What Are Parenting Goals
Setting parenting goals is not just for the new year. Parenting goals are what you want to accomplish in your parenting. They keep you on track and focus on the important things that will bring you closer to them. Picking the right goals can be life-changing.
There are long-term and short-term parenting goals. They can be readily apparent or hidden. Having goals can be tricky because we may think we have one goal in mind, but our actions follow another that is out of sight.
When hassles are the focus on a daily basis, it is easy to lose sight of the longer-term goals. Parents overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities often prioritize short-term goals over long-term ones.
Choosing the right goals is important because short-term objectives can impede long-term parenting goals if they do not align with each other.
Example of A Hidden Goal
Here’s an example of a hidden short-term goal hindering the long-term parenting goal.
Those who strive to be better parents often set “no yelling” as their goal of parenting. Even though they try to adhere to it, after a few days, many of them break down and yell at their kids because the children don’t listen. When not-yelling doesn’t seem to work, some parents resolve that shouting is the only way to get their rowdy kids to listen. And now they’re back to square one in goal setting.
So what went wrong?
These parents knew what they wanted, — they wanted to stop yelling because they wanted to have better relationships with their kids in the long run.
No yelling as a goal in parenting doesn’t work because it isn’t the true objective in daily life. The hidden goal that parents are not consciously aware of is wanting their kids to be obedient.
Getting their children to comply with the parents’ wishes is the hidden, but more important, goal here. This goal, if met, may bring relief to the parents temporarily, but it hinders the long-term goal of developing good relationships.
Most parents want to have close relationships with their children and enjoy spending time together. But this desire is often forgotten when they put their relationships on the back burner to pursue compliance.
When daily interactions are filled with orders, commands, nagging, and punishment, parent-child relationships deteriorate.
Kids don’t listen to people they don’t feel connected with. Then the parents get more upset and yell, even more, further damaging the relationships. It becomes a downward spiral.
Hidden short-term parenting goals like this can keep us from seeing the big picture and sticking to our long-term goals.
3 Types Of Parenting Goals
Studies have found that goals have a direct impact on parents’ behavior and outcomes1.
Researchers have identified three types of goals in parenting:
- Parent-centered goals
- Child-centered goals
- Relation-centered goals
Parent-centered goals focus on the parents’ needs, such as obedience and compliance.
Those with parent-centered goals are often concerned about control. In the short term, they want to change a certain behavior to meet their own needs. They want an obedient and respectful child who listens and does things the way they want.
These parents tend to use power assertion in discipline, such as yelling, punishment, or threat of punishment. The interactions between the parents and kids usually result in negative emotions. These parents often believe that misbehavior results from their children’s bad attitudes or intentions.
Parents with child-centered goals teach kids lessons or values, such as showing pro-social behavior.
These parents tend to be concerned about teaching children important personal or social lessons. They like to instill core values and teach them social rules for the child’s future benefits.
Parents who are focused on child-centered goals tend to use less power assertion to discipline. In difficult situations, they tend to be calmer. They often use positive disciplines such as induction and reasoning. Reasons are explained and discussed, and options are offered to the child. These parents are often warm, flexible, and accepting. When misbehavior appears, they attribute it to the situation or the environment rather than the child’s innate quality or intention.
Relation-centered goals concentrate on fostering close relationships and harmonious connections among family members.
Parents with relation-centered goals are generally responsive, warm, and empathetic. They are concerned about their children’s feelings and desires. They are more accepting and want to understand their children. Their children’s well-being and positive emotions are important to them. In the long run, they want to build and maintain love, trust, and close family connections.
These parents also use a less power-assertive parenting style. They tend to employ cooperative and negotiating strategies to achieve fair solutions. Trust and family harmony are valued more than control.
Which Type of Goals Is Better
The type of parenting goals aren’t inherently good or bad, but the behavior inspired by them can lead to differences in parenting style and the likely outcomes.
Parent-centered goals typically lead to authoritarian behaviors, while child-centered and relation-centered goals lead to authoritative behaviors.
In general, an authoritarian parenting style result in worse outcomes than the authoritative parenting style. Experts and psychologists around the globe recommend authoritative parenting as the parenting style of choice2.
Authoritative parents are more effective parents3. Using child-centered and relation-centered goals are, therefore, more likely to result in better parenting outcomes.
How To Set Our Goals
Setting new goals is a way to help us identify what matters most to us and which behaviors will help us achieve those objectives.
While most of us have long-term goals that are centered around our children and relationships, the short-term behavior or desires rarely reflect that.
That’s why it’s important to be clear about what we want to achieve in the long run. Our actions need to align with the long-term goals for them to work.
Most parents’ expectations are high. They want to raise kids who are healthy, happy, kind, respectful, responsible, highly educated, financially successful, and close to us.
But at the same time, many of them also want to achieve parent-centered goals. They want to have kids who are obedient, respectful, compliant, listening without disagreement, well behaved, hard working, and basically doing everything we want them to do. Some parents believe these goals will provide a smoother path for their kids to achieve success in life.
Unfortunately, this seldom proves to be the case. Parents who try to achieve short-term parent-centered goals first often end up hurting their chances of achieving the long-term ones.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t have both, but the traditional power assertive discipline used to meet parent-centered objectives is flawed and rarely works as intended. It usually creates opposite effects.
How To Accomplish Our Goals
It may seem impossible to have it all, but you can.
Child-centered, relation-centered and parent-centered goals are not mutually exclusive, but they need to be accomplished in a specific order.
Relationship comes first.
A good relationship with your child is the key to achieving all the other goals.
When you have a good relationship with your child, they are more likely to listen to you and comply with your request. When they feel connected with you, they will want to help out around the house. If you value education, they are also more likely to adopt the same value and study hard.
You can have everything, but your relationship with your child is always the most important and should be your first priority, not homework, chores, or grades.
Best Parenting Goals
Strive to make and meet goals that are relation-centered first to strengthen your relationship with your child, because having a healthy, close parent-child relationship is the foundation of a child’s future happiness, wellbeing, and success4.
Parental love is powerful. It can lead to a respectful and well-behaved kid. It just doesn’t work as fast or as direct as reward or punishment, but it definitely yields better results in the long run. Here are some examples of good parenting goals for this year:
- develop mutual respect
- allow open communication and bidirectional feedback
- spend more time in self-care
- take care of your child’s mental health
- build trust so your child will not be afraid to come to you with problems
- be supportive and foster independence
- nurture critical thinking skills in your child
- learn more about child development
- use positive reinforcement in place of punishment
- turn a challenging situation into a learning opportunity
- foster resilience and tolerance for distress
- read books together
- form healthy habits together, like sticking to a balanced diet
- become a positive role model
Need Help Motivating Kids?
If you are looking for additional tips and an actual step-by-step plan, this online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.
It gives you the steps you need to identify motivation issues in your child and the strategy you can apply to help your child build self-motivation and become passionate about learning.
Once you know this science-based strategy, motivating your child becomes easy and stress-free.
- 1.Hastings PD, Grusec JE. Parenting goals as organizers of responses to parent–child disagreement. Developmental Psychology. Published online 1998:465-479. doi:10.1037/0012-16220.127.116.115
- 2.Spera C. A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement. Educ Psychol Rev. Published online June 2005:125-146. doi:10.1007/s10648-005-3950-1
- 3.Steinberg L, Mounts NS, Lamborn SD, Dornbusch SM. Authoritative parenting and adolescent adjustment across varied ecological niches. Journal of Research on Adolescence. 1991;1(1):19–36.
- 4.Vaillant GE. Triumphs of Experience. Published online October 30, 2012. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674067424