We set goals for all sorts of things in life (get a degree by 25, save up to buy a car, lose 10 kilograms this year…), but few people ever put clear parenting goals in place. Yet, raising children is one of the most important missions you will ever have on earth. Often this lack of purposefulness is because our main goal as parents is simply to “survive this day”! On the other hand, many of us have the undefined and soul-torturing “goal” of being the “perfect parent” and end up living with constant feelings of failure. Having vague, unreachable goals or none at all make us lose track of the bigger picture of where we would actually like to guide our children.
If you cannot recall any actual parenting goals you have set for yourself, maybe it is time to get focused and go further. Here are some areas you could consider:
Could you work on improving your child’s diet? Should your child be getting more exercise or less screen time? Well-defined goals would be: “Only one television episode a day – no exceptions!” or “protein breakfasts instead of sugar-filled cereal every day”.
Are you satisfied with your relationship with your child? Are you “missing” each other or fighting all the time? Set goals for how you can improve your bond – even if it is already good. For example: “One hour of phone-free, undivided attention every day”.
What behaviours need to be changed or developed in your child? How are you enforcing this? Do you discipline fairly and consistently? Do you effectively make use of incentives? (And this is where most of us sigh in despair.)
We often need to work on ourselves if we want to “work” on our children. (Another sigh of despair, right?) Yes, kids were invented to help us grow up.
What do you need to change? Quit smoking? Stop losing your temper in a spectacular fashion and then wondering why your child does the same? Is your low self-esteem rubbing off on your daughter? Change is hard and humbling and not something you can do without solid support and accountability, but it is so worth it – for yourself and your children! Prioritise your own growth and get the help you need.
Child development goals
Don’t worry – we are not about to suggest that you enrol your two-year-old in five different extracurricular activities or that you should aim to breed a wunderkind. We are simply saying that you might want to evaluate whether your child is cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically more or less on track (and outsiders are often better at doing this, so you might want to brave up and invite some criticism from trustworthy mentors…). Where there is a need, spend extra time with your child working on this area without pushing or seeming disappointed. Make it fun. For example: if your child’s speech is lacking, making a point of reading stories and talking together frequently.
Spiritual and moral goals
This might look different for different people, but have you thought about the belief system and moral guidelines you want to impart to your children? They will inevitably believe something and have some sort of moral compass and if you are not instilling it, someone else will surely fill in the gap! What are you doing to build your child’s worldview? What harmful influences do you need to limit?
As you are setting your goals, remember to keep it:
- relevant (in line with your child’s actual wellbeing and your family’s uniqueness – do not compare with any “ideal”!),
- realistic and practical (in your own and your child’s reach),
Lastly, do not become so goal-oriented that you forget to indulge in this lovely – and yes, often chaotic – season of childrearing.