Guest column: Goal setting teaches toddlers and preschoolers lifelong skills

Around this time, millions of Americans set goals for themselves on things they would like to do or improve this year. For parents and caregivers of toddlers and preschoolers, this New Year’s tradition offers a wonderful opportunity to expand children’s learning.

As 2017 begins, parents can engage their children in conversations about past years’ celebrations and upcoming resolutions. Adults can share resolutions they have made in the past and talk about how setting goals helps us grow and learn. They can also talk with their children about setting realistic and achievable goals for themselves.

First Things First offers some ways to approach the conversation of setting goals for the new year. Remember that it must be a back-and-forth dialogue between a caregiver and a child. Also, the child must arrive at their resolution on their own. For toddlers and preschoolers, some simple resolutions might include:

•Reading together for 30 minutes every day.

•Brushing teeth every day, or learning to do it on their own.

•Trying one new fruit or vegetable each moth.

•Less TV or computer use to make time for family games or physical activity.

•Learning to tie their shoes or get dressed on their own.

•Getting to bed by a certain time every day.

In these discussions, help your child decide how they will monitor their progress and what good rewards for progress might be. For example a new book, stickers on a calendar, a visit to a museum or local event might be rewards. As the year progresses, use successes or challenges as opportunities to talk about setting higher goals or adjusting old goals to be more realistic. Focus always on the positive – such as progress made or obstacles that have been overcome.

At each step along the way, parents will see their children achieving their goals, but the process itself will strengthen parent-child relationships, build vocabulary (resolution is a BIG word) and contribute to skills – such as motivation, self-esteem and focus – that will serve our children now, once they enter school and throughout their lives.

First Things First — First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. More information is avialable by going to FirstThingsFirst.org.

Amanda Bahe, Parent Awareness & Community Outreach Coordinator, Navajo Nation Regional Partnership Council for First Things First

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