Establishing expectations


It’s so easy to think that kids should naturally know how to behave in all situations.  We sometimes think that they are adults in tiny bodies.  We need to remember that that is not the case.

 When I started out teaching I was chatting with a teacher friend.  She said something to the effect of “It’s sort of ridiculous how specific you have to be when telling children what to do and when giving directions.  Things that you think are implied are not.  You have to say every little thing!”  She is so very right! If you want a class of kids to go quietly back to their seats it seems like it would be sufficient to say “Go quietly back to your seats”.  If you say that, they will go back quietly, but it still may not be how you wanted them to do it.  One student will take the looooongest route back to his seat.  Someone else will touch, poke, or try to trip another kid.  Another student may swing by the drinking fountain to get some water.  Kids tend to find a way to follow what you said, but not what you meant.

For a brief time I thought kids were doing things to intentionally bother me.  I thought that they were trying to push my buttons and drive me crazy. They were doing what I asked.  But they were only doing the minimum of what I asked.  They were living within the boundaries that I had given.  I had simply not been specific enough when telling them what I expected.  I soon realized that kids need details and specific instructions. 

 If you want to avoid the pit stops and lollygagging you have to be OVERLY clear and specific about what you want.  It has to sound more like this: “When I say ‘go’ I want you to go quietly and quickly to your desk.  Do not touch anyone or anything.  Put your hands on top of your desk when you get there and look at me.  Go.”  That way if they get a drink or touch someone they know there will be a consequence.  They knew the expectation and chose not to follow through. Discipline becomes much easier and more natural when expectations are very clear.

Reasoning, drawing conclusions and reading between the lines are skills that kids have to learn.  They are not born with those abilities, they develop over time.  They have to be shown, reminded and directed over and over (and over and over and over) again.  It’s a process.  It can be frustrating and try your patience, but persistence will yield a positive outcome! 

If you are going to leave the house (to go grocery shopping or to a play date, etc) this same principle applies here.  Before you get in the car talk about what is expected.  Depending on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing you may chose to talk about:

– How long you’ll be there                                                                                                   – How to treat their friends’ toys                                                                                         – What you’ll be buying and not buying                                                                             – What they need to do when you let them know it’s time to go (giving a 2 or 3 minute warning is really helpful)

Establishing expectations also helps with being able to discipline.  If you have talked about what is expected, then 1) you can praise then and let them know how great they did or    2) follow up with a natural consequence if they deviated from what you previously talked about.

So remember:                

  • Before any situation, talk about what is going to happen
  • Be specific about your expectations
  • Follow through with consequences
  • Praise them if they did well

Make Learning Fun


Children come into the world as a clean slate, knowing nothing.   It’s amazing to watch them as they discover the way the world works.  Things that we adults often overlook amaze and intrigue children.

As children grow and learn about the world they start going to school.  School can be a fun, enchanting time for them.  It can also be tedious, laborious, and boring.  If you can make learning fun for kids it makes a HUGE difference!

While I was attending ASU and interning in a first grade classroom I was assigned the task of teaching a small group phonics lesson.  I talked to the classroom teacher and she gave me a group of students and a skill they needed to learn and practice.  I prepared a lesson that had a silly story (kids LOVE silly stories), some matching activities and a board game that used the phonics skill.  I took the small group of kids out of the classroom and we worked on a picnic table.  After about 45 minutes we returned to class.  One little boy in the group went up to his teacher and said, “We had so much fun!  And we didn’t even learn anything!”  That is the best kind of learning—when kids just think they are playing.

I had a similar experience last week.  I was substituting in a first grade classroom.  The teacher left great lesson plans and we did some really great fun learning.  We read a story about a boy who had a robot.  We then made robot puppets (construction paper, popsicle sticks, and googly eyes) and they wrote a story about their robots.  They were so excited the whole time!

Like always, we like to try to make our posts applicable to school and home.  So…

How can you make learning fun?

