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‘WOOP’ to Help Students Accomplish Goals By Fern Weis, Parent Coach

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

‘WOOP’ to Help Students Accomplish Goals By Fern Weis, Parent Coach, Bergen County Moms

As a middle school teacher, I was part of many meetings between parents, teachers and guidance counselors concerned about a student. Often there were two important pieces missing: the student and a realistic action plan.

A list of goals would be drawn up, i.e. weekly locker clean-out, teacher signing the assignment pad, a partner to help the student ensure all needed materials went home, etc. The list was created without input from the student. Then the student was called down at the end of the meeting and presented with the list.

Now this child was facing a room of adults, adults who had the best intentions and best interest of the child at heart; however, what the child heard was, 'You have dropped the ball. You are deficient. You can't handle this on your own, so we are taking charge."

This confirmed any feelings of being 'not good enough', and the list was overwhelming, too. For some children, it was the perfect storm for a shut-down or a meltdown.

What was wrong with the list? It was a to-do list, which didn't factor in the personal fears and obstacles of the child. He was certainly physically capable of moving through the list, but it's never that simple... which is why I am excited to share what I learned about 'WOOP'. This is a four-step process to help kids (or anyone) develop a realistic, doable plan to accomplish most any goal. You don't have to buy anything; the materials are provided online and there is a link at the end of the article.

Read more about it, download the steps and try it out. Let me know when you use it and if you're all getting through the process more easily and more effectively.


There are many systems and acronyms for helping people set and reach their goals (including the well-known S.M.A.R.T Goal). Most of them are for adults, written in adult language and concepts. I recently learned about WOOP, developed for students, as young as elementary school age. WOOP may be just what parents and educators have been looking for to help children evaluate and accomplish goals.

For many, both children and adults, a goal begins as a wish. A wish is a dream without a plan. We all know that positive thoughts are a good start, but go nowhere until there are actions to back them up. WOOP takes the dreamer through a four-step process to identify the goal, the benefit, the obstacles and the steps. Visualizing each step is part of the plan.

W = Wish A meaningful, challenging, and feasible goal The word 'meaningful' is important. Your child might be in love with the idea of becoming a professional athlete, but have no desire or commitment to ongoing training. There's no point in going through this process if they're not really motivated. On the other hand, if they're not sure, going through the four steps may help them focus on something more meaningful.

O = Outcome

The best result or feeling from accomplishing your wish The feeling one gets from accomplishing a goal is usually the real, but not often recognized, outcome. For a shy or marginalized child, the goal of having more friends is really about feeling she belongs and is accepted. It's a subtle but important distinction.

O = Obstacle

Something inside you that prevents you from accomplishing your wish We all struggle with big and little demons (or gremlins, as they are called in the coaching world). It's the voice that whispers or shouts, "You're not good enough. What makes you think you can do this? Who do you think you are?"

This is the very young, inner child. What he or she needs is an alternate nurturing belief and a plan. Which leads us to the last step,

P = Plan

If [obstacle], then I will [effective action]. When that gremlin pops up, thank it for sharing. Oddly enough, it was created to protect you in some way. Be gentle with it, and yourself. Tell it, "Thanks for sharing. I have something else to tend to now. I'll get back to you later" and watch it fade away. Now you are ready to replace it with an action step to help you accomplish goals.

This formula links the plan directly to the obstacle, which makes it more effective. It is also the step that will require the most help to refine

Here's an example of the process in action (quoted from the WOOP website):

W: I want to get an 85 in math

O: I will graduate with honors, and I will be allowed to get my driver’s license

O: I am afraid to raise my hand and ask for help

P: If I am afraid, I will write down my question and hand the paper to the teacher.

Click here for more information on how to help your child (and everyone) accomplish goals.

Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting.  In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery.  She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.  

Learn more about coaching and classes at And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit

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