Feb 18 11
by cara
at 8:25 PM
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I had an “AHA!” parenting moment this week that I thought I’d share.

You have to express your expectations to your children!

Good discipline begins with clear instruction. Tell your kids what you expect of them ahead of time!!

Such a simple concept, yet it was something I had overlooked in my often hectic life with a preschooler.

In the past, my clear instructions were mostly of the “No, we’re not getting any toys when we go to Target today” variety, and usually only in response to begging and pleading for toys in the car.  I’ve had trouble with The Littlest Apple throwing toys during playdates, pitching a fit in the library, or not wanting to sit still with me during prayers at school during Devotions.  But had I ever told him what I expected of him in each of those situations?  NO!  No wonder we were having so many conflicts!

What kind of expectations should be expressed?

No screaming in the store

You must hold Mommy’s hand in the parking lot.

When we go to the library, you need to use a soft voice and stay with Mom.  We are going to select 4 books for you today, then get Mom’s books, then stand in line.

When it is time to say a prayer at preschool or Sunday school, you need to be still and stay quiet.

I expect you to listen to your teachers and make good choices today at school.

When your friends come over this afternoon, you need to share your toys with them, and don’t throw things.

For some kids, expressing your expectation may be enough.  End of story, enjoy your grocery shopping!  (And also, lucky you!)

BUT, if you’ve got a super curious little one (as I do) that always wants to know “WHY?” and refuses to do anything unless HE thinks there is a good reason, then you may also have to concisely explain your reasoning for these rules (“grocery store rules” or “playdate rules,” etc.)

For instance:

Expectation: You need to use a soft voice at the library

Explanation: People are trying to read books and concentrate, and if we are too noisy they won’t be able to read their books.


Expectation: You need to hold my hand in the parking lot

Explanation: The other cars may not see you and you could get hurt

Now I’m making an effort to talk to The Littlest Apple in the car or before our activities and quickly outline some basic expectations I have.  What a difference it has made!

The Littlest Apple is starting to follow the “rules” I set out, without any need to be reminded.  He just DOES it!! (Do you have any idea how infrequently that happens around here?!)  It’s been truly amazing.  I’m sure quite of a few of you are saying “DUH!”, but this was such a breakthrough for me.  Obviously, I’m curious to see how this pattern continues, and obviously there will always be exceptions, but for now this is really working for us!

How do you let your children know what is expected of them?  What are some of your basic expectations?

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1 Comment
  1. Love this post. I have five kids and we practice ahead of time, a trick I learned from a more experienced mom of five. We play “games” at home that teach the behaviors I want in public. Our favorite is run stop. They run like crazy aroundn the backyard and when I say stop they don’t move thier feet another inch. Do I care if they stop in the backyard? Not really. In the street? You bethcha.

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