My son is a high-school freshman without goals. He just seems to live his life from day to day. How can I help him learn how to set goals and the importance of goal-setting? -- Mom


You can talk yourself blue in the face about the importance of setting goals. However, you will be more effective if your family sets a certain goal and defines the steps to achieving it and frequently and casually evaluates the progress you are making in achieving it. The goal must be one that everyone really wants -- perhaps a camping trip. Do this several times a year, and your son will learn that having formal goals pays dividends.

Few high-school students truly have no goals. Your son probably has some long-term goals or dreams of things that he might like to accomplish. It is good to talk about these things and the small steps that can be taken now to realize them. He can dream about being a rock star, but joining the school choir could be a small step toward that goal. It would be helpful if you talk casually about the small steps that you have taken to get a career on track or travel abroad.

It is important to realize that your son has probably set goals and not even realized it, such as saving money to buy a cell phone or creating an interesting Facebook page. This is a start. Get in the habit of praising him for his accomplishments so he realizes that he has set and accomplished goals.

Goals help children to focus on a task and select and apply strategies to accomplish them. Accomplishing goals definitely builds an "I can do it!" attitude. Goal-setting does not have to be confined to school-related tasks. Children should also set goals in other areas of their lives.