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The Importance of Expectations

February 2016

It is important to remember that many children will not inherently want to do these things just because we think they are a good idea in the long run. Children are not thinking “in the long run”. They are not capable of considering how what they do right now may help them become a “good person” once they “grow up”. Children’s brains have not developed the capacity to think that far in advance and to act accordingly.

So how do you get your child to engage in self-care skills that they would rather you do for them? How do we entice them to complete onerous chores such as picking up their toys and rinsing their dishes in the sink? How to we manage to get them to offer to do us a favor?

These are qualities that require hard work and high expectations.

This is why it is always important to expect things of your child, and make sure that you have made these expectations clear to them. When they meet those expectations, let them know! For example, when given the task of cleaning up after themselves, once they do it, say, “Nice job doing the hard work of cleaning up! Everything looks so nice and tidy now!” Acknowledging their efforts makes them feel appreciated, and cultivates the inner confidence that they are a valuable contributing member of the household. Even more importantly, when you give praise for specific behaviors, your child is likely to feel reinforced by your positive attention. This means that they will do these things more often!

This is applicable for general expectations for behavior as well as for specific tasks. All children should be recognized for their efforts to gain important behavioral skills such as waiting their turn, using words to ask for what they want, and accepting when the answer is “no”. When you make your child feel good for using these skills, they will use them more often. Negative behaviors will wither away if their substitute prosocial behaviors are easier, feel better, and get them what they want.

Dr. Teri Bullis, Ph.D., BCBAI believe that every parent I’ve ever worked with loves their child and is doing the very best that they can. But while parenting is the toughest job anyone will ever have, children don’t come with a “how to” manual. I can provide those “how to” directions, tailored for your unique child and family situation.

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