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We often forget that goal setting is hard, especially for boys who are still developing processes of planning, actioning and eventually achieving goals.

It’s important to remember that learning how to set goals is a skill that takes time and some trial and error. Parents can ensure that their sons build effective goal setting habits by setting up a routine of planning, acting and believing. Here’s how to help your son plan his first goal.

Planning goals

The planning stage teaches boys to really think about things that are meaningful to them – now and potentially in the future. They may lean towards goals that are not ambitious, but that’s okay, because they are learning to think about their own interests and skills in the context of their community.

Teach your son to plan three categories:

  • Short-term – tasks to complete in the coming days or weeks.
  • Medium-term – tasks for the upcoming months.
  • Long-term – bigger achievements for the next 12 months or longer, that relate to his passion and aspirations. These can be adjusted along the way.

Studies have shown that the process of writing things down is a fantastic way to gain clarity on what we are thinking about. A great way to get your son started is to get him a goal notebook. This tells him that goals are important and helps him to keep track of what he is aiming for. On the first page of the notebook, get him to write his likes and interests, then identify and discuss areas which he thinks he needs to improve in.

It’s a good idea to keep your own goal notebook to model how to plan goals. The point is to actively demonstrate what effective goal setting looks like. After all, we learn best through imitation.

Actioning goals

In your son’s goal notebook, brainstorm the actions that he needs to take in order to achieve his short-term, medium-term or long-term goals. Be as specific as possible with the steps that need to be taken. This process will eventually become second nature for all his future goal setting.

Add tick boxes before each step and a due date to stay accountable. When your son sees you ticking off your goals, it will give him a gentle reminder to work on his goals too.

Achieving goals

When working through goals, we can forget to remind ourselves that we are working hard now in order to reap the rewards in the future. As your son achieves his short-term goals it’s important to encourage him to keep going. He will likely seek instant reward but it’s important to support him to look ahead to the ultimate reward of his long-term goal.

A concept that children struggle with is instant gratification. Stanford conducted a 40-year research study which concluded that children who showed a willingness to delay gratification proved to be more successful as adults. Delaying gratification takes belief, because we are saying that we will succeed if we can sacrifice some things now in order to achieve our goals in the future. In this phase, boys learn to be confident in their decisions and persistent with their actions toward the bigger picture.

Effective goal setting will teach your son that discipline and persistence are essential in improving himself. When boys learn how to set goals, they develop a habit of success that serves them throughour their lives.

Scots boys understand the value of effective goal setting, and are rewarded across a range of areas including academics, sport, creative pursuits, and co-curricular success.

Each year we publish two editions of The Lion & Lang Syneour community magazine showcasing these student achievements. You can download your copy here to see how your son can benefit from the Scots Advantage.

The Scots College is a proud member of the following associations.

The Presbyterian Church (New South Wales) Property Trust T/A The Scots College, Sydney Australia
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William Elder


Mr Alan Elder was born in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents at a young age. He attended The Scots College for all his schooling, graduating in 1944. He played 1st XI Cricket and was a member of the College Cadet Unit. After leaving school Mr Elder studied accountancy and retained a life-long love of the College, especially the Pipes and Drums. Mr Elder never married, however the significant bequest he left will allow his Scots family to remember him through the Lang Walker Business Centre.