Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great Expectations

Do you think you could count how many times your kids haven't behaved the way you expect them to behave? Ha! Good luck with that! Isn't that their job? They're experts at it, especially when you're in front of other people or in a new place that's different from day to day. That's their specialty.

It's one thing to teach your kids to behave at home, but it's a whole other ball of wax when it comes to the library or the park or church or someone else's house. Even the most well-behaved child can throw you for a loop in a moment that really counts. We've all been there, right?

For me, it was the library. Noah was AWFUL at the library. He loved going, but he HATED leaving. Excursions to the library were not fun for us for a while.

Although memories of our first library outings are a little painful, they taught me some important lessons in parenting. One in particular is that kids need to know what you expect of them BEFORE you throw them into the new environment. I've learned from my own experience that pretty much all attempts to teach them in the moment will be completely useless and will only make you more mad and them behave worse. Then you're so mad when you get home that you make all kinds of unreasonable threats like, "WE'RE NEVER GOING THERE AGAIN! YOU'RE GOING TO STAY IN YOUR ROOM UNTIL YOUR 18!" This leads me to the other thing I've learned: if they don't know what you expect of them, how can you justify getting mad at them for not complying? Kids need to be given expectations, and they need to know what they are. I like to call these "Great Expectations."

These are both principles that I'm still working on. There are some things that you just don't think about needing to be addressed. We're so used to living in society and obeying social rules and such that we forget our kids don't know them. But I'm learning not to beat myself up about it. It helps me to not get upset if I ask myself whether I've taught him what I expect. Even if I have, I'm learning too that kids need lots of reminding. When we get home, I pull Noah aside and say, "Next time we do this...." or something along those lines. I know that this correcting needs to be done after we're out of the situation, not during (although, there are exceptions, as with most things). Then the next time we're going to be in that situation, I remind him what we talked about before. Am I making any sense? I wish I had an example of what I mean, but my mind is blank. I'll try to be more broad, and maybe I'll get my point across.

Concerning Church:
Noah is pretty good at church, but we've had to work hard at it. He still has things to get over. Some things we've worked on are: being fidgety, sitting on his teacher's lap, not singing, laying on the floor, and general reverence. To help him, I started talking to him at home what I expect of him and what Heavenly Father expects of him at church. There should also be consequences for their actions. Then I would remind him right before we go to church about these expectations. You can even incorporate agency into this and ask your child how they're going to choose to behave.

Concerning the Library/The Tree House Museum/Any place fun your kids hate to leave
For places Noah hates to leave because they're so fun, I make sure he understands that I expect him to leave like a nice boy and not throw fits. The best is when we leave a place happily and he is so proud of himself for doing what I expect.

Concerning Everything!
Kids need to know what you expect! I've started to try and use that word a lot more in our home because I really believe that everyone needs reasonably high expectations of themselves and of others. Noah is a lot better when he understands what is expected of him, which means I'm a happier Mom! And like I said, he's proud of himself when he lives up to what's expected of him.

I hope this didn't sound too preachy. I do not profess to be an expert in this at all! But I have seen the positive effects of laying out your expectations, so I'm trying to be better at it. I hope my thoughts were coherent. Unfortunately, I'm not as articulate as I'd like to be. Just add that to the "Needs Improvement" list. Oh boy, that list is getting really long...

1 comment:

Kim said...

Wise words, Marianne. I know my kids have always behaved so much better when we talk about expectations beforehand.