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Explaining Expectations to Children

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 13 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Children Expectations Behaviour Attitude

As tempting as it might be to say “because I said so!” when it comes to your children, it’s really not fair to ask something of a child and not give him or her any indication of why (s)he should follow your instructions. Look for an opportunity to have a quiet chat with your child and tackle as many topics about your expectations as are age appropriate. Explain why you have these expectations and then share a special treat to end the discussion in a positive way.

Having A Quiet Chat With Children

If possible, communicate your expectations to your child before (s)he acts in a manner you feel is inappropriate so that (s)he doesn’t simply feel as though (s)he is being scolded. Consider:
  • Picking a time when your child is normally in a quieter mood.
  • Picking a time when you are not rushed or particularly stressed.
  • Leaving your other children out of the conversation.
  • Talking in a comfortable, private spot.
  • Always using an even tone and positive phrases.
  • Maintaining eye contact and positive body language (no crossed arms).
  • Avoiding yelling, negative facial expressions or defensive body language.

Tackling Age Appropriate Topics

Your expectations for your child will depend upon the age of your child, so if you feel that you can’t explain an expectation to your child then perhaps you need to re-think why you hold him or her to this standard. Common expectations parents communicate to children are:
  • To pay attention at school and do homework on time.
  • To play fairly and nicely with siblings and other children.
  • To be pleasant to all children and never bully others.
  • Household chores for which they are responsible, and on what schedule.
  • How to handle any allowance paid to them.
  • Good behaviour during religious services or ceremonies.
  • Speaking politely to children and adults, especially in their family.

Explaining Your Expectations

It’s not really fair to ask your children to do things without explaining why, so be prepared to tell your child that your expectations are just to keep them happy, healthy and safe. Reassure your child that you are not having this conversation because (s)he did anything wrong, but rather because you want to help him or her learn and grow and be happy. Also, once you explain to your child why (s)he will be expected to act a certain way you can refer to this conversation in the future as a reminder when your child does something dangerous or inappropriate.

Sharing A Special Treat

After explaining your expectations to your child, see if you can’t share a special treat to both end the conversation on a high note and create a good memory for your child to refer back to. Simple treats include:
  • Enjoying a snack together, for example a cookie that is usually off-limits.
  • Playing the child’s favourite game together.
  • Reading a book together.
  • Allowing your child to watch a TV programme or video.
  • Taking your child to a favourite park or playground.
  • Small toys like bouncing balls or yo-yo’s.

Children’s minds are like sponges so discussing your expectations of them is a good idea while they are still absorbing social cues and mores. If possible, have a quiet, private chat with your child about what you expect of their behaviour and attitudes and discuss age-appropriate topics that (s)he can understand. Be sure to truly explain why you expect these things of your child, and end your talk with a special treat to send everyone off happy.

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