the classroom too.

If It’s Just Not Working, Rework Your Thinking

Oftentimes, our goals may initially reflect our expectations, just worded in a different way. If that’s the case, take a step back and try to put yourself in your child’s shoes, making sure to consider your child’s learning style and whether we may be putting too much or not enough pressure on your child to perform up to a certain standard. Starting slow with clear, attainable goals is usually the best beta test.

The end goal is really to help our kids love learning. We can do this by helping them increase their confidence through small accomplishments, which leads to increased confidence when the work, and life, gets harder.

You’re right, those Harvard dreams could very well be in your child’s future. However, we want to make sure they enjoy the process of learning on their way to the big leagues.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

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How Do You Measure Trust?

trust-3Do you remember doing the Trust Fall? It’s a common practice in scouts and business get-to-know-each-other retreats to develop a sense of trust and community within the group dynamic. For those of you who haven’t yet participated in this exercise you literally stand on a platform with your hands clasped in front of you while your team lines up behind you, arms outstretched in a zipper-like fashion. Then you turn around and fall backwards into the group. Is it scary? Yep! Does it foster trust? Yep!

Struggling Students Feel Like They’ve Fallen & No One was There to Catch Them

A Trust Fall is a lot like what our kiddos feel when we ask them to trust the adults in their lives. Especially if a child has been “burned” before, they are less apt to blindly trust you until you (as the parent, educator, or therapist) prove that you’re not going anywhere and you’re not giving up on them.

By the time students come to me for help, they’ve already suffered an enormous blow to their self-esteem: poor grades, arguments with parents, numerous trips to the principal’s office, and numerous meetings with the school — all these events culminate into one struggling student who feels that they’re not good enough and one struggling family who feels helpless.

Show Your Kiddo You Believe in Them By Earning Their Trust

My job is to first make a connection with the child in need and gain their trust. This is not something that can be measured. But therapists and educators alike, often feel the pressure to adhere only to the quantifiable, written goals and so the act of building a foundation of trust gets put to the wayside in favor of checking the box.

We’ve got it backwards, folks. We cannot work on measurable goals until a solid foundation of trust is built. Why? Your kiddo does not trust you yet and will not work towards the goals and the set standards until he does trust you.

If a Child Trusts You, They Will Work Hard to Achieve The Goals You Set

Like any good relationship, authentic connections stem from taking the time to get to know one another. This is also true in the student-teacher, client-therapist, and child-parent relationships. When we fully trust someone, we want to work hard for them because we believe that they know what’s best for us. Our kiddos want to move forward successfully and will do so as long as they know we’ve got their back.

To measure an immeasurable, like trust, is to attempt to quantify things like love and beauty. We can’t. It just doesn’t work like that. So take that extra session, that extra hour, and that extra week and spend the time to earn your kiddo’s trust. It creates a foundation that leads to a real connection and a real attempt by your child to meet those challenges.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.