I love using SMART goals to help me get where I want to be and celebrate every step along the way. But how to apply SMART goals to parenting?

What are SMART Goals?

SMART is an acronym used as a guide for goal setting.

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Time Bound

There are a few variations of the wording depending on the type of goals it’s being applied to.


Setting non-specific goals is setting yourself up for failure. For example “eat more healthily” is a perfectly sensible goal but it’s not clear what you’re actually intending to do which makes following through harder. Instead “eat 5 portions of fruit or veg a day” is a much more specific and therefore achievable goal.


You need a way of measuring your progress so that you can keep yourself motivated by celebrating the small wins.

Sticking with the healthy eating example you’d just need a way to count the number of fruit and veg portions you eat each day.

Achievable / Realistic

There’s no point in setting unrealistic goals, that’s a sure-fire way to make sure you don’t achieve what you want.

Again with the healthy eating example, “no junk food ever” isn’t realistic (for me anyway!). But “processed food no more than once a week” is much more manageable. There’d be uproar in my house if I cancelled Fakeaway Fridays!

Time Bound

This one isn’t too relevant for me but for a lot of goals you’d need to set a timescale within which you’d like to achieve your goal.

So for example “Save £1,000 by the end of the year”.

Most of my goals are more about building regular habits, like reading one book a month.

I love SMART goals, it really motivates me to wake up knowing what I’m trying to achieve and what I need to do to achieve it. I can plug away for years as long as I can see tiny bits of progress adding up over time. I set myself little targets and organise rewards when I reach those milestones. I’m great at being my own cheerleader and staying on track, for the most part at least!

But . . . . SMART goals don’t work for me as a mum.

Why SMART Goals Don’t Work in Parenting

I firmly believe that what children need most is love. That means, time, attention, compassion, to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved, that they have someone they can turn to no matter what. A stable base from which they can grow and explore the world, figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

That’s a bit deep isn’t it!?!

I used to worry about how to achieve that. I used to feel inadequate as a mother because I was consumed with “busy work” with no real definable goals or measurable progress.

It’s depressing, every single day filled with work with no end goal to work towards. No progress to celebrate. You are never finished parenting, it’s constant, everyday, for the rest of your life. There’s no way to tell if you’re doing a good job or not until it’s too late. And worst of all no matter what you do there will be someone who is all too happy to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

Far from thriving in this environment, I wilt.


I’ve tried to apply SMART goals to my mum life. But parenting doesn’t work like that. It’s not fair for me to say that I want my kid to be a lawyer. Maybe my kid would prefer to be a “starving artist”. As long as they’re happy I couldn’t give a monkeys what career they pursue.

I can’t aim to make my children happy, I have no idea what will make them happy in their adult lives and it’s not my place to choose that for them.

So it’s pretty much impossible to set specific goals for parenting.


How do you measure success as a parent?

A lot of people would say that a parent’s success (or failure) is apparent from their child’s behaviour. But that really isn’t fair. My kids are healthy and neurotypical but they still have bad days and difficult periods. There are days when life is too busy and they are too tired so they behave in a way that they wouldn’t normally. That doesn’t mean I’ve failed as a parent, it means my kid is having a bad day.

There isn’t a consistent way of measuring success as a parent. Success can look very different from one day to another and even more so from one child to another.

Achievable / Realistic

And as for achievable, that’s even worse. I could do everything right and my kid could still go off the rails and ruin their lives with one mistake at the wrong time. I can’t deem myself a failure based on the choices of someone else, even my own child. They have to be entitled to make their own choices in life and I can’t take responsibility for every decision they make.

Time Bound

“All children develop at different rates”. It’s a mantra often repeated by health visitors and the like. It’s true. Some children learn some skills quickly whilst others take a little longer. And some children never master particular skills – my spatial awareness still sucks as an adult.

I’ve learnt that time needs to be a more flexible concept when it comes to young children. Not just in terms of their development but in daily life. For example when I take my children to the park I may be tempted to focus on getting to the park, after all that’s the point. My children are typically more focused on enjoying the journey, they want to chatter and collect pretty leaves, to run and play along the way.

Slowing down is more valuable than setting a time limit.

How I Adapt SMART Goals to Parenting

So I’m stuffed right? It’s impossible to define goals for my role as a parent and I am doomed to spend the next ten years of my life working my back side off achieving nothing.

I used to think so.

Until I turned it around.

I stopped focusing on the results. After all my kid’s are responsible for their own choices in their own lives.

My responsibility is entirely for the foundation I provide them with. It’s my job to show them I love them, to make time for them, to listen to and talk to them. To teach them through example.

In short to spend quality time with my children.

That’s it. Simple, that’s all I need to do.

(In addition to the obvious feed, house and clothe them of course!)

Creating a smart goal for this now becomes really simple. I spend one day a week taking my kids out somewhere. Anywhere, doing anything they enjoy. No housework, no projects, no phones or other distractions just simple quality time with my kids.

It’s so simple and easy, not to mention enjoyable. I can tick “day out with the kids” off my task list and feel good about it. I can snap a few pictures and blog or scrapbook the day. I can look back over the months and years and feel good about what I’ve achieved.

Specific, Measurable and Achievable.


In Conclusion

I’ve struggled to achieve “success” as a parent but by focusing how I spend time with my children I’ve found ways to set and achieve SMART goals for my role as a parent.

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Setting SMART Parenting Goals
Setting SMART Parenting Goals

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A Little Bit About Me . . .

Thank you so much for stopping by my corner little of the interweb. I’m Bridie, mum to two small humans, full time homemaker and full time craftaholic – which totally explains why I’m always short on time!

Bridie @ Heart Hearth and Crafting

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