A new year gives us all a chance to evaluate ourselves and see where improvement is needed. We need to work with our children to do the same.

Children need to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Goals need to be set with this fact in mind. Good goals are specific and obtainable. There are both long range and short range goals. Goals can be adjusted as the child progresses. Setting goals is better than making resolutions. When a child makes a resolution and fails, there is a tendency to give up. When a child sets a goal and does not reach it, the goal can be adjusted.

In this column, I will address setting goals for mental growth. Goals for spiritual, physical and social growth will be addressed in future columns.

Goals for mental growth hopefully would include learning the basics necessary for success in school, practicing what has been learned, and setting aside a sufficient amount of time for mental stimulation.

There are certain basics that every child should learn in order to succeed in life. Every child needs to learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, read fluently, write easily, a certain amount of history of our country and world and a basic knowledge of our country and its government.

Children who do not learn the basics in math will find it difficult or impossible to progress in math past fourth grade level. Multiplication tables are usually taught in third and fourth grade, so if a child hasn’t learned them, the child is stuck at that level in math. Specific goals should be set for every child to learn the multiplication tables and the other basics of math. Even though there are calculators to use, learning the basic facts is mental exercise and develops recall ability that is important in every life.

There is a limited amount of time that any teacher has in school, so children need to practice at home what has been learned there. Specific time for homework should be a part of goal-setting. In addition to regular homework assignments, parents should look for opportunities for children to apply what they are learning in school to real life. One of the reasons many graduates cannot make change is that they have not had opportunities to practice doing so outside of school. Unless the home provides this opportunity, they simply have the short lessons they have had in school to rely on. Both children and parents need to set a goal of having children participate in family activities to use what they learn in school.

Mental stimulation goals could include doing more reading, attending events and visiting places that are educational. This might mean a limit on video games, use of cell phones, or TV time. Everyone has twenty-four hours in each day. How we spend that time determines our success or failure.

Hopefully, parents can sit down with children and write goals together that are appropriate for the individual child. Doing so will help the child become aware of needs and successes. The more the child participates in the setting of goals, the more likely the child will be to try to stick with the goals. It is always best if the child can make the decisions rather than have the parents tell the child what to do. The parent’s role is to provide guidance to ensure that the child makes the right goals.