How to Help a Teen Set and Reach Goals

teenage girl writing at desk

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Learning how to set goals is an important life skill for teens. Teens who have goals are less likely to wander aimlessly through life. Instead, they'll be motivated to work hard to reach their greatest potential.  Teenage goals don't necessarily have to be life-altering. Instead, a goal could be as simple as saving up enough money to purchase a prom dress or getting a B in Geometry. 

Working toward a goal can help your teen learn about themself. And it can help them create bigger goals for themself in the future. Goals require teens to think about what they want to accomplish. Then, in order to be successful, they have to identify the steps they need to take to reach those goals. 

How Parents Can Help

Young children require a lot of support from grownups to help them reach their goals. They can't purchase their own musical instrument and they can't drive themselves to basketball practice.

Teenagers, compared with younger children, have many more skills and resources, so they should require less support from you to reach their goals, as long as they are familiar with the goal-setting process.

The teenage years are a great time to teach goal-setting strategies. Regardless of whether they are successful at achieving their goal, they can learn valuable life lessons along the way. Mistakes, failure, and setbacks can be wonderful teachers.

Goal-Setting Worksheets

One of the keys to setting and reaching your goals is understanding the steps needed to achieve it. Writing it down is the best way to help your teen organize their thoughts and develop a plan.

Here are the steps you can teach your teen to follow so they can set healthy goals:

  1. Identify the goal and write it down. Create a goal that your teen has control over. For example, your teen can't control whether they becomes the fastest runner in the whole school. But they can work on shaving 30 seconds off their mile run. 
  2. List the tasks needed to obtain the goal. Think about each step that will get them closer to their goal. If your teen's goal is to buy a car, they'll need a job. And in order to get a job, they'll need to fill out job applications.
  3. Start working on the tasks. Help your teen identify when they will get started on their goal. Write it down on the calendar. And decide how often they'll do it. For example, they may say, "I'll start going to the gym next Monday and I'll work out for 30 minutes three days per week." Get specific. 
  4. Add to the tasks as needed. Even the best-formed plan can meet the unexpected. You may think that you helped your teen think of everything, but be prepared to make changes and add to their list of tasks if something new comes up.
  5. Check off the tasks as they are completed. Few things are more satisfying than looking back at a list of things to do and notice the progress that's already been made.
  6. When all of the tasks are complete, determine if the goal has been met. If so, help your teen create their next goal. If not, revise the goal.

Goal Completion

Each time your teen finishes a goal, talk about it. Review the steps they took to accomplish it and review how they overcame obstacles or setbacks along the way. Discuss the lessons they learned.

Then, help them set new goals for themself. It's important for your teen to always have a goal that they're working toward so they can constantly challenge themself to become better.

Whether they want to get healthier, become happier, or do better in school, help them identify realistic goals that will help them reach their greatest potential. 

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lee B, Vondracek FW. Teenage goals and self-efficacy beliefs as precursors of adult career and family outcomes. J Vocat Behav. 2014;85(2):228-237. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2014.06.003

By Denise Witmer
Denise Witmer is a freelance writer and mother of three children, who has authored several books and countless articles on parenting teens since 1997.