If children are asked to study without any reason other than ‘because you have to’, how do you think this makes them feel?

Goal setting is a very important tool for self-confidence, self-motivation, and promoting learner autonomy. If children regularly see that they are doing something related to what they like, as a result of their own choices, their self-esteem will improve. This will result in motivating them to pursue more goals and challenge themselves further. It is an ongoing cycle; every goal they set and achieve will enhance their self-esteem and self-confidence, and that will give them a positive attitude towards learning.

How do I encourage my child to set their own goals?

Perhaps this is the most challenging stage. A child’s behavior is a very good communicative tool, and it is very necessary to pay attention to what your child likes doing in their free time and think of a few alternatives for them to choose from.

Example: Zara likes dancing and singing. There are a lot of activities we can offer for her that can help develop her language and vocabulary. In this case, we could give Zara one choice of the following goals:

  1. She could learn one new song every week, and tell us what she likes about it, and what new words she learned from it.
  2. She could use a website like lyricstraining.com, where she has to listen and complete missing words from the song.
  3. She could use learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org to find a variety of songs and tell us about what she has learned, and whether she liked a particular song or not.

The importance of planning

A goal without a plan is not really useful. As a result, it is very important to have to at least a verbal plan for the goal that the children are trying to achieve. At the very minimum, we could look at the ABC model for achieving goals:

  • A: Achievable (And within the child’s resources)
  • B: Believable (They are fully aware that they can do it)
  • C: Committed (Not a one-time event)

Offering ongoing encouragement and support

It is essential to stay committed to a certain goal. Hence it is very good to provide rewards to children whenever they have put in some effort. For example: Zara decides to use a lyrics training website, we could use a chart to record the songs that she has learnt, and maybe keep track of 5 new words she learned.

Positive reinforcement is another great tool. Phrases like “I can see that you like doing this and you are doing a good job” or “I am happy to see that you are enjoying this, what are you planning to do next week?” will make their efforts feel acknowledged and encourage them to carry on doing these activities.

Once they feel they have done enough in one particular area, you could go back and offer a variety of other goals for them to pursue. It does not have to be related to songs, it could be something related to writing or reading. But the principle remains the same it is about the child choosing what they would like to work on, which is an important routine that will help them grow and become successful achievers.

British Council has a range of activities, games, songs and articles to help you and your child. For more information, visit our website at britishcouncil.my