What are SMART Goals (+ SMART Goals Examples)

At the start of a new year, do you and your kids make New Year’s Resolutions or SMART goals (or both)? What are SMART goals? Get ready to find out all about them, see some SMART goals examples, and learn how they will help your kids (and you) crush your goals in the new year.

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A new year, a new start, right? As we wrap up the holiday season and head toward a new year, many people start to think about their goals and dreams for the new year. 

Some people will make new year’s resolutions to help them make beneficial changes in their lives. Other people will make goals that they hope to accomplish through the year. And parents will likely start teaching their kids about setting goals.

Research shows people who work towards goals are more intrinsically motivated and happier people. When it comes to setting goals for kids, it’s much more beneficial and effective to set goals WITH your kids rather than FOR your kids. 

Ask your kids what they want to accomplish in the new year. Ask them what seems impossible but what would make them feel so proud to overcome. Having a conversation like this with your kids can be enlightening and empowering to both of you!

As parents, helping our kids learn how to set goals teaches them: 

  • How to take responsibility
  • Believing in themselves – building self-confidence and self-esteem
  • How to accomplish something even if it’s hard
  • How to persevere
  • Working toward something that seems impossible and feeling a sense of accomplishment when they achieve it

But just setting goals often isn’t enough. In order to REALLY stay accountable and measure progress, it’s important to set SMART goals.

Grab these free goal setting worksheets to guide you through the process!

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What Are SMART Goals?

If you’ve never heard of this type of goal setting, I’m going to show you what are SMART goals, go over how to make SMART goals and present some SMART goals examples for kids.

Setting SMART goals brings you the ability to really focus, structure, and track your goals. Instead of setting some vague goal, this approach makes the whole process much more specific which ultimately helps you be more successful in achieving it.

What does SMART stand for? This handy acronym helps make it easy to remember all the elements of planning out your SMART goals:

S (specific)

What would your child (or you) like to accomplish? The more specific you can be with the goal, the better. Can you answer questions about Who, What, When, Where, Why? If not, drill down a little more to get more specific!

M (measurable) 

How will you measure so that you know you have reached your goal? 

A (achievable) 

Is your goal challenging, but achievable? You don’t want it to be too hard or too easy – just the right amount of challenge. 

Also, the bigger the goal you set, the more you’ll need to break it down into small bites to help ensure success.

R (realistic) 

Does it make sense for you & your current situation/plans? Make sure you’re focused on the goals that are most important to you.

T (time-bound or timely) 

Do you want to reach your goal by a certain deadline? It might be something your kiddo wants to achieve in a month…or 6 months…or a year.

SMART goals graphic

When you set a deadline (or a schedule), you create a sense of commitment and will be more willing to stay motivated to work toward that goal and deadline.

SMART goals meet all of these requirements. If you have formed a goal that meets everything except having a deadline, it’s not a SMART goal.

How to Make SMART Goals With Kids

It’s likely not a process so simple that all you have to do is say “I want to get better at running”. Here’s the process of setting SMART goals with kids – simplified because it doesn’t need to be complicated!

NOTE: this can be a VERY tough (but SUCH a good) process for kids – especially younger kids. You may find that you are doing all the talking the first time you do this with your kids, and that’s ok. They are learning and will be a little more independent next time. 

If you have young kids who need to “borrow” a goal I have listed down below or one that you suggest, that’s ok too. Once they go through the process one time and see how it works, they’ll be more independent and adventurous in participating!

Grab these free goal setting worksheets to guide you through the process!

Smart goals freebie banner

Think About and Discuss Strengths and Challenges

It’s perfectly normal for kids to focus on what they see as the strengths or weaknesses of other kids. However, participating in an exercise like this is crucial for helping kids learn to identify their OWN strengths and challenges.

Try not to focus on just one area of life, say academics or sports, but rather let your kids come up with some ideas of their own. It’s an enlightening experience to hear what they flag as challenges that they want to work on.

Narrow Down the List to Just One Item to Work On

Once you have brainstormed a list, it’s time to narrow it down to the one that motivates your child the most. Motivation to achieve the goal will be key to ensuring success.

Formulate The Goal as a SMART Goal

Writing down a goal isn’t enough. Take your chosen goal and formulate it as a SMART goal (see examples – and grab a free download – down below).

As part of this process, it’s important to break down the larger goal into smaller milestones. Doing that has a couple of benefits:

  • Makes the end goal not feel so daunting
  • Keeps your kids motivated to reach the next milestone – and get that much closer to achieving their goal.
goals quote on a napkin

Smart Goals Examples

Now that you know what are SMART goals and how to create one, it’s important to make the distinction between examples of vague goals vs SMART goals examples. Check out these examples of SMART goals to see the difference yourself.

Goal: Improve Health

Vague: I’m going to eat healthier

SMART goal: I am going to eat 4 servings of vegetables every day for 1 month.

Goal: Earn a belt in Karate

Vague: I want to earn my next Karate belt

SMART goal: I want to earn my next belt by the end of the year.

Goal: Read more

Vague: I want to read more books

SMART goal: I want to finish 5 chapter books this month

Goal: Reduce Screen Time

Vague: I’m going to watch less tv

SMART goal: I am going to read a book with mom or dad every night for 2 weeks instead of watching 30 minutes of tv before bed.

Goal: Become a Better Writer

Vague: I want to write great stories

SMART goal: I am going to write an engaging introduction in each of my next 3 school writing assignments

Goal: Be a great athlete

Vague: I want to be in the next Olympics

SMART goal: I will train four times a week to run a marathon in 6 months.

Can you see the difference between vague goals and SMART goals examples? See how the SMART goals offer more details which, in turn, make it easier to track and attain the end goal?

If your kids come up with non-SMART goals examples, try to help them “tweak” their goals into “smarter” goals.

Grab these free goal setting worksheets to guide you through the process!

Smart goals freebie banner

Tips for Making Great SMART Goals With Kids

Use these helpful tips when forming goals in the SMART method.

  • Praise your kiddo for working towards their goal – not on their performance, or how long it’s taken, or the end result. Your goal with this praise is to support them and keep them accountable to the goal they chose. 
  • Track those goals! And do it in a place where the whole family can see it and cheer each other on! Some ideas include putting the tracker on the fridge, on a family command center, or even on the wall above your child’s bed.
  • Keep those goals positive. State them in a positive way, and if they use negative language such as “I’m not going to hit my brother anymore”, help them replace that with something like “I am going to work to use other ways to calm myself down when I’m upset so I avoid hitting my brother”.
  • Allow your child to come up with ideas for goals on his own. You may need to step in and help form the goals according to the SMART method. However, make sure to support his idea fully so he doesn’t feel like his idea is minimized. 

Whether your goal is to set New Year’s resolutions or simply goals to work on at any time of the year, this exercise can be both purposeful and fun.

Knowing how goals can fizzle out over time, use this opportunity to teach your kiddos how to persevere when they face challenges and remain dedicated to achieving their goal. 

I created free SMART goals worksheets to help you and your child create – and break down the steps of – a new goal. Grab it for free below!

Pin For Later!

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  1. Impressive guide! By the way, I’d studied enneagram. Not everyone is a target achiever. Some kids may feel a burden to deal with goal setting. How to do it smartly require more effort.

  2. I love this! I am big on goal setting and am trying to teach my kids this. I love these steps and will definitely implement them with the kids. Thanks for a helpful post.

  3. I need to sit down with my kids and talk about goals with them. I think it’s so important to push them to always challenge themselves, be courageous and try new things, and work hard.

  4. This sounds like an awesome system to put in place and use! This is my first time hearing of the SMART goal systems.

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