What to Expect when Establishing Expectations
As parents, we often say things like, “I just wish my child would ____ (e.g., get ready on time, put away his things, finish her homework)”. Establishing expectations involves letting children know exactly what we want them to say or do, both generally and in particular circumstances. We all have expectations for our children’s behavior, but sometimes we may be less than clear about what exactly those expectations entail. This article provides strategies that will help increase the likelihood that children will understand and comply with our expectations.
Before launching into specific strategies, it is important to note that expectations are influenced by a number of different issues. First, families, communities, and groups have certain cultural and societal norms that dictate behavior, often communicated through laws, rules, and social etiquette. Second, expectations change and children grow and develop. We expect much more from a teenager than a two-year old with regard to their independence, social skills, and other abilities. Finally, expectations vary across circumstances. We are expected to behave differently at ball games, family gatherings, libraries, and religious services. Because expectations are influenced by these circumstances, as well as our personal values, every family will be unique in the behaviors they desire.
Taking these issues into consideration, we can establish expectations using the following principles:
Determine your priorities
Decide what behaviors are most important for your children to succeed not only at home, but also at school and in the community. Think about what is expected now, as well as what children may learn to do in the future. Then prioritize: determine which behaviors will lead to the ‘biggest bang for the smallest buck”. You might fill in the blank, “if my child would only do __, things would be so much better.” You might decide, for example, that sharing belongings, using gentle hands, listening, and/or picking up after oneself are essential to success across settings.
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