Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Setting SMARTER Parenting Goals for the New Year

I'm not usually one to make New Year's resolutions.  I am not naive enough to believe that I will actually keep them.  I lack the will power.  I am weak.  I am human.  But I have different motivations when it comes to parenting.  I am existing for someone else.  I am living so that my child will live a happy and productive life.

During my time as a retail store manager, I realized that the best way to set goals is to use the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals system.  Why?  Because it sets you up for success. Instead of making New Year's resolutions that I will eventually break, I am going to show you how to make SMARTER parenting goals for 2012.

What are SMARTER goals?  SMARTER is an acronym that is used to guide someone in goal setting.

T is for TIMELY

I am going to walk you through setting a goal that I have for my toddler, and after you learn the process, you can repeat it with goals that are specific to your own kids.

The biggest goal that I have for my toddler in the new year is potty training.  Let's put this goal through the SMARTER system.


So, when you begin to explore your goals, you should ask the 5 "W" questions.  What do I want to accomplish?  I want to potty train my toddler. Why do I want to accomplish this goal?  So that she is able to handle bathroom functions in the appropriate way, and so that we no longer have to buy diapers.  Who is involved in the process of me accomplishing this goal?  Matt Daddy, Mrs. Matt Daddy and Munchkin.  Occasionally, Grandma will also be involved as my daughter frequently stays with her. Where am I planning to undertake this effort?  Mostly at our home on the potty, but also at Grandma's house.  Which requirements, constraints or other variables will I need to consider?  Munchkin may not be interested in potty training.  She may not physically realize that she has to potty yet.  She will most likely have accidents, so I need to think of an appropriate way to deal with those.  


Ask yourself how much?  How many?  How will I know when my goal is accomplished?  For my potty training goal, I will set a goal to have her consistently using the potty by her second birthday (three months away), and a measurement of two months without an accident as a marker for success.  More specifically, I will make the goal to get her to use the potty at least five times per day until she begins to tell me that she has to go.  Right now, we're probably averaging three attempts per day.


Attainable goals motivate the people involved in accomplishing them.  My wife and I have already begun working with our daughter on her potty training.  She has even used the potty several times when we put her on it.  If we had not laid that groundwork already, my measurable goal above would seem unattainable in three months, wouldn't it?  If we were just starting the process, I might give a window of say six months to familiarize her with the potty and start getting her used to the idea of using it, and then set a measurable goal of two months without an accident.  The key to setting an attainable goal is to answer the question "How?"  How can I attain this goal in the given time?  Then set your strategy in place based on the measurement of time that you have allotted for your goal.


I wouldn't start teaching my two year old to ride a bike.  I wouldn't teach my three year old how to tie shoes yet.  You can't expect a child to achieve goals that they do not have the skills (mental or physical) to accomplish.  The window of 18 - 24 months is generally accepted as a good time to start potty training for girls.  If you miss this window, statistics show that they will not be interested again until they are much older, and who wants to be changing diapers at four years old?  Nobody!  The question to ask yourself when deciding if the goal is relevant is "Does this seem worthwhile?"  In other words, is the benefit I will attain by achieving this goal worth the time necessary to actually accomplish it?  In my case, yes.  It will be worth the time invested in order to not have to worry about changing diapers, buying diapers, packing diapers in the diaper bag, etc.


Making your goals timely gives you a sense of urgency to accomplish them.  Ask yourself the following questions:

What can I be doing today to accomplish this goal?
What can I do this week that will put me on track to accomplish this goal?
What can I do in the next three months that will help me accomplish this goal? Six months?  A year? (as needed)

For me, I will begin by talking about this goal with Mrs. Matt Daddy and Grandma.  We all have to be on the same page, or it won't work.  Second, I will start placing Munchkin on the potty at least five times per day until she begins to tell me that she has to go.  I will create a routine that I can easily remember to follow, and here are the five times we will use the potty:

When she wakes up
After Snack
After Lunch/Before Nap
After Nap
After Snack

The second part of being time-bound is in the measurements you set in the second stage.  I am aiming to have her trained by her second birthday, and a two month accident-free time period will mark my success.


Set a specific time or date for you to evaluate your success and adjust your plan as necessary.  Set up Mark your progress with a chart if you need to.  Ask the tough questions.  What is working?  What isn't?  Set new time frames to accomplish your goals.  Adjust your expectations.  Look for new inspiration to keep you motivated. I will be evaluating my progress immediately following my daughter's second birthday, as that is the deadline I have set to have her potty trained.


If you reach your goal, reward yourself!  If your children achieve a goal that you set together, by all means, reward them.  If you are still struggling to achieve your goals, then reevaluate the goal.  Maybe adjust it to a more attainable goal.

I hope this process helps you set SMARTER goals for 2012 instead of trying to keep those resolutions.  You probably broke them already, right?


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Matt. I posted a similar article over on my site, but yours is even SMARTER. Hope the potty training goes well!

  2. @Heroic Fatherhood - Hey Ben, thanks for stopping by. I just read your post, and it's good (or should I say SMART?). People can read it HERE.

    I'm not sure when SMART changed to SMARTER but the "ER" part seemed necessary as there was no place to evaluate your progress, and there was no incentive other than a sense of accomplishment without a reward. It makes it easier to get others on board if there is some sort of incentive along with the sense of accomplishment (especially those who are not motivated by that).

  3. I learned a GREAT lesson in a Mommy and Me class I attended with my toddler, Matt. Every mom there (and me as the only dad) had babies say 10 - 14 months old. Every parent, myself included, had concerns about when their child was going to walk, talk, be fully potty trained, etc. etc.

    The very wise leader said something to the effect, "Trust me, they'll be doing all of those things by the time they start elementary school...each at their own pace and time...so just relax."

    Wise words...

  4. I am totally relaxed about it, trust me. What you don't know about me is that I am the guy that is so TOTALLY relaxed about everything that it drives my wife crazy. It's not that I'm lazy, it's just that I don't set rigid deadlines for myself. I am setting this goal because if I did it MY way, she'd be six years old and still wearing pull ups. I'd also like to reduce my diaper spending. I could buy a lot more steaks for the grill!

  5. Useful advice for one woth young children, also useful for those with grown children...lol



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...