03 Apr Setting Appropriate Expectations for You and Your Family
This week kicks off the first full week of April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month and we are focusing on the importance of setting appropriate expectations for your kids and family. Kids thrive when we set clear expectations. Whether those expectations pertain to their behavior, routine, chores, or rules they must follow, these expectations will help them know what to do and how to behave and could save caregivers a ton of frustration.
- Understand child development and research how to navigate the challenges of various stages. One pitfall that many parents often fall into is that the expectations they set are not age- or developmentally-appropriate. It would be unrealistic to expect a 1 year old to sit quietly and watch an entire movie. On the other hand, it may be a good idea to begin giving your 4 year old chores that they can feasibly handle, such as picking up their toys/books, putting laundry in the hamper, and folding rags, and dishcloths. Age-appropriate expectations are important to avoid frustration and hurt feelings from both parents and kids.
- Know that each child is different. Children do not fit perfectly into a mold. In other words, standard developmental timelines should be used as a guidepost to help us better understand how our children are developing and how to provide what they need during each developmental phase. However, each child will vary on their own specific developmental timeline. Look at your child’s strengths, weaknesses, interests, and talents, and set your expectations based on them as individuals.
- Be clear and consistent. Have you ever caught yourself saying things to your kids such as, “Stop that,” “Clean up,” or “Be good,” only to find your kids not doing these very things? The issue with these common directives is that they are vague and hard for little ones to understand. Instead try saying things like, “Please stop hitting your sister. We use our hands to hug!” or “You need to clean up the toys and books on your bedroom floor before we get other toys out.” Also, try your best to practice consistency with your expectations, even when you are tired, frustrated, or worn down. Consistency in expectations communicates to kids that these expectations remain, regardless of the day, time, or situation.
- Empathize, but hold the line. Kids test limits and are trying out independence at different moments in their lives. When new expectations are set, kids may have a negative reaction or attitude towards those expectations. Empathize with their feelings and frustrations. Tell them that it’s okay for them to be frustrated and try your best to explain the reasoning behind your expectations/rules. Even after all of that effort, they may still question you and toe the line. In those moments, hold your ground and continue to hold space for them to communicate their emotions and frustrations with you.