Set rules

Easy ways to set expectations ahead of time

There are two easy ways for parents to proactively prevent issues in day-to-day interactions with their children by clearly and explicitly set expectations ahead of time:

1) Show the way: show your child exactly what is expected of them instead of just asking them to do something. Too often, parents describe what they perceive to be simple instructions (in cartoon: “be gentle with the pet” or “be quiet”) but children don’t necessarily have a good understanding of what “gentle” or “quiet” really mean to the parent in a specific situation. A child’s understanding of being “quiet” can be very different from the parent’s understanding. This is particularly true with young children (age 2-5). Showing the way in a very explicit and obvious manner will leave no room for interpretation (in cartoon: “Be gentle… just like this…”, and “Listen, this is how I whisper. Can you whisper?”).

2) Rehearse ahead of time: setting clear expectations ahead of time can be a simple method to get the results you want, without the fights or the tantrums. Instead of trying to correct the child’s bad behavior (“You are too loud” or “Your shoes are not on the shoe rack”), parents can simply identify challenging situations ahead of time, and remind their child about expectations (in cartoon: “Do you remember where to put your shoes inside?”). When kids know what is expected, they are more likely to deliver, and parents can avoid having to correct their child, which neither the parent nor the child will enjoy (“You forgot to put the shoes on the rack!”). A reminder ahead of time is more likely to elicit a positive action, and less likely to create resentment.

See next page for cartoons illustrating examples to show the way and rehearse ahead of time.

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