What to Expect when Establishing Expectations
Establishing expectations is an important aspect of parenting.
Be clear about what you expect
Define exactly what you expect your child to say or do to meet the expectations. When defining expectations, be clear, complete, and concise, taking into consideration the age and level of understanding of the child. For example, gentle hands may mean “touching people only on their arms or shoulders with an open hand and listening may mean stopping what you are doing, facing the person, and following the instructions given. It is important to clarify behaviors that violate expectations as well (e.g., hitting, walking away when someone is talking).
Provide environmental cues
If needed, provide visual reminders of expectations. For older children, you might have a list of house rules (e.g., posted on the refrigerator or some other conspicuous place). For young children and other non-readers, you can use pictures or other arrangements (e.g., bins for belongings) to remind them of the expectations.
Model the behaviors you want
Follow the expectations yourself and encourage other family members and guests to do the same (e.g., say “We are teaching Leslie to use gentle hands with her friends. It may help if we would all avoid horseplay for a while.”). When modeling the behavior, point out and describe your actions, making them very clear for children (e.g., “I’m tired and don’t feel like cleaning up, but I will because we have agreed to pick up after ourselves”).
Clarify choices versus instructions
Differentiate whether giving a child the option to do something or telling the child she or he is required to perform a particular action. Choices begin with words such as “would you like, which one, and can you”. Instructions do not provide options (e.g., “Please start your homework now”) and are stated firmly. While we do want to maximize choices in our children’s lives, there are certain instructions that simply must be completed.
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