There is one thing that I can confidently say after several years of working with teenagers.
As high school students, teenagers have tremendous potential and can achieve whatever they want.
The only problem is that they usually do not know what they want. And that is why so many teenagers perform poorly in high school.
Goal setting for high school students should be at the top of our priority list as parents – in the week before the academic year begins if we want our children to succeed in school.
Why do high school students need academic goals?
High school is a time of increasing academic pressure and targets.
More subjects are added on, more chapters become part of the syllabus and there are more things to learn in very little time. This can leave even the most focused child confused, overwhelmed and stressed.
Teens are more prone to distraction
The teenage brain needs constant excitement and so teenagers easily lose interest in studying which is boring. And are instead drawn to various other activities which are more exciting
The desire to fit in is top priority for teenagers. As the brain and body remodel themselves during puberty – a lot of focus is on “what is happening to me” and “what are others thinking about me”. As a result the time spent thinking about studies and actually studying decreases and it becomes more and more difficult to achieve academic goals.
10 steps for goal setting for high school students
When you set goals for a high school student follow these steps
Ask your child – “What do you really want this year?”
In my experience of working with teenagers – I have never met a teenager who did not want to “do well in class” or “get good marks”.
However, if you have a child who has been struggling in school last year – and you have been scolding your child for her/his performance – then this may be a difficult conversation for you to have with your child. And you may need to reach out to an expert to help you with this.
Discuss with your child why she/he could not achieve this last year
This is the most important step and again a very difficult step if you and your child have been playing the blame game with each other for previous poor performances.
It is important to sit down and objectively analyse what went wrong last year.
Teens typically get disheartened very easily and bunch all their failures under “I can’t do this” or “I am not good enough” or “this is too difficult for me”
Fortunately however this is just an exaggerated reaction or rather over reaction to the situation.
With our decades of experience – we can easily figure out the specific things that went wrong. And once we have a list of problems we can make a plan to target the problems one by one.
Help your child own the problem
Through your conversation you must convince your teen that you believe that she/he is capable of achieving anything that she/he decides to.
Remind your teen of past success. Remind her/him of a time when something seemed very difficult – almost impossible – something like riding a bicycle. And how with practice and perseverance it became easier and easier and finally absolutely effortless.
Explain that just like the muscles of the body can be made stronger through exercise – the brain can be made smarter too. Al it requires is strategic planning and focused effort. And most of all the determination to persist and not give up.
It is important for your teen to decide to succeed.
It is not enough for her/him to want to succeed. It is not enough for you to want her/him to succeed.
She/he has to decide to succeed. Only then will she/he put in enough effort to succeed.
Set an achievable goal
Most teens aim straight for the stars. And when they can’t jump that high they give up easily.
This is why teenagers who do badly in a subject quickly decide that they will get full marks the next time (without considering the work they will have to put in for this).
When the effort seems too much and the goal too distant – they easily give up and while away their time until the next exam – when they fail again.
It is important to set small goals and ensure that these goals are achievable.
If a child is doing badly in all the subjects – don’t set the goal of topping the class with full marks in all the subjects in the next exam.
That is an impossible goal.
Target a decent jump in marks in the first term in one or two subjects.
Target the other subjects and more marks in the second term.
Nothing is impossible if you plan for it.
A plan is nothing but the process of breaking up a huge task into small do-able bits depending upon the time available
So if there are two months left for the exams. And there are a total of 500 sums in the chapters that are coming for that exam, divide 500 by 60 and you will have to do only 8 sums every day to get to your target.
Fix a time every day when you will carry out the plan
Now ask your teen how much time she/he thinks one sum will take.
If she/he says 5 minutes per sum – allocate 45 minutes every day for maths practice.
Decide which 45 minutes of the day this will be. Will it be the first 45 minutes in the morning after waking up or the first 45 minutes after coming back from school?
Make sure you do not schedule anything else during these 45 minutes for the next two months.
It is best to choose a time early in the morning to carry out the plan because will power is at its maximum and distractions are at their minimum first thing in the morning.
Also finishing something difficult first thing in the morning will give your teen a sense of accomplishment and a quiet confidence
Discuss the sacrifices that will have to be made
Nothing comes free in life. And to achieve something your teenager will have to give up something.
If the sacrifice your teenager has to make comes as a rude shock when your teenager starts to implement the plan – your high schooler is very likely to give up.
That is why this is a very important conversation to have.
For example – if you have planned that your teen will spend 45 minutes in the morning doing math. You will have to discuss how this will mean sleeping one hour earlier every night (which would mean watching less TV or social media). It would also mean getting up 1 hour earlier and sacrificing sleep.
Neither of these are easy sacrifices to make – and it is most important to be mentally prepared for the sacrifices if the plan needs to work.
Give positive feedback
A lot of times – we focus only on what our teens are not doing.
If you want your teen to change and improve you must constantly focus on the positives and highlight what your teen is doing right.
Make a big ritual of marking out on a calendar or elsewhere – what has been covered in the syllabus. And how much progress has been made at the end of each study session.
This will keep your teen motivated and calm. Being calm and motivated is excellent for learning and will result in your child retaining what is learnt more.
Stay connected through failures
This is the step where most parents make a mistake.
You cannot make a plan and walk away. You must know what your child needs to study. You must understand that what your teen is trying to do is not easy.
You must understand that your child will feel discouraged every time there is a difficulty.
Be there to handhold your child over these roadblocks to success with your firm unshaken belief in your child’s ability and the power of practice and repetition.
Celebrate small wins
Do a dance at the end of every day’s work.
Plan a fun together activity at the end of every chapter – maybe something like baking a cake together.
Show your child how hard work has amazing benefits like deeply satisfying happiness and fruitful relationship.
Allow her/him to experience the deep joy of working hard in comparison to the shallow joy of escaping from situations.
Moving ahead is never easy. Change is always difficult.
But if we show our children what overcoming difficulties and challenges brings us in terms of satisfaction and genuine happiness – we can build resilient motivated children who are eager for challenges and difficulties.
As the academic year begins – I will recommend that parents spend time on goal setting for high school students –so that the next year ends on a good note.
Are you struggling with goal setting for your teen? Try these tips or connect with us for help.
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