SMART Goals for Teens: How to Help your Teens Succeed

Setting goals is an important lifelong skill that your teens can start learning today.  By helping implement SMART goals, your teens will be setting and achieving goals in no time. This list of goals for teens can help your kids start planning and executing in no time. 

Girl smiling with a blue border with white text "SMART GOALS FOR TEENS" how to help your teen succeed.

Goal Setting For Teenagers

As a parent we want our kids to be successful as they go through their lives. When our kids become teenagers, they start having big dreams of being successful, traveling the world, and doing all the things they have always dreamed of. But often fall short of these dreams, not because they are not ambitious, but because they lack the skillset to set goals and achieve them. By teaching teens to set goals we can watch them achieve their goals and more. By doing so, your teens will feel a huge sense of accomplishment and become motivated to continue to set more and more goals throughout their life. 

What are the benefits of Effective Goal Setting for Teens

As teens set and achieve goals they not only develop growth mindsets but also see many other benefits. 

  • Time management.
  • Organization of time and tasks
  • Increases motivation. 
  • Develops a sense of accomplishment. 

Why Should Teens set Goals?

Goal setting is a skill that helps teach teenagers how to manage their lives, set their focus on what is important and manage and accomplish their dreams. 

Using the SMART goal strategy for goal setting helps provide clarity and allows teenagers use small steps to help achieve larger objectives.  SMART goals break individual goals down into steps that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound can help your teenager see and measure their progress and make adjustments that are needed to help them find success.

What is a SMART GOAL?

A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. 


The first step in goal setting is to set up specific, clear ideas of what you want to achieve.  Write your goals by answering the following questions: 

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Who will be involved?
  • Where will your work on this goal take place?
  • How does this goal fit with other goals?


Measuring and tracking progress helps keep the goals progressing in the right direction.  Understanding how you will measure and track progress will help keep your teen on track as they complete small steps leading to significant accomplishments.

pink background with SMART acronym.


Structuring goals in a way to keep them achievable will help your teen find success and satisfaction with their efforts.  

To achieve specific steps your teen should write out what needs to happen and when each step needs to be accomplished. They will also document how the steps will be managed.  


Goals need to be relevant and reachable for your teen.  This step helps outline why this particular goal is important and how it could impact future aspirations. 

Understanding the why and the how will help your teen plan out their small achievable goals, which can lead to bigger and better things.


Every goal needs a timeline or a target date for when it will be accomplished.  

Setting up a plan for what you can accomplish now, what can be done in 2 weeks, then 2 months, and determine how long before the goal will be complete.    

Using SMART goals with your teens will help them increase their focus, and know what they want to do and how to get it done. Making a plan to accomplish goals will help keep your teen from getting off track or becoming stuck and unable to move toward accomplishment.  

Goal setting helps with time and self-management, increases self-awareness, and helps build self-esteem. 

As a parent helps guide the process, their teens will learn how to be self-sufficient, how to set their own goals, make effective progress, and find a way to make their dreams come true.   

Why Is Setting goals for Teens so important?

Goal setting and setting SMART Goals changes the mindset and promotes growth.  It also teaches them: 

  • Time management
  • Motivation
  • Organization 
  • Builds self-confidence
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Builds critical thinking skills
  • How to overcome failure. 
  • Helps teens become self-sufficient 
  • How to break big hard things into smaller, more manageable tasks that can easily be accomplished. 

How to Set SMART goals for teens

These steps can help your teens set their goals. 

  • Write the goal down. 
  • Be sure that it is a specific goal that can be measured. 
  • Help them find an accountability partner to help them accomplish their goal. This is the person they choose to check in with each week and update them on their goal. 
  • Help them identify challenges that may arise. Help them plan how to overcome these challenges with solutions. 
  • If your teen is setting a long-term goal, have them document on the calendar when they will revisit the goal and revise it if necessary. 

Tips to Help Your Teen Set Goals

  • Make sure your teen is setting the goal. As hard as it can be, be sure your teen is the one setting the goal, not you. This helps them feel independent and in charge of their goal. Do not force them into setting a goal or persuade them to set a certain goal based on your desires. This will only end in a failed goal for them and a lack of motivation to set another goal. 
  • Start Small. If your teen has never set a goal before, start small. Start with a goal that can easily be accomplished in a short amount of time. If they set a goal to earn enough money for a car, this can take years, causing them to become frustrated in goal setting. Some small goals could be 
    • clean your room and keep it clean for one week
    • Practice soccer every day for 20 minutes for 1 week. 
    • Read a book in one month. 
    • Get a babysitting job to buy my own meal at a fast food restaurant. 
    • Take notes in math class and study them every night at home for two weeks.  
  • Be a Support / not a crutch. After your teen sets their goal, support them, but don’t do it for them. There is no need to constantly remind them of their goal and sit down with them to work on it. Bring it up in the conversation about how it is going, but don’t make it the only thing you talk to them about. 
  • Introduce them to goal setting. Every day people accomplish goals that go unwritten. Perhaps your teen got an A on the math test or made the Varsity tennis team. These are goals that probably sat in the back of their minds. Teach your kids as they talk about things that are important to them to sit down and plan out how they will accomplish it. 
  • Help Revise Goals as Needed. Some goals have to be revised as time passes. For instance, if your goal was to make the Varsity Cheer squad, this is semi-decided on the coach’s decision. If this occurs, help your child focus on specific tasks/skills to help them become better at achieving that goal, such as, “I want to get my tumbling pass nailed down correctly at a 90% success rate/” This is now a specific gaol that can be measurable. 
  • Help Them See the Value in Goal Setting. When people see the why in the situation, they are more likely to stick with it. Help your teen understand why the goal is important to them. While initially, they may say, “I want to get into a specific college” there is so much more behind that goal. Help them understand its importance so you can help validate the goal as they hit stumbling blocks along the way. 
  • It’s a journey. Some may say that I can’t be happy until I am a homeowner with a college degree and my dream car. Help your teen understand that you can have happiness during the entire process of achieving their goal, even through the process of revising their goal as needed. 
  • Goals support Dreams. We all have dreams; we don’t know how to get there. Goals are the most important tool we can teach our kids to help those dreams become a reality. 

Examples of SMART GOALS for teens

teen boy with backpack


  1. Graduate High school/GED 
  2. Be part of an organization and find leadership opportunities.
  3. Learn basic car maintenance.  How to change fluids and oil, change a tire, and check fluids before a long trip. 
  4. Explore career interests through internship opportunities.
teen boy holding up car keys with thumbs up

Teen life goals

  1. Learn how to create a piece of art, and submit it to venues.
  2. Get your driver’s license, and learn how to drive a car. 
  3. Learn how to cook.  Do you have a favorite recipe from a grandmother?  
  4. Write your first short story, or write a book. 
  5. Research travel, save money, plan a trip, and enjoy an adventure.
teen girl with wallet and money

Money goals: 

  1. Get your first job.
  2. Learn how to set a budget. Research how much it takes to live on your own.  How much money will you need for the first and last month’s rent and security deposit for an apartment?  How much will you need to have your own car?  This includes the cost of the vehicle, insurance, and maintenance fees.
  3. Research hobbies or interests and what supplies you will need and how much the supplies would cost. 
  4. Plan and save for a trip after graduation.

Setting and accomplishing SMART goals is one of the most beneficial skills that you can teach your teenager. Not only will it help them to become independent, but it help them know that they can achieve anything that they set their mind to or adapt along the way. 

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