What to Expect when Establishing Expectations
Set deadlines and criteria
Let children know when tasks must be completed and how well they need to be performed. For example, we might say “All of the clothes in the laundry basket must end up in your drawers” or “We are leaving at 3:05 and I need you to be in the car at that time.” A great way we can establish deadlines is through fun routines such as singing the “clean-up song” with the expectation that everything will be put away by the time the song is over.
Celebrate children’s successes
Provide praise whenever children follow expectations. If the children respond right away, try very hard, do a little extra, or take initiative, reward them in a bigger and better way such as offering a special activity or treat. One idea is to place tickets with special privileges (e.g., snuggle, trip to the park, choose dessert) in a jar, allowing children to select one ticket for following expectations all day or doing something particularly difficult for them.
Stick to your guns (follow through)
Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you establish an expectation, or ask a child to do something, make sure it is performed. Only ask children to do things that are reasonable and enforceable (e.g., because you can withhold privileges such as video games or outdoor play until it is done). Consistency is not easy, but it is critical to establishing expectations.
Establishing expectations is an important aspect of parenting. In doing so, it is very important not to overestimate or underestimate our children – or ourselves. We need to start with what our children are doing right now and gradually shape their behavior. Expecting more and more until they have achieved goals that will allow them to succeed in all aspects of life. Everyone must be both realistic and limitless. We also need to believe in ourselves: our ability to put all of these things in action, remaining unwavering even when it is hard. Many of us will make mistakes and let things slide from time to time because perfection is not possible, but we can always reset and reinforce our expectations.
Meme Hieneman, has a Ph.D. in Special Education and is nationally certified as a behavior analyst. She has published a variety of articles, chapters, and books including “Parenting with Positive Behavior Support: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Child’s Difficult Behavior.” In her professional career, Meme has worked with children with severe behavior problems for more than 20 years.
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