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Aug 30, 2019
Did you ever notice that September, the beginning of the school year for most students, shares something in common with January, the beginning of the calendar year? Both present a great opportunity to start anew, wipe the slate clean, and make positive changes. For some of us, these starting points might inspire setting goals for fitness, knowledge, or skills we’d like to acquire. For students, the new school year offers opportunities to reflect and to set their own goals for how they’ll improve their approach to schoolwork. And like many of us, those goals we set often start off strong - but without a real plan for how to attain them they sink to the bottom of our priorities and rise again the next year as the very same goal. How can parents - as well as students - start off strong and persist in seeing our goals through?
First consider the reason for the goal. Most goals come from a place of wanting to better ourselves - focusing on our challenges or areas we need to improve. It is important to remember that students themselves must see the need for their goals and truly want to accomplish them.
So, what new habit will your child develop to help achieve their goal? Maybe they struggle with organization and would like to keep their materials in order this school year; maybe they struggle with time management and want to plan ahead this year; maybe they struggle with procrastination or getting started and want to jump in and get things done this year. These are just a few of the challenges that face the students we work with as September rolls around. The 6 steps below are a great way to help set your child, student, or even yourself on a path for success.
1) Take Ownership: Take time to brainstorm with your child some of the challenges they'll face as we enter this school year. Remember, to see results, your child's goal needs to emerge from them truly wanting to improve something about their life. (In other words, just because you may want their backpack more organized doesn't necessarily mean they want that as their goal.)
2) Keep It Simple: Focus on one goal area at a time. Even though we may have several things we want to improve, if we get overwhelmed by trying to accomplish too much, we will be right back where we started. So what is it your child could benefit from most?
3) Make It SMART: When we think of SMART goals, we think of goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. SMART goals provide the roadmap to how you'll work toward your objectives. SMART goals can often start with a fuzzier big-picture goal. Below, you'll see some examples of how to turn "fuzzy" goals into something sharp that invites real action.
4) Track your progress: SMART goals are measurable, so each week help your child reflect on their progress. Ask your child:
5) Celebrate your accomplishments: Each week as you and your child reflect on progress, be proud of the small things they are accomplishing. They may not have all the pieces in place yet, but take the time to recognize those attempts forward.
6) Continue owning that new habit: This is not just a goal; this is your child's new self! They have accomplished what they thought they couldn’t! Encourage your child to keep it up, create new goals, and continue to improve their life.
We all know how difficult reaching our goals can be and how rewarding it can feel to attain them. By following these steps, you make it much more likely that a student’s (or your own) intended behavior becomes a reality. Don’t forget to support your child, while holding them accountable. It is OK to allow for a misstep here or there; the important thing is to get back on track.
Students, the whole school year is ahead of you - how will you make it one you feel proud of?
Looking for more tips to help your child develop Executive Function skills? Michael Delman's popular book features almost 50 step-by-step tools that you can use with your child to help them become more effective. (Click the image below to learn more.)
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Alisha Kowsky is an Executive Function Coach for Beyond Booksmart. She currently lives in South Carolina with her husband, two children, and their dog. Alisha received a Bachelors in Elementary Education from the University of Central Florida in 2009 and spent five years teaching before earning a Masters degree in school counseling from the University of North Dakota in 2014. Alisha is certified in elementary education, reading education, ESL and counseling. She has practiced as a school counselor for the last five years. In those five years, much of her experience has been devoted to children with special needs as well as children who are highly gifted. In this time, she has had the opportunity to put a specific focus on executive function skills for these children. Alisha has spent her time in several different environments including public school, charter school, and online education. No matter where she is working, she loves watching her students grow and change not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.