SMART Goals for Children in 2021

January is all about making New Year’s Resolutions, but let’s say good-bye to the resolutions and hello to some SMART goals for children in 2021.  It is important for people of all ages to learn how to create a simple, SMART goal and the steps to achieve the goal.  Learning about what goals are and what makes a goal successful is very important for children’s development.

Changes and self-improvement can happen anytime of the year, but there is something about starting fresh according to the calendar New Year that makes it more appealing to start then.  That is why New Year’s resolutions develop.  But, let’s get rid of the word “resolutions” for 2021.  Last year was rough enough and the last thing we need is extra pressure or unrealistic expectations.

Instead, let’s change the language and think about a realistic and simple goal to work on in 2021.  Resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”  That is a lot of pressure!  Instead, goals are “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed” and can be flexible with steps to make the goal achievable.  Talking about goals with children is important for development.  It creates motivation, personal insight into their needs and interests, and improves decision-making skills.

Many children instinctively create goals all of the time whether it’s related to completing homework or getting a good grade on a test.  It’s beneficial to give them the language of what they are doing (setting goals) to increase awareness and create steps to achieve their goals.

Some goals can be big as long as the person making it is very focused and has steps to achieve it, but lets focus on small goals this year.  I think we all earned it!  The difference between a goal and a dream is what makes up a goal.  Smart goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely.

Steps for children to set a goal for 2021:

  1. Take a look back at the school year so far.  Instead of asking yourself  “what are the terrible things from 2020 that I want to get rid of?”  Ask yourself, “what are some situations or things that happened that were surprisingly good, and what were some challenges I had?”
  2. If there were some good things that happened then maybe incorporate that into 2021 by turning it into a goal to find ways to repeat or continue something positive.  If there were some difficulties, then try to pick one challenging aspect of the problem that you can make a small change to make the rest of your school year do-able during the pandemic.
    • Example 1:  If a child was having difficulty with the lack of in-person social interactions then they have to think about what part of this scenario can they actually control?  It’s not realistic to make a goal “to have more in-person interactions.”  But they can think about what part of this situation they can actually fix.  “To have virtual hangouts (so many times/week) or join an after-school club that is virtual” is a better goal.
    • Example 2:  “Improve my grades”- Think about why are your grades low?  Is it the lack of motivation to do homework?  It it the difficulty of staying focused at home or the difficulty understanding subjects in an online format?  Let’s make this goal achievable by telling teachers and school counselors why you are having a hard time with your grades.  Schools know that online formats don’t work for everybody’s way of learning, but the adults do know how to help.  If you don’t ask for help, then your goal may not be achievable.
  3. Choose 1 or 2 small, specific goals to focus on.  What are the steps to achieving your goal, or how will you reach your goal?
    • Example 3:  If the goal is “I just want to be happier in 2021” … well that’s nice but how are going to be happier?  What made you happy in 2020?  Continue or do more of that in 2021.
  4. Adults, ask the child when will they would like to see this change?  How will they know they are improving or getting close to achieving the goal?
    • Example 1:  How many times per month can they virtually interact with friends and for how long?
    • Example 2:  When will they see the improved grades?  Will it be for the next report card?
  5. Remind children not to give up.  If they didn’t achieve their first deadline, then they may have to adjust their goal to be more realistic.  Going back and adjusting things is a part of life.


Every age population works on goals.  For children, it creates motivation, personal insight into their needs and interests, and improves decision-making skills.  Hopefully, if we learned anything from 2020 it is to go easy on ourselves and continue to love ourselves and loved ones during this time.


The Children’s Center – Setting Goals with Kids (

Resolution | Definition of Resolution at

Goal | Definition of Goal at


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