It seems that, as a preschool teacher, I find myself with the same challenge every year. How do I be a fun, exciting teacher but still keep order and structure in my classroom? Over the years, I have learned there is one very important word for both teaching and parenting, expectations. As long as my students know the expectations, I can usually sit back and focus on teaching and enjoying our time together. Check out these great tips for establishing expectations at home!
Why are Expectations Important?
Being a kid can be scary and frustrating at times. Think about it, as a child you spend most of your day with adults who all have different ideas and thoughts. Often, the rules are different between your teachers, your coaches, and your parents. Expectations allow the children to know what is expected of them with that person. They provide consistency in your child's life and allow your child to settle in and flourish.
Along with adding consistency, expectations are a great too to help with behavior and discipline. When a child knows what is expected of them, they will strive to meet it. They will focus on the task at hand and have clear guidance for what they should be doing. Also, in a class setting, it allows all the children to flow and work together. If your class expectations are the same for most of the kids, they will help each other to reach the goals laid out by the teacher.
Lastly, expectations help children reach key milestones for behavior and social development. Expectations allow children to feel a sense of need and responsibility. Once responsibility is established, it is much easier to continue to add the that responsibility. Make sure your children know that these expectations help your family, as a whole, run smoother and it allows them to continue to be an important part of the household.
How to set Strong, Focused Expectations
Setting the right expectations is difficult. You want to make sure they are able to be consistent, reachable, and positive. Here are five things to consider when setting expectations for your children.
- Think of Their Age: You need to make sure you are setting goals that your child can reach, based on their age appropriate milestones. The expectations of a two year old are very different than one of a nine year old. For example, you may establish that your two year old should be able to put their pajamas in their hamper after they get dressed in the morning, where as your nine year old should be able to complete their entire morning routine without reminders. Both are great morning expectations, but take into consideration each child's age.
- Think Big Picture: Expectations should be something that you are wanting to be the same for a long time. You want to make sure you are not going to be changing the expectations shortly after they are established. For example, if you want to set the expectation that your child should be in bed by 8:00, make sure you do not have any sports practices starting that will keep them up until 8:30. You want to make sure that once it is established, it can be met every time.
- Work with Your Kids: While you are in charge, children are more likely to be open to expectations when they have a say in creating them. If you would like your child to complete their bedtime routine, let them choose the order of events. For example, if the bedtime routine will consist of bath, brush teeth, pajamas, and book, let them decide which one they would like to do first. They are still completing the expectation, but feel in control.
- Give it Time: Be ready to work on this for a little while. Depending on the expectation, it may take some time for your child to adjust and figure it all out. Children will need reminders, so make sure you are there to help them until the expectation becomes a habit. For example, if your expectation is that your child will sit at the dinner table until everyone is finished, you may have to spend a few dinners redirecting them back to their seat after they are done. Stay focused, but kind and allow your child to adjust to the new expectation.
- Know When it Is and Isn't Working: Yes, you may think that this expectation will be the perfect fit for your family, but it may not work. You may need to take a look at what you are trying to accomplish and adjust if needed. Think to yourself, "Is it too difficult for my child?" "Are they confused about what is expected?" "Do they need to start smaller and work up to this action?" Don't be afraid to reset and start over, it will be worth it in the long run!
Expectations can be a difficult task for some parents. Remember, this is not something that will happen over night. It is hard to take the time to think about what you expect of your child and to teach them these tasks. Once you do, it will make everyone's life better.