Reflection and Goal Setting With Kids

One of my favorite books is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. And from it, the most memorable piece of wisdom was this– “The best gift an educator can give is to get their students to be self-reflective.”

I’d previously thought that the best gift an educator could give was to teach a child to think. But, Pausch made me reconsider. And now I agree with his statement.

I think about this a lot.

It’s what I want for my kids — to be reflective.

It’s true that the most successful people in this world know their strengths and their weaknesses. Likewise, the most successful students also know their strengths and weaknesses. They will leave a test and say, I know I got 4,5 and 6 correct but question 3 I’m not sure about.

Conversely, ask a poor student who isn’t reflective how he or she did on a test and you’d probably hear, “I don’t know.” Which would be true. They don’t know and haven’t learned how to be reflective.

This summer I’m helping my girls take time to set goals and be reflective.

Today we started simply with these goal setting statements.

Now I can . . .

Then we set simple goals for the future.

I want to . . .

Throughout the next few weeks, it is my job to ask guiding questions about their journey in meeting their goal. This will help them become reflective.

How do you feel you’re doing in meeting your goal?”

“What’s going well?”

“What do you need help with?”

Finally, each child will feel accomplishment when she reaches her goal. Talk about building efficacy! I can set a goal and I can achieve it. Yeah!

What about your family?

How do you set goals and encourage reflection?


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  1. says

    I”m a huge goal setter! I also really enjoy my Sunday morning’s spent reflecting on the week and writing in the kids journals.

    I need to teach this to my kids!

    • says

      Me, too – I can go back to high school and see my goals which I always categorized. I love that you write in your kids journals — I need to do that. What do you write?

  2. says

    Self-reflection is such an important habit to acquire, yet we don’t often think about how to help our kids develop it. I really like your simple strategy here with guiding your kids towards it, Melissa. Asking those questions of your kids will help them internalize that language, I believe.


  3. says

    This is SUCH an important tool in the social arena as well–being self-reflective about how someone treats you, or how you treated someone else is an elusive skill for children to learn and use to their advantage.

  4. Julianne Hyma says

    I do similar activities with my boys, ages 3 and 5. I think it really gives them more control in their daily lives while at the same time empowering them to be independent thinkers. Having worked in Human Resources for 10 years, I use many of same tactics to help them think through tasks and set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).

  5. says

    I love the idea of setting the small goals that will lead to larger ones, great post! I found your site while I was looking for a good goal setting workbook for kids 9-11 that will help them plan and work through their goals on their own. Since you’ve obviously spent time thinking about this, is there any chance you have any resource suggestions for me? Thanks so much, keep up the great writing!


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