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Help Your Child ‘Get Up and Goal’ in 2016

It's a new year and you're looking forward to greater things in 2016.

In fact, at the least, you've made a mental list of goals you plan to accomplish over the next 365 days. That's awesome, but before you set out to reach for the stars, remember that your child has a few hopes and dreams of their own. Maybe not verbally expressed to you, but they too would love to have a year of improvements and accomplishments.

One of the most vital steps a child can make toward success is to set goals. Cheryl Smith, Director of School Support and Improvement for Montgomery Co. Maryland public schools agrees, "Goal-setting allows students opportunities to be accountable for their own learning. Preparing college and career-ready students begins in the primary years and goal-setting helps to make learning visible and achievable along the way."

As a youth and young adult leader for over 15 years, I've come to understand the importance of parent involvement in the goal-setting and achievement process. Verbal affirmations aren't enough. Parents who play an active role in helping their children accomplish their goals help create better opportunities for success.

So, as you strive to do better this year, how about making a greater commitment to assist your child in attaining what's important to them. To get you started, here are a few ways you can help your child "Get up and Goal" in 2016.

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Earnest Williams, 41, goes over his bills while his son, Earnest, 13, does his homework after the first day of school. Lexey Swall / The Washington Post/Getty Images
1. Break The Ice and Be Transparent

Breaking the ice may feel a bit awkward at first and you might even get some kickback from your child -- especially if you're not used to spending quality time together. Be patient and persistent as you attempt to open communication.

In your private time, begin by listing a few personal goals you don't mind sharing with your child. Think about ways they can help you accomplish those goals. Then, plan a family night consisting of something that really interests them even if it doesn't interest you. (ex. family friendly video games, watch a movie, workout together, etc.). Use that time as an opportunity to spark conversation about the new year. At some point, start talking about the goals you listed earlier. Don't ramble on about yourself; Remember, you're just breaking the ice.

Next, take the opportunity to ask what your child would like to achieve this year. Their goals can be short or long-term, great or small. Aside from academic goals, ask about desires along the lines of relationship, personal growth, finance, and spirituality. After listening, suggest that you both work together to come up with ideas that might help each of you accomplish your goals, emphasizing that you could really use their help with yours. Don't place too much pressure on your child. This should simply open the door for you to ask how you can help them. Since you've been transparent, they may be more open to sharing their goals and letting you know in what ways they need you.

2. Evaluate

Within the next few days, list some of the desires you discussed. Together, evaluate the pros and cons of each item to ensure they are positive goals and to decide which ones you both should begin working on right away.

3. Discuss the Challenges

When working toward success, there will be challenges. Identify the obstacles and talk about how you both can prepare to meet them head on. When your child sees that you are willing to work through your challenges, they may be more encouraged to work through theirs.

4. Choose a Target Date

Setting target dates for the goals will make them seem more attainable to both you and your child.

5. Create an Action Plan

You'll need an action plan to help organize the steps toward reaching the goals. As you both work on your action plans together, answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. For example, decide on what days the two of you will work on the goals and for how long.

One parent talks about his decision to send his daughter to private school as enrollment and academic achievement decline in Prince George's County public schools
Aaliyah Howell, 7, a first grader at Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School completes her homework after school Tuesday May 21, 2013 in Glenn Dale, MD. Katherine Frey / The Washington Post/Getty Images
6. Meet Up

Plan to meet with your child once a week to discuss progress. Again, do an activity or go out for dessert. During the meet up, talk about how you both are doing with your goals. Ask how your child feels about their progress and if there's anything they need from you to help them move along.

7. Make a Sandwich

No, not literally. If you happen to see your child getting discouraged, try the sandwich approach. Offer words of affirmation right before honest constructive criticism. Speak to them in love but tell the truth. Since criticism may hurt a bit, end with a motivational pep talk reminding them that success is in their "DNA" and doing their best is what matters most.

8. Don't Give Up

The truth is, your child may not accomplish all their goals. Don't be discouraged. Remember, you've fallen short a few times yourself. No matter their age or current lot in life, show that you support them and their goals, and the potential for great success in attaining those goals.

Alicia Hadley, author of "Get Up and Goal" and "My Simple Book of Goals" has devoted over 15 years to empowering youth/young adults via motivational workshops and seminars.