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How to set parenting goals that really work

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This post includes a step-by-step parenting goals workbook with examples. Get your copy by signing up at the end of this post!


As busy moms, it’s easy to get caught up in the difficult moments.

And no wonder.

Modern life bombards us with demands and challenges—so much so, we lose sight of how we can change home life for the better.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can set effective parenting goals and slowly but surely build more harmonious homes.

This post provides a six-step, easy to follow strategy for setting parenting goals that work.

Ready to get started?’

Tired parents sitting in front of couch as two kids jump on couch with text stating "how to set parenting goals that work"

Step 1: When setting parenting goals, start with your top pain point

We often have a long laundry list of things we’d like to change about home life, a tally that rivals our actual piles of dirty clothes.

So, where do we start?

Setting effective parenting goals begins by asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. Which issues keep cropping up on a daily basis?
  2. What bothers me the most about family life?
  3. What would I really like to change?

Using these questions, generate a list of top parenting pain points. Examples of struggles include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Chaotic mornings
  • Bedtime struggles
  • Kids not listening
  • Not enough help with chores
  • Rude table manners
  • Sibling conflict
  • Resistance to teeth brushing
  • Too much screen time

Even taking the time to do a cathartic brain dump can bring some relief. It’s exhausting, after all, trying to hold so many things in mind.

Prioritize your list of parenting pain points

Now look at your list and decide where to start. Which home issue would you most like to tackle first?

Identifying your top parenting priority is going to be a personal decision, one based on your own unique values, goals, and struggles.

For example, if bedtime feels like a circus and the whole household is running short on sleep, you may want to focus on bedtimes first.

Or if mealtimes have become a battle ground, making you loathe stepping foot in the kitchen, meals may be your top priority.

And before you object to changing only one thing—let’s address this concern.

I know it’s hard to stick to a single issue—especially after listing a whole bunch of parenting struggles you’d like to change!

But trust me, we’re more likely to be successful in the long run if we address one issue at a time.

Once you’ve identified your top parenting pain point, you’re ready to head on to Step 2.  

Mom looking tired with young son standing beside her
Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

Step 2: Get crystal clear on your parenting goal

It’s time to get really specific about your chosen parenting pain point and set a related goal.

For example, let’s say you’ve identified rude table manners as your top parenting priority. The kids don’t come when they’re called, no one stays seated, and you’re fed-up over being the only one to clean-up afterwards.

But now what?

You could say your goal is to make mealtimes more ‘pleasant.’

But this is a vague parenting goal.

Pleasant may mean something entirely different to me than it does to my children. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my kids’ idea of a pleasant meal is standing on their chairs and only eating ice cream. 

So, we need more clarity—something achievable by answering as many of the following goal-related questions as applicable: who, where, when, what, how much/long, and how often.

Returning to the mealtime example, the answers to these questions may look like this:

  • Who: all three kids
  • Where: kitchen table
  • When: supper
  • What: kids remain seated
  • How much/long: entire supper
  • How often: every meal

The resultant parenting goal—having all three kids remain seated at the kitchen table for the entire meal, every meal—is way more specific than the objective of having pleasant meals. 

And importantly, the new goal involves a behaviour—an action we can readily observe. No questioning whether it has happened or not!

As an added bonus, this crystal-clear goal is simple for you to track, and it’s easy to communicate with others.

Woman writing in a calendar on a wooden table outside
Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

But what if my parenting goal has multiple parts?

Some parenting pain points may actually include multiple separate goals. This is true for the mealtime example above.

In fact, the mealtime issue contains at least three desired outcomes:

  1. Getting the kids to the table in a timely manner
  2. Having them stay seated
  3. Receiving help with the post-dinner clean-up

It’s tempting to address all three goals at once. But as noted earlier, taking on one thing at a time is more likely to lead to success.

Why?

Because our lives are busy and frustrating enough as it is! We mamas need to give ourselves a break by setting small, manageable goals.

So, if your parenting goal has multiple parts, choose just one part for now.

Once you have a single specific goal in mind, write it down then move on to Step 3.

Step 3. Do a parenting goal readiness check-in

We can identify something as a problem without being ready to change it.

Let’s take physical activity, as an example. Many of us know we need more exercise. But that doesn’t mean we’re ready to start taking regular walks or hitting the gym anytime soon.

This is also true of parenting pain points. They may vex us, but in the bigger scheme of things, these annoyances may not be bothersome enough to spur immediate action.

So clearly there’s more to successful goal setting than identifying a pain point—even if we get super specific about what we’d like to change.

Can you fully commit to your goal?

This is where a readiness check-in comes into play. It’s like an essential pit-stop before a road trip—the point where we pause to ensure we’re fully committed to the destination point and that we have enough fuel for the ride.

Without this check-in we’re at risk of stalling on our goals, parenting or otherwise.

More specifically, a readiness assessment is where we double check our goal to ensure it’s a personally meaningful parenting pain point—one that we’re fully behind changing.

The readiness check-is is also where we assess our mindset—whether we truly believe we’re capable of meeting our identified goal.

How do you ensure you’re ready for your parenting goal journey?

Ask yourself the following four questions, replacing the * with your top pain point from Step 1 (i.e., “rude table manners”) and the ** with your specific goal from Step 2 (i.e., all three kids remain seated at the kitchen table for the entire meal, every meal).

  1. Do I consider * to be a problem?
  2. Is * bothersome enough to require action?
  3. Am I ready to change * now?
  4. Am I confident that I will succeed with **?

