Tutor Coaches Parents Through Goal Setting for Teens: Step 2: Write!

The most important step to FULFILLING goals is writing them down. Master tutor Dr. P. teaches parents how to guide their teens through this second, crucial step in the goal-setting process in this week's Desk to Nest blog post.

Last week, I explored how to brainstorm goals with your teen. How’d it go?  My experience as a tutor tells me that it may have been difficult or perhaps the conversation hasn’t happened yet.  If that’s the case, no worries!  You can find my 10 questions to help jumpstart the conversation here.

 Chances are, some of the goals she came up with have NOTHING to do with those you see for her.  (What? You DON’T want her to become the next YouTube phenom?) Then again, maybe you were pleasantly surprised that she also sees pulling her algebra grade up from a C to a B as a worthwhile goal.  (As a tutor of teens, I think there might be room for both….:) 

No matter WHAT goals your child came up with for 2019, it’s essential that he write them down.  Henriette Anne Klauser, author of Write It Down, Make It Happen, explains that writing goals down activates the part of the brain responsible for filtering stimuli into urgent and non-urgent categories, the reticular activating system (RAS).  The RAS sends the goal into the “urgent” pile, Klauser argues, after we put pen to paper.  Now, our brain can now play the role of a great coach or tutor, directing our attention toward fulfilling our goals.


Setting S-M-A-R-T Goals

Before your teen writes her goals down, though, help her to make sure that they are S-M-A-R-T goals.  That is, they should be:






Specific Goals

Let’s take that algebra grade as an example of how to set a S-M-A-R-T goal.  Maybe your daughter started by saying, “I want to get a better grade in algebra.”  How can she transform that laudable intention into a S-M-A-R-T goal?  First, make it Specific.  Ask her, “By how much do you want to raise the grade?” 


Measurable Goals

Grades are an easy way to Measure goals, but they aren’t the only or even the best metric.  Often qualitative written comments can help a student’s writing improve, and even the dispassionate verbal judgment from a teacher or tutor can assess progress. 

Actionable Goals

Can your child take specific actions to help bring about her goal?  For this example, getting the help of a tutor or attending a teacher’s extra help sessions would qualify as actions your daughter could take to increase her algebra grade by 10 points.  I’ll devote an entire post later in the month to ACTIONS; for now, skip several lines after each goal to allow space for writing in the action plan later. 

Realistic Goals

Increasing from a 70 to a 95 isn’t very Realistic, so perhaps a 10-point jump might be more attainable.  Encourage your child to evaluate her strengths, weaknesses and available time to devote to attaining the goal when considering how realistic they are.

Timely Goals

While teaching History at Horace Mann School in New York City, the mother of a ninth-grader I advised worried that his performance in History that year would impede his chances of medical school admission eight years later. While getting admitted to medical school was certainly an admirable goal, I counseled her to focus more on her son’s PRESENT struggles with analytical writing. (After I served as the boy’s tutor for a few months, his writing – and grades – showed tremendous progress!)  In short, “Timely” goals for teens should have a maximum shelf-life of one year.  Later this month, we’ll discuss the importance of revisiting and adjusting goals as they grow.


Paint, Print, or Write the Goals

HOW your teen writes his goals down matters less than just doing it. If your teen is visually creative, he might even want to make them into a poster-sized work of art.  While I prefer that teens handwrite their goals (the physical act helps cement our intentions into our body in a way that typing does not), if his handwriting is as illegible as those of some of the teens I tutor (!), encourage him to type and print them out in at least 18-point font. 

Seeing is Believing

However the goals have been inked, have your teen hang them somewhere that he can see them every day.  I hang my own goals for the year in my bathroom mirror, so I stare at them at least twice a day while brushing my teeth.  Your teen may prefer a more private display, perhaps next to his bed. I encourage the students I tutor and teach in small classes to write their goals on a small index card, which they can then photograph and use as wallpaper on their smartphones.


Of the five steps that to goal setting that I will discuss this month, WRITING GOALS DOWN is by far the most important one, especially if this is a new habit.  So, please encourage your teen to do so.  If you feel you need to outsource this process to an empathetic expert, feel free to email me at info@crimsoncoaching.com or call (718) 514-0387 to set up a complimentary consultation with me.  

Finally, if you found this blog helpful, please share it with a friend; subscribe to my YouTube channel, where you can find loads of videos on similar topics; and “Like” Crimson Coaching on Facebook and follow @CrimsonCoaching on Instagram, where I share daily tips and articles for parents of teens.

‘Til next week, Happy Writing!

Dr. P.