goals for kids

3 Goals NOT to Have for Your Kids

A kind neighbor texted my wife about a leak under our condo in the common area of our complex. “Check it out,” the text said. “It’s probably nothing. But just in case…” Oh, how I wish my neighbor had been right. It turns out the leak was coming from my shower. And it sounded simple enough to fix. Except, my shower’s plumbing wasn’t installed properly, was built using the wrong materials, and wasn’t secured to the wall correctly. It wasn’t until I could see my exterior brick from inside my bathroom that I realized how much this “small leak” would cost.

If the shower had been built correctly from the start, this wouldn’t have happened. But the builder’s goal wasn’t to build it correctly; it was to build it quickly and cheaply. When our goals are wrong, our direction is wrong. When we have the wrong goals for kids, we are setting them up for failure. Here are 3 goals NOT to have for your kids.

When we have the wrong goals for kids, we are setting them up for failure.

Wrong Goal #1: To Win

I love for my kids to win as much as the next dad, but when we make winning the most important goal for kids, we’re pointing them in the wrong direction. Are we measuring our kids by the number of wins they have? If you’re so focused on the win, you’ll miss all the important values your kid should be learning. In fact, some of my kids’ losses have been the biggest learning opportunities.

Your kids’ activities should serve deeper purposes than simply winning. The goal should be teaching values like growing in integrity, teamwork, and respect for authority. Your role is to teach your kids the value of playing with character and being reliable. When your kid doesn’t win, see that as a chance to teach patience and perseverance.

Wrong Goal #2: To Have “Good” Kids

The goal for this dad is to have kids who look good and say the right things. Sure, you should teach your kids to look adults in the eyes and converse properly. But is that the ultimate goal? I want good kids too. But having well-behaved kids, in my view, comes because you raise them to love their neighbor rather than simply to follow rules. The real goal should be to develop a mature heart filled with character. As dads, we need to make sure we’re focused on the heart rather than just the behavior.

When I think about “good kids,” I can’t help but think about the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Jesus said that the Pharisees knew God’s Law, but their hearts were far from God (Mark 7:6). They were just going through the motions. Our goal shouldn’t be to have kids who go through the motions. If you have rule-following kids, be sure you’re focused on shaping their hearts—their why—instead of just shaping their behavior. For the rule-following kid, does he follow the rules when you aren’t watching?

Wrong Goal #3: To Succeed

Many dads are enamored with success. They want their kids to be successful in their jobs and families—as a reflection of themselves. Often, these dads aren’t sure what “success” looks like. They just know they want something for their kids to be proud of. But success is the wrong goal. When I worked for Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship, one of his favorite quotes was three words: “Faithfulness, not success.”

There are highly “successful” people who are broken, overwhelmed, and don’t understand what’s truly important in life. If we miss heart formation and faithfulness, we’ll seek to replace meaningful things with meaningless things. Is your daughter’s life filled with meaning, or does she only want more things? Does your son care about his friends or is he living to impress them? Do your kids know their worth, or are they jealous when someone else gets a compliment? Help your kids to focus on faithfulness rather than success.

Sound off: Which one of these three wrong goals do you need to change the most?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it’s important to set goals? What goals would you like to accomplish?”