We all want to set high expectations and goals for our children and students and ensure that they are successful at school, at home and with friends. One of the mistakes that we are most likely to make when setting targets with our children is setting them too high.

One reason for this may be because we decided upon or agreed with the child on a ‘reward’ that is actually quite substantial, for example a new PS 3 game or a day out at the cinema with friends.  In order to justify this we then set equally substantial targets that can be difficult for the child to achieve.

Lets think about this for a moment.  If I am going to spend $50 on a reward, I am going to expect my child to meet the targets that I set daily for a good two weeks.  The problem with this is that it is very  difficult achieve.  What if the child has a great 6 or 7 days, followed by a really bad day on day 8?  Are you really going to have the heart to put them right back to the beginning?  If you stick to your guns and do so then it is likely to be extremely discouraging to the young person to have all of their hard work undone so easily.

You may want to stick with the idea of having a substantial reward, especially if it is one that the child has picked themselves.  You can do this by breaking the targets down in such a way that one bad day does not ruin everything.  Let them earn one sticker for each good day and when they have 10 stickers they get the reward.  This means that they are allowed to have a bad day and yet still get the reward.

If your child will struggle with the longer term concept of this and require more instant gratification then you will need to think about smaller rewards.  Remember that these do not need to be expensive and certainly do not need to be material.  Success is more likely if your child is fully involved in deciding upon the rewards.  Rewards could be a small toy, a favourite dinner, a day out with dad, a special play date, a temporary tattoo, computer time, a plant for their room, getting to stay up late, a lunch at a favourite venue etc.

Finally, remember to be very specific when setting targets.  It can be too conceptual for a child to say ‘be good’ or ‘show good manners’ and therefore difficult to achieve.  A child is much more likely to have success if you ask them to remember to say hello to all of their teachers in the morning or to put their dishes in the sink after dinner.  Think about the behaviours that you want to see and name them, teach them and prompt them.

Finally, it is difficult for anyone to show perseverance in the face of failure.  Make sure that you set achievable targets and then ensure that your child achieves then when you first start out.  Your child must experience success on the first day at very least.  Make sure that you catch them at their best and that at the end of the day your child is a winner.  It may feel as though you are deceiving both them and yourself but your child is much more likely to try hard on day two and day three if they know how good it feels to achieve their goal.