Lots of people get very intimidated and bogged down in setting targets or goals so I thought I’d do a little guide to make you (hopefully) feel a bit calmer about it. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll talk about ‘goals’ in this article but you could equally call them targets or aims.
Setting goals is really important for lots of things including working on speech and communication skills. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to need goals! Even children benefit from having clear goals although they may need an adult to set them, especially if they are younger. That’s what sticker reward charts are all about! So what’s so great about goals then? Well, having one in mind helps both adults and children to:
- know and remember what they’re trying to achieve
- stay motivated and focused
- feel good about achieving something
There are two main types of goal, long term and short term. A long term goal is something ‘big’ that you think will take a long time to achieve. Short term goals are smaller things that can be achieved quickly and are often steps on the way to reaching your long term goal. So how do you set a good goal then? Well, much as I hate acronyms, this one is actually quite handy. All goals, long term or short term, need to be SMART:
S – Specific. If you choose something that is to ‘big’ or vague, it will be very difficult to achieve so make sure you chose something clear and defined.
M – Measurable. Make sure you have a way of knowing if you have achieved your goal or not. How you do this depends on what your goal is. Do not get too bogged down in counting or trying to put arbitrary numbers on things. Sometimes a measure can be as simple as a statement like ‘Next time granny visits, we are aiming for her to understand most of what little johnny says to her.’ You can answer yes or no to this and you will have measured whether or not the goal was achieved!
A – Achievable. Everything we want to achieve needs to be broken down into steps. You may have a very large long term goal but in order to get there, you will have to break it down into smaller, easily achievable chunks. Achievable goals maintain motivation and help build confidence.
R – Realistic. There is no point in having a goal that isn’t realistic for you or your child, really this is a bit like making sure it’s ‘achievable’.
T – Time-limited. Set yourself a review time for your goal. Hopefully by the time you chose, you or your child will have achieved what you set out to do but if not, it gives you the chance to look at why not and make adjustments if necessary. It’s ok if the goal isn’t achieved within your time-limit, the time limit is just there to remind you to take a rain check and review what you’re doing.
It’s really important to remember that any goals you set for you or your child are flexible. That means it’s ok to change them!!! Sometimes you have to make a best guess at what will be a good goal and it becomes apparent that it’s either too easy or hard. Don’t flog a dead horse, change it!
When working with younger children, I find that a ‘working for’ card like this is a really good way to translate my goals into a language that is clear for them.
The idea is that the child chooses what they’d like to work for from a choice of options and they then have to collect either 3 or 5 tokens to get it, depending on the child. During the session, I’ll give them a token each time they complete a specified task (goal!) until they have filled their card. Once their card is filled, they get the reward immediately. Some children will need smaller targets so you may find that you need to give them tokens very frequently. If that’s the case, just let them fill the card and get the reward then start again or, if you need to, work in shorter sessions. You can download the working for card that I use from the downloads page or by clicking the link below if you’d like to give it a go yourself.
Please email me with any questions!