How to Set – and Reach – Family Goals

how to set - and reach - family goals
Image via Katie Hurley

The minute kids finish school for the year, they get hammered with summer reading goals and workbooks to bridge the gap. Families shift from school mode to don't-fall-behind mode. But the summer months actually present a great opportunity to set some family and parenting goals and work on things not found in the pages of a workbook.

Do you ever feel like you yell too much? Is patience a problem in your home? Do arguments take center stage? Is listening an issue. For your kids and you?

The stress of the school year can trigger bickering, rushing, and yelling. Summer is the perfect time to reevaluate family functioning and work together to improve communication. Without the stress of rushing and homework, families can dial back the schedule and get back to being a family.

Parenting is hard work and each stage brings new challenges and new exciting milestones. It makes sense to continue to look at overall family goals to improve relationships and increase happiness in the home.

family looking at computer
Image via iStock

Hold a family meeting:

The best way to determine what needs work is to sit down and talk as a family. Some families hold weekly family meetings, some hold them on an as-need basis, and others don't do family meetings at all.

The benefit of a family meeting is that is provides a safe place for each family member to verbalize his or her feelings and concerns, without judgment. This isn't the place to begin behavioral correction or dole out consequences. It's a time for the family to gather and talk about what's working, what's not working, and what the family can do to improve family functioning.

{ MORE: Moving Forward with a Year in Review }

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Checks and balances:

A meeting is great, but it loses its value if the items discussed at the meeting are never revisited once the meeting comes to an end. Once a few goals are established, it's time to get to work on those goals.

Visual cues are great for the whole family. A poster in the family room is a great way to remind family members to work on those goals. Kids love to help with checks and balances, and creating the visual cues for the family is a great job for kids.

If “listening to each other” is one of your goals, for example, your child can create a poster with a step-by-step guide for listening skills (stop, make eye contact, ask a follow up question, respond).

Image via iStock

Self report cards:

Filling out a daily self report card is a great way to keep the whole family on track. This can be done just before dinner or bedtime and discussed as a family. Create a simple checklist that includes each of the goals and a rating scale or yes/no boxes for each goal.

The self report card encourages family members to take an honest look at their own choices and behaviors each day and think about what can be done the next day to continue to meet those goals.

The beauty of the self-evaluation is that it removes judgment from the equation. It's not for little sister to determine whether or not big brother is meeting those goals, and there are no grades or rewards. It's simply a tool to help the family work well together by paying attention to their own choices and behaviors.

{ MORE: School Under Fire for New Community Service-Based Disciplinary System }

What is your family goal for the summer?

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How to Set – and Reach – Family Goals

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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