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“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.”  – Earl Nightingale

As adults, we know how goal setting can help us develop the right discipline and attitude to be more successful and happy in life, but how should we teach kids about goal setting and how do we set goals for kids?

Why is it important to set goals for children?

If you are a primary school kid’s parent, you probably won’t be surprised that aside from being able to play all day, your child doesn’t really have “goals in life”. Afterall, children are children and they just want to have fun during their primary school years.

However, many studies have shown that children who have goals – whether academic or personal ones – will do better in life than children without. When your child has something to work towards, it keeps them more focused so that they stay motivated on a regular basis.

Besides that, setting goals with your child is also useful for communicating your expectations and teaches them to be responsible for their actions and learning. This in turn helps to build their confidence and  self-esteem over time.

What Types of Goals should I set for my primary school kid?

Most Primary schools in Singapore focus on goal setting for the academic side of things, but as a parent, you know that there’s more than that!

In today’s evolving world, how well your child does in school forms only part of the happy and successful equation. The other part is made up of good habits and life skills.

Now, let’s look at these 2 kinds of goals in detail.

1. Academic Goals

Academic goals are part of the necessity to help your child stay focused on making improvements in school. Such goals enable your child to meet specific test results in their holistic tests, mid year exams ( SA1 ), prelims and end of year exams ( SA2 ).

Some examples of such goals may be:

  • Get at least 90% or more on my holistic tests
  • Achieve 1 grade more than what I got last year
  • Improve by 5 more marks for my next test

Academic goals shouldn’t be about competing with your child’s peers. Rather, they should focus on their personal growth, so what you set as goals will be dependent on what type of parent you are, what you believe in and also your child’s ability, strengths and aspirations.

Next, let’s look at the habitual goals.

2. Habitual Goals

Habitual goals focus more on habits or routines that you want your child to have or break out from. These go a long way in helping to develop a child’s discipline, attitude and most importantly, character.

Start by thinking about what kind of adult do you want your child to be when they grow up.

If you need some ideas on such goalsm here are some examples:

  • Show gratitude to others by always saying “Thank You”
  • Show perseverance whenever you get stuck at a homework question
  • Be helpful in the family by helping with simple household chores

Think about your child’s life skills and what you’ll like them to improve over time. For example, if your child seems to be struggling with being organized, set a simple goal for them to tidy up their study table whenever they are done. If your child is struggling with patience, set a goal for them to count time or think of how to occupy themselves while waiting.

The good thing about having such habits is that they’ll eventually support their academic goals too. For example, getting your child to practice their multiplication table for 10 minutes a day not only helps them improve the accuracy in their calculation, but it also instills the discipline of daily revision.

Now that you have a better idea of what kind of goals to set for your primary school child, let’s see how to do it!

How to set goals that work?

1. You work for what you own.

I’m sure all of you are familiar with the phrase “It takes both hands to clap”. The secret to making goals work for your child follows this rule too.

Although it may be tempting to think that a parent knows best, you need to know that what you want may not be what they want.

Talk to your child about goals and ask them what they want. Hear them out before sharing your thoughts and compromise on something that both of you are happy with.

Once your child feels that they decided on the goals for themselves, they are more likely to follow it through.

2. You must know WHY you want it.

If something seems useless to you, why would you want to spend time on it? The same logic applies to your child.

Discuss with your child why their goals are important and try to see if from their point of view. Remember that children are not adults. They may not be convinced that good grades will get them good jobs in future, but they’ll be more than willing to get good grades if this translate into lesser work and more play time.

Once they see the reason behind their goals and what’s in it for them, your child will start to feel more motivated and persist even when the going gets tough.

3. Be as Clear as possible.

Children can’t really picture abstract goals. When you tell them “to do better next time”, you might be surprised to that your definition of “better” might be very different from what they have in mind. That’s why it’s good to give your child specific targets such as “Let’s get another 5 more marks in your test next time.” or “Let’s put your books to where they belong.”.

When you are clear in your instructions, your child knows what to expect and what exact actions to take.

4. Start small.

No one climbs Mount Everest in a day.

Break down whatever goals you have set into simple baby steps that your child can achieve.

For example, if you want your child to get an A for their Math test and you know that he/she is struggling with problem sums, an easy baby step can be to try to solve every word problem without leaving any blanks or to avoid making any careless mistakes in their calculations.

This makes the tasks less daunting for your child and help to boost their confidence a little by little.

5. Review, Reflect & Reward

Once you are done setting your goals, it helps to put them on paper and set intervals to review them.

Reviewing the goals on a regular basis will help you and your child to understand their progress better and readjust some goals if necessary.

At every review session, get your child to reflect on their goals. If they have achieved them, be generous with your praise or reward them. If they were not able to reach their goals, talk about what difficulties they face and how to overcome them. When you have done so, rewrite the goals to make it more achievable and encourage your child hit their targets the next round.


Goal setting is a valuable life skill to have, but your primary school child will probably not know that.

It’s up to you as a parent to teach them this lifelong skill and get them to be motivated to succeed. Will you start the ball rolling?

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