Let’s review your responses

If you’ve answered a definite “yes” to all of the above four questions, you’re ready to put your time and energy behind your parenting goal. So, head on to Step 4.

If you’ve answered all “noes,” you’re at risk of not seeing your goal through. Return to Step 1 and choose a new parenting pain point, followed by Step 2 where you’ll come up with a related specific goal. Then redo the readiness assessment until you have all “yeses.”

What to do if you get mixed responses with some “yeses” and some “noes?”

Try modifying your chosen goal to see if this leads to more “yeses.” For example, perhaps getting the kids to remain seated just during dinner, rather than for all meals, is a refined parenting goal you’re better able to commit to.

Still running into “noes” after modifying your goal? You’ll likely want to return to Step 1 and repeat the process.

Once you’ve scored all “yeses” on your readiness assessment you’re ready to move on to Step 4.

Girl walking along road marked with white arrow
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Step 4. Consider potential obstacles and solutions

You’ve already accomplished a lot!

By this point, you’ve identified a key problem area, come up with a related specific parenting goal, and completed a readiness check-in.

So, what comes next?

Before revving into action, you’ll want to ensure your expectations are realistic. This includes considering your child’s developmental level and whether other factors may sabotage goal success.

For example, it would be really nice for our toddler to sit through a three-course restaurant meal. However, this isn’t likely to happen—even if we’ve been waiting for months during pandemic lock-down for a no-prep, no clean-up meal. Sitting for meals is an evolving skill. So, we need to start small and be patient.

Not sure what’s a reasonable goal for your child’s age? Ask a trusted friend, family member or knowledgeable professional such as an early child educator or pediatrician.

We need to consider needs and stressors

We also want to consider unmet needs or stressors that will affect our child’s compliance.

For example, it’s impossible to be at our best—children and adults alike—when we’re overtired, wound-up, sick, or hungry.

For example, if I expect my child to sit at the table, rather than act like a human jack-in-the-box, pre-meal exercise will help her succeed.

And lastly, don’t forget to consider upcoming big life events—such as a move, new baby, or upcoming vacation, any of which can derail even the most well-thought-out parenting goals.

Before moving on to Step 5, take time to brainstorm potential obstacles as well as solutions.

When we meet our kids where they’re at developmentally, consider unmet needs, and prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, we’re well on our way to parenting goal success.

Little girl eating meal at table
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Step 5: Get the whole family on board with your parenting goal

Having a joint parental front speaks volumes when it comes to getting cooperation from our kids.

So, before taking further steps, discuss your identified parenting pain point—and associated goal—with your partner and other key caregivers.

Once we’re on the same page as other caregivers, it’s time to get our kids involved.

Family meetings are a great opportunity to discuss family matters, to problem solve together, and to connect.

Choose a time when family members are likely to be happy, well-rested, and not in a rush. Then, take your children step-by-step through the new goal-related rule or expectation.

Consider assigning kids age-appropriate roles during the meeting. For example, older children can take meeting notes and younger kids can decorate a Bristol board with pictures that illustrate the steps you’ll take towards the identified goal.

And ideally keep the meeting short, to the point, and fun. This isn’t a time to point fingers but rather it’s an opportunity to work together towards a more harmonious home.

When the meeting concludes, complete a goal action plan then post it in a common family area, such as on the fridge. Then conclude the meeting with a fun family activity such as a board game, snack or, movie.

I’ve included an example of a parenting goal action plan below.

example of a parenting goal family action plan including specific details about the intended goal

Step 6: Parenting goals require consistency and regular check-ins

Consistency is the bread and butter of successful goal setting. Even the best designed plan will lose momentum and fail if we don’t regularly follow through.

Staying firm on expectations helps children feel loved and safe. But don’t be surprised if kids test limits—because they will.

This is especially true if we haven’t firmly enforced rules in the past. It’s through testing boundaries that children learn boundaries, and it’s through upholding our expectations that we, their parents, set a foundation for our children’s future success. 

So, pause here and consider if there are any additional supports needed to help your family stay on track.

Maybe it’s an accountability partner—such as a trusted extended family member or friend? Someone who can cheer you and your family on as you work towards your goal.

Or maybe words of encouragement, posted around your home, will help keep you on track.

Take a moment now to consider what types of supports will be most helpful for you and your family.

Schedule regular check-ins

And don’t forget to schedule regular family check-ins, ideally once weekly. This is a great opportunity to review your progress together as a family, make adjustments to your goal as needed, and celebrate victories no matter how small.

Developing effective parenting goals—and seeing them through—will be a work in progress, as is true for any worthwhile pursuit.

So be patient with yourself, other caregivers, and children.

You will get there.

With the right system in place, success is just around the corner.

Hands on top of each other representing setting a successful parenting goal together
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You can set parenting goals that work

There will always be parenting pain points and times when our kids don’t comply.

They’re human, after all.

But with the right tools in hand, we can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and connection, setting the foundation for a harmonious home.

To recap, follow these six essential steps to identify a top home struggle and setting a parenting goal that you’ll see through to the end.

  1. Choose your top parenting pain point
  2. Get crystal clear on your parenting goal
  3. Complete a readiness check-in
  4. Consider obstacles and solutions
  5. Get the whole family on board
  6. Be consistent and regularly check-in

I’d love to hear from you!

What area of your home life would you most like to change? Share your top parenting goals in the comments below.

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