Goal Setting and Traveling Life’s Twisting Roads

Road SignThere are many similarities between goal setting and traveling down life’s highway.   How do we help kids learn how to achieve goals when the path life takes you isn’t typically a superhighway.  Rather it’s a curvy, twisting, mostly uphill dirt road scattered with potholes and mud puddles.  At least that’s how many people would describe the path their life has taken.

I don’t think that we are fair with our kids, if we paint a picture of success that is void of the obvious potential obstacles that may get in their way. I’ve found goalsetting to be more productive with my kids, if together, we can anticipate the difficulties that might lay ahead.   As adults we already know that it’s much easier to travel down a road that has signs posted that help you avoid potential perils.    We’ve learned that it’s easier to drive with your headlights on, in other words, being prepared for the conditions and what lies ahead.

My other piece of travel advice. Never travel without a roadmap.  A roadmap—is essential for the experienced and inexperienced traveler. In goalsetting—the map is the plan.  A plan that has been made with all of the anticipated obstacles in mind… will make success much more probable!

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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I’m So Mad I Can’t See Straight

When I get mad (and yes I sometimes do) I can feel it in my body.  I get tense, my voice changes, and I’m sure my blood pressure rises. There’s a definite physical reaction which is a clue that I need to calm down.

Children also experience physical responses when they are mad. But they need help in learning to recognize the reactions.  Then the next step is to figure out something else to do to defuse or calm that physical response.

Here’s an example. Kids often throw things when they get mad. Or they will bite, pinch, kick or hit someone. Those are not good ways to calm down. But the kids need a physical outlet for the anger. They can bounce a ball, run around the yard, punch a pillow, dance to music.

Once the physical reaction is lessened, then you can move to communicating and problem solving. But remember to first deal with the physical reactions to turn the anger down a notch.

So what do your kids see you doing when you get mad? I head out for a brisk walk, sometimes muttering to myself. But I almost always return calmer and ready to focus on whatever it was that made me so mad I couldn’t see straight.

What helps you calm down when you are mad? What are you teaching your child to do to calm down?

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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Teaching Responsibility to Teens

Parents want their children to become more responsible with age, but this is not an easy skill to teach. Ideally, teaching responsibility does not just start when your child becomes a teenage, but rather, it’s something you work to instill throughout the child’s life. From infancy to leaving the house, parents should work to gradually let children take on more responsibility. This can often be seen in extended curfews, more chores, and more decision-making opportunities as children get older.

With teenagers in particular, we see parents get frustrated as they often attempt to give children more responsibility, like chores around the house, but are disappointed when the chores don’t get finished. Don’t despair. These unfinished chores can actually be a great learning opportunity.

When chores go unfinished, the first task is to get yourself in the right mindset. As humans, it’s a natural inclination to become upset. You might start nagging the child, insist that things be done your way, or even punish the teen. However, as parents, you need to remember your long-terms goals in this situation. You don’t want to have to nag or punish in order to get the child to complete the tasks he/she has agreed to. Instead, you want your child to become more responsible, to complete tasks on his/her own, and to learn from mistakes.

When situations involving unfinished responsibilities arise, try the five step process of joint problem solving. This involves sitting down to talk with the teen about the situation and generate potential solution.

1. Describe the situation. “I don’t like it when you don’t vacuum the house like you said you would because the carpet is dirty.”

2. Both you and the teen tell how you feel about the situation. Parent – “I feel upset.” Teen – “I don’t think it’s fair that I have to vacuum the house.”

3. Brainstorm possible solutions. List any and all ideas that could solve the problem. Do not criticize any ideas.

4. Try a solution. Choose a solution to try for a specific length of time.

5. Select a time to check back. State a time with your teenager when you will be checking back in to see if the solution is working. If not, select another option from the list.

Even though teens intend to stick to the solution, they often fall short on their end of the agreement. To help avoid this, give the teen reminders. For example, if your child is going to meet friends, you might say, “Remember we agreed that the house would be vacuumed by noon.” If reminders aren’t helpful, then the solution is not working, and it is time to try another solution.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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