The week before school starts is the optimal time for the family to work
together to set goals for the coming school year. Making such public statements
are powerful tools that help people to bring them to fruition.
When setting goals, each member of the family takes stock in her or his
actions during the last school year and looks forward to making positive
Since the adults have a better understanding of this process, they go first
so they can model to the children how it works.
Maybe you didn’t attend any evening functions last year. One of your goals
could be to go to three school events this year.
A guideline to keep in mind is to make the statement with positive words
rather than negative ones. Say what you will do rather than what you won’t.
Instead of saying, “I won’t be late to school,” you say, “I will be on
time to school.”
Keep the goals age-appropriate. Children need to have some sense of control
over what they can do.
Younger children can strive to be ready to leave the house on time every
day, be responsible to hand in completed homework, remember to give papers
from the teacher to parents, bring home lunchboxes and backpacks, and return
library books on time.
Children in intermediate grades and middle school can pledge to pace themselves
in the completion of long-term assignments, complete assignments on time,
and focus more attention on subjects where grades were low last year.
High schoolers with more hectic schedules can pay attention to balancing
their time among studies, jobs, dating, and extracurricular activities.
Gently talk with the kids about last year’s problems and see where they
can come up with suggestions for improvements. And, most of all, be there
to support them in the changes for which they say they want to work.
Post them in public for all to see. The refrigerator or a bulletin board
is a good place to have a regular reminder of the goals for which all of
you are working.
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents.