Parenting – the SMART way

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As a working mother, I’ve found that knowledge gained at the workplace can be applied at home too.

In an earlier post, I’ve mentioned that one of the ways to encourage confidence in a child is to be able to set and reach goals.

How do we do it? I do it the SMART way. SMART is a tool used in performance management in the corporate world to ensure appropriate goal setting and achievement of objectives in a systematic manner.

SMART is actually an acronym:

Specific
State your request clearly. Breakdown the task if necessary and work on one area of improvement at a time.

More often then not, without realizing it, we issue vague requests to the child. When we say “Write properly” – we expect her to (1) write with even strokes, (2) letters of equal size, (3) spaced out evenly and (4) written in a straight line, with the (5) correct letter placement on the line. That’s a lot to ask – do we blame her for not following instructions?

Measurable
Quantify the objective

Let her know how many times, how big, how high so that she knows exactly what is expected. If necessary, show her an example of what the result is expected to be.

Achievable
Check that the child understands the goal, and that your expectations are realistic.

As adults we often neglect the fact that what seems simple to us may be a challenge to our children. Try writing with your left hand (if you are right-handed) and see if it’s as simple!

Relevant
Choose only the important items to focus on.

Nit-picking on all the little details only causes frustration for you and your child. Focus on important details. For example, when writing, focus first on the correct letter formation, followed by size and so forth.

Time-bound
Set a checkpoint to monitor results.

Keep the duration to a reasonable period. For younger toddlers, keep activities limited to about 5 to 10 minutes. Older children will be able to concentrate on a task for longer periods of time.

So, how do I apply it? Let me quote an example of how I used it recently when coaching my daughter in her piano practice:

S: I broke down the session into individual components to work on. A specific bar was highlighted, to work on achieving the correct rhythm.
M: An agreement was made between C and myself on the target – to play that bar with the correct rhythm for 5 times.
A: I clapped the rhythm, then requested her to repeat it after me. I then played rhythm on a single key before starting the actual practice.
R: I focused on only the rhythm correctness. Even when she played it with the wrong dynamics (loud or soft) I did not correct it.
T: I limited the session to 15mins.

Review
As with managing performance in the corporate world, correct goal setting depends on being able to understand the child’s ability and adjust accordingly.

At the end of the 15mins, she still had some trouble getting the correct rhythm, so I modified the objective to perfecting the rhythm between just 3 notes. By breaking down the task further and finetuning the objective, she was more motivated, as the intermediate goals were simpler to achieve. Although we took smaller steps to achieve the final goal, and it took a longer time, she was able to play the piece of music beautifully eventually, with less frustration for both of us!

The same principle can be used in all goal setting situations. I do hope this method will be as useful for you as it was for me. Do give it a try, practice makes perfect!

Do share how you used the SMART strategy with your children 🙂

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