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My 11 year old seems to choose unrealistic - even impossible - goals or at least seems to set himself up to fail. Should I try to get him to readjust his sites, I hate to see him disappointed or ready to give up when he doesn't make a goal?

- Mary, Stockton, CA

testimonial
Listen to Doctor Katherine's Answer...  

DR. LARSON'S ANSWER:
Mary, this is a chance for you to help encourage your son's mastery of the Inspired Kids Success Secret I call You Get What You Look For.™

The concept "You Get What You Look For" is a very important mindset for kids to learn.

With this situation, you have a great opportunity to help your son develop the understanding EXPECTATIONS count.

You WANT your son to understand that it's impossible to achieve high goals without setting high intentions.

You only get what you expect -

He can't aim low and HOPE he lands high -

We land where we aim.

So setting a high goal is the only way he can ever achieve a high goal.

And it sounds like he understands this concept of setting high goals but he needs to take it a step farther.

And he needs your support. If you want him to reach high levels of mastery or high goals then you have to also believe in the possibility of his achieving very high goals -

Our doubts can really diminish our kid's belief - we really carry a huge responsibility.

In fact, I tell parents NEVER say to their child that something's impossible -

whatever you son says he wants to do or better yet

is going to do, say yes! how can I support you?

And don't hedge about your support as it can undermine him. A lot of parents say "yes I support you BUT maybe you should just try to..."

So, Mary support your son's stated goals every time even if you think they are unrealistic.

Mary, you mentioned you didn't want your son to feel disappointed. As a parent, I understand your sense of protectiveness, yet, disappointment doesn't have to be considered negative. Unpleasant yeah but if it is viewed as helpful - as informative - disappointment can be useful and motivating.

Disappointment helps us figure out how to do it differently next time. It helps us build grit. When we want to protect our children from a normal negative experience it is also a good time to ask ourselves if we are communicating a limiting belief to our child that we think they can't handle the negative emotional experience - in this case, you would want to make sure your son doesn't feel you think he can't handle disappointment.

After setting his stated goal, the next step is to help your son to lay out a PLAN for reaching his goal. Help him identify all the things he has to do to make the seemingly impossible possible. That's how we build belief.

I would really have a clear conversation and even put the steps in writing of what it is going to take for him to get where he wants to be.

He may decide to readjust and not make the investment. If he readjusts his goal out of fear of failure or anxiety then your conversations need to be around this issue and see how you can lower his risk aversion.

After he sets out the steps, talk to him about the inevitable roadblocks. I would have him identify the pitfalls, the possible roadblocks, the inevitable struggle points in his plan and get him to plan how he is going to handle these setbacks and challenges.

And then I would have him go for it.

And finally, I would tell him to act as if his goal IS possible. Act as if failure is not an option. This belief, this acting as if the goal is possible speaks to our subconscious mind and has a pulling effect toward the goal. Teach him to assume in favor of himself! You can help support him if you act as if his goal is absolutely possible - it's just a matter of time and effort.

If he fails to achieve his desired goal - focus on his effort not his setback, focus on his willingness to take a risk, focus on his persistence and what he can do to change the outcome.
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