1)   Be excited about it yourself and get silly sometimes.                                                     2)   Learn in a variety of ways: pictures, reading, hands on activities, experiments, etc.     3)   Let them be creative and use their imaginations (let them create a piece of art to use in their writing, finger paint, play dress up, retell stories with puppets, etc.)                           4)   Make it applicable to life (like fractions and baking/cooking)

Have fun!  And help your bitty ones at school and home have fun too.



Replacement Words

I’m a strong believer in replacement behavior. To me, that means that if you’re trying to get rid of unwanted words in your vocabulary you replace them with more desirable ones.

Last week we wrote about saying no to no by using the word, “No” less in your parenting vocabulary. Using the replacement word theory you would need to find other things to say when you feel the urge to yell, “No” or “Don’t” at your child.

I think one of the greatest words to add to your parenting vocabulary is, “Choose”. When you give your child a choice it does several good things:

* It takes the ownership of the situation off from you and gives it to your child.
* It helps them learn about natural consequences.
* It keeps the parent from always being the boss (and from being bossy).
* It helps eliminate unwanted nagging.

When my sentences contain the word, “Choose” they usually starts with, “If”, or “When”. If you get in the habit of starting a discipline sentence with one of these two words it can help keep you from saying, “NO” so many time in one day.

Some situations when this might come in handy—

At Home

You have two kids that are arguing or fighting:

            “If you choose to argue or fight you are choosing to be alone for a while”.

Your child does not want to eat their dinner:

           “When you choose to not eat your dinner you are choosing to not have dessert”.                 Now with this one I have to say, sometime adults eat when they are not hungry                    (boredom, stress, habit) but kids don’t.  So in my opinion, if they don’t eat, that’s                  okay, maybe they are just not hungry.  BUT adults need to make sure that if their                child does want to eat (right before or after dinner) it needs to be healthy things. No             dinner, no dessert!

Running feet are to be used outside, not in the house.  If you choose to run in the                  house then you are choosing to go outside”.

In a classroom

            When you choose to bother the people around you then you choose to have your               desk moved all by itself.

             If you choose to talk in line then you choose to go to the end where you aren’t by             others.

If your child chooses not to change their behavior THEN the follow up line for any of these situations should start with, “I can tell by your actions that you have chosen to…” . This might feel awkward to say at first, but with practice it will roll of your tongue. And your children will soon learn the pattern and know just what to expect and that they are responsible for their own actions.

Sometimes, as a parent, I felt that the natural consequence was not harsh enough for how frustrated I felt over what was happening. But then I’d try to remember that I was not trying to be unfair, mean, or make them miserable. I was just trying to teach my children how to make the best choice.

I have a friend who is a therapist. In his practice he would counsel children and I thought he was very good at what he did. But he said that at home sometimes it was hard to remember the things he did for work. He told a story when he had taken his young son to the store with him and the son had behaved very poorly. So he told his son that if he did not choose to behave better that he would not be able to come to the store with him next time- Okay, that part was done right. But then he said that the next time he went to the store he really rubbed it in to his son that he was not going to get to go. He said, “I’m going to the store now. See, I’m getting my keys and I’m leaving, but you can’t come with me because last time we were at the store together, you choose, by your actions, not to get to come this time”. That would have been enough, but he felt like he wanted to add, “So, I’m going now and I’m going to buy some fun things, but you won’t be there to share with me. Too bad you can’t go too”.

Being consistent (and remembering to carry through with a consequence) is SO IMPORTANT.  Otherwise our kids will think, “It doesn’t’ matter how badly I behave, my mom (or dad) won’t remember next time anyway”.  And the story from my counselor friend reminds us that a natural consequence is it’s own punishment, we don’t need to heap it on even more or keep bringing it up over and over but we do need to carry through with what we said.

And last, but not least; this method should involve no yelling or angry voices in a parent. It can and should be said nicely and matter of fact.