There is much hope in any beginning, and a new school year is filled with many. In order to see those hopes realized in my family, we are all ready talking about the end of the school year and how to finish well. I am asking my little learners what they want to be able to say they did at the end of the school year. How do they want their character to grow? And what will they be thankful they learned?
Granted, this is not one of their favorite discussions. I understand that it demands a conceptual thinking process that is a bit of a stretch for the younger ones, but it is building a habit of goal-setting and proactive thinking. Also, if they know it is coming at the beginning of each academic year they begin to think through their answers before I even ask. I want to get them to a point where when they begin new undertakings already asking, “How do I want this to end, and how can I finish well?”
These three basic practices are what I hope will help them do just that:
In our attempts to reverse-engineer the school year, the first step is always to know what we are shooting for. When I was in school, my goal was to do well enough that I did not have to repeat a grade. I never talked to my mom about it, but I did reach my goal. A goal that had nothing to do with the desires of my heart. This didn’t lead to me feeling successful as a learner, not to mention I had to make up for it in college with extra classes! The dreams of our children will vary, but they learn to dream bigger when we give them permission to do so. We must remember that our dreams should not be imposed on them as their’s, but instead be grateful for the privilege of walking alongside them as they discover what ignites their unique imaginations.
Make a Plan
We all know dreamers who never do anything, and I don’t wish those unmet hopes on anyone. To keep our kids from falling into this trap, we must teach them how to make a plan. The dream is the blank canvas, but we must sit down and talk about the work demanded before it can become a masterpiece. Some work is fun, some is hard, but work is a guaranteed requirement to finish well.
Writing out action steps is helpful, so that they are easy to refer back to. This will help your kiddo see the progress they are or are not making. As they begin to see small goals met in childhood as a result of dreaming and taking action they will become more motivated to shoot for bigger goals and be strengthened to persevere as they grow. Someone who learns the reward of working towards something and sees it come to fruition, is a person more likely to take the risk again.
I get that taking action is easier said than done. This is why it is important to have accountability. Making a series of questions to ask your child at each check-in is helpful because they begin to anticipate the questions and can mentally prepare for how to answer them. I recommend asking once a month, possibly on a planned parent/child date. Here are some sample questions, but you can always adapt them to better meet your child’s needs:
- How have you made progress toward your goal this month?
- Are you still dreaming for these things? If not, are you discouraged for some reason, or is it time to recalculate what you are shooting for?
- What can you do to move closer to a strong finish this month?
These simple back-to-school traditions can become great tools for teaching character and self-motivation. The kids may grumble when we ask how it is going, but when we see them dream, thrive, and finish well, and years later helping their own children learn to do the same, we will know we are moving towards finishing this parenting thing well!