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Goal SettingIt’s that time of year again! My goal for 2014 will be to lose 20 pounds!  That’s a great goal on many levels, but what is my plan for achieving my desired end result?  Sadly the pounds won’t magically disappear no matter how hard I wish for it. So, if I set that goal, how do I achieve it when thinking about my learning style and what I know about my abilities to follow through and self monitor?

Whenever a person decides to set a goal, the cognitive processes that are involved are many.  Often people will set goals that have a positive impact in their lifestyle in some way (e.g., losing weight).  Others may set a goal around reaching a certain level or criteria (e.g., moving up the corporate ladder). How one determines if their goal is realistic, what they would like their end result to be and what their plan is to monitor their progress all tap directly into the executive functioning of one’s cognitive abilities.

Here comes the issue: as parents we like to set goals “for our kids” because we often think we know what the best goal for them would be. We may start off by saying, “this year we are going to set some goals for New Years. What would you like to work towards?  I was thinking that a good goal for you would be……”. When we set goals for our kids, we assume they will share our desire to work towards the goal and will be open to us helping them monitor their progress.

When we hear that their goal is to reach a certain level on Minecraft we become frustrated that they are not sharing your same thought.  In many ways, helping our kids to learn about goal setting is a fantastic method of working towards independence and maturity.  However, the process of “goal setting” is a skill and we need to better understand all that goes into this process before we can help our kids become successful in this area of their life. Plus it can really be an intervention in executive functioning!  Let’s examine some of the executive function processes that go into goal setting and outline some suggestions on how to help kids set goals around the New Year.

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Chris, Director of the Social Learning Center at Benhaven, holds a Graduate Certificate from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Behavioral Inventions in Autism and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist & Licensed Professional Counselor with a specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorders and social cognitive interventions. The Social Learning Center is dedicated to learning, understanding, applying and communicating effective methods of social teaching for each individual and those who support them.