How to set any kind of goal for your child (or yourself!)

One of the most valuable life skills that we could ever teach our kids is how to set, achieve, and exceed goals. We use this method here at OMA for our music lessons and classes. And I use it at home with my own two children (and myself) when there is something we get stuck on. Pick anything using this way and watch you and your children grow, change, and improve!

The method we use is called SMART Goals. Google “SMART Goals” and you’ll find a variety of meanings for this acronym. We’ve settled on these words to describe a goal that is SMART:

S- Specific
M – Measurable
A – Agreed Upon
R – Realistic
T – Time Framed

Let’s look at each area and why they are all important to have in the mix…


Specific means that you have a clear, vivid picture of the goal. This first step is so important for our parenting in general. Instead of saying “You’re not listening to me”, we could say something like “When you don’t put on your shoes right after I ask you to, it makes us late for your soccer practice. Can we work on that?”

Specific often goes hand in hand with measurable…


This means you’re able to see the results with your own eyes. With a goal like “Putting shoes on right after I ask”, the measurement that you can observe is “did she do it or not?” Yes or no. See how it’s easier for you and your child to gauge success with a goal like that versus “to be a better listener”?

The best goals have measurable results. You’ll be able to check in while the goal is in progress, give encouraging or corrective feedback along the way, and at the end of the time frame… you can both know how close you are to achieving the goal.

Here’s a musical example: “Being a great musician” is not measurable or specific. “Performing the first movement of Beethoven’s piano sonata No. 14 at the spring recital” is specific and measurable.

Agreed Upon

The person carrying out the goal will ideally agree to it. At a minimum they need to be aware of it. Agreed
upon doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is eager to meet the goal (although that’s great). Rather than,
“Do you want to do this?” A better question to ask is, “Does this seem reasonable?” or “Are you willing to
work toward this?”

Side note: Some of the other acronyms you’ll find if you Google SMART Goals will have Attainable or Achievable for the letter A. We didn’t choose those because:
1) Some goals don’t feel achievable before you start working on them
2) Even for a goal that you’re working on for yourself, you’ll want to check in with yourself to make sure you are actually committed to doing it.
3) The next one, Realistic, looks an awful lot like Achievable… So “Agreed Upon” won 😉


This doesn’t mean easy. Goals should stretch your child’s abilities. But not be so difficult that it is impossible to accomplish given their current abilities, available resources, and the last consideration…Time Frame.

Time Framed

By 2:15 PM August 16, By the end of next month, by the time you start 3rd grade. Putting an end point to the goal gives you and your child a clear target to work toward.

It’s sometimes OK if a goal is not met as long as effort and progress was made. No need for your child to beat themselves up for a missed goal. When the deadline comes, use it as a teachable moment (effort = results), a chance to re-assess the situation, finish up anything that might be left undone, or set a new goal.

Other Tips

Write it Down
To make it a real thing you’re working on, put it on the fridge. Enter it into your calendar. Put it on your to-do list… whatever method will be most effective to making sure it gets accomplished.

Break It Down
Depending on the size of the goal and time frame, you may want to break it up into smaller goals. These should also be SMART. Shorter time frames are often better for kids.

Goals without MT are Empty
Out of all the components of a SMART goal, the M and the T are the most important. If a goal isn’t
measurable or have a time frame, it isn’t really a goal at all. The other components tend to take care of
– Specific is usually taken care of by making the goal measurable.
– If you’re talking about the goal with your child, they are most likely aware of it (and *hopefully*) agreeable to it 😉
– And it’s rare that people come up with totally unrealistic goals that can’t be fixed by extending the time frame or splitting the goal into smaller pieces.

The key components that are often neglected are measurable and time framed. Pay extra attention to these when creating goals and you and your child will be achieving a lot of them!

I love, love, love seeing kids (and parents) achieve their goals! 🙂 Feel free to contact me if you’d like any help coming up with your own SMART Goals.