Blog · Jan 09, 2015
Goal-setting is a cornerstone to effective prevention education. When children set goals for themselves, they make an investment in their future. The firmer their resolutions, the less likely they are to make decisions that would deter them from reaching those goals. They in turn develop a stronger moral compass, and they are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance use and violence.
Setting age appropriate goals for children, and encouraging them to set their own, will foster foundational expansion. However, it is crucial to recognize the stages of children’s cognitive development; children move from concrete to abstract thinking over the course of elementary school. In order for children to reach their goals, they must strive toward goals that are set within their stage of development. Furthermore, children who are able to discern short-term from long-term goals may set and reach their goals with greater confidence.
While aiding children in setting and reaching goals, we must consider the most beneficial learning environment. In a recent Huffington Post article, Dr. Gail Gross, Family and Child Development Expert, writes, “As we guide children towards their fullest potential, we teach them through bonding, observation, social learning and role modeling, how to delay gratification and reach goals and resolutions.” Children thrive in a learning environment that encourages bonding and social learning. They establish a sense of individuality in relation to others, which is necessary for both autonomy and healthy relationship building. Social learning activities may include interactive games, media, and role-plays. These activities simulate real life social constructs so children may tangibly apply what they have learned to their own lives.
But how does a social environment circle back to goal-setting? Once a community is established, children are able to feel both a sense of individuality and a sense of belonging to a group. These feelings in combination relieve stress in children, which in turn frees them up to set reachable goals for themselves. And the more capable children are of setting reachable goals, the more likely they are to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors. Children will develop healthy decision making skills that will secure for them a safe and flourishing future.