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Setting Reasonable Expectations with your Children

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  • Written by: Guest Writer Michelle Markel - Family Issues
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FAMILIES FIRST: Setting reasonable expectations with your children

Pretend you are talking to your child, and fill in the blank:
How many times have I told you to ___________________________________?!

While I’m sure you don’t need any help coming up with examples, here are a few just in case:
* … not draw on the walls?
* …not eat in your room?
* …not bite your brother?!

And every time, as your frustration grows with this child you are sure cannot truly be yours, you are probably having thoughts like: “why don’t you listen to me, or are you just selectively deaf?”

First things first - deep breath. Actually, maybe take just one or five more for good measure.

Now, what is happening here?

As usual, I have good and bad news. The bad news is that there is no one reason why your kids seem capable of hearing you only when you say something that is directly benefiting them, and therefore there is no one universal easy fix. The good news is that you can better control their selective hearing, thereby decreasing your frustration.

In addition to introducing structure into family life and routines, setting reasonable expectations is vitally important in ensuring that you and your children are on the same page in terms of what is and what is not acceptable behavior.

What that means is, you know what you want from your child, but does she? Does she know why it is important? Do you?

Did you know…? Consistently setting expectations with your child will better prepare her for school and work, where expectations are fundamental, thereby increasing the likelihood of her success in these new life situations.
Here’s a simple four-sentence template you can use to communicate nearly any expectation:

  • “This is what I want from you: …” Be clear and specific so that later there are no surprises. In fact, the fewer words the better, leaving less room for interpretation. With very young children, you may need to act it out.
  • “This is why: …” It’s not a bad idea to check your motivation. Are you asking this of your child because it is truly in his best interest? Or because it is convenient for you? Further, have a reasonable understanding of your child’s developmental capabilities. You would not, for example, launch into an existential diatribe about the importance of hand-washing to a 4 year-old.
  • “If you do, then… If you don’t, then…” If your children know exactly what the consequences are for compliance and non-compliance, you have given them the opportunity to make informed choices about their behavior. If it is very important, consider putting it in writing and posting it where it cannot be ignored.

This is a great article that delves further into the relationship between setting expectations and behavior: Article Here


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