My online lexical companion, Dictionary.com, lists one of the definitions of “expectation” as “something expected; a thing looked forward to”. Sounds like a pretty straight forward definition, right? Well, so you would think, but let me quickly turn your attention to just how convoluted the practical application of this meaning can be. Here we go. Think about the numerous times our husbands have told us that they can’t read our minds and to simply tell them what we need from them or need for them to do (guess I’m talking directly to the wives and moms at this point). And in retrospect, think of all those numerous times that the responding thought bubbles above our heads said something like…”but I shouldn’t have to tell you because you should just know.” Or, maybe you thought out loud and actually verbalized this statement, which may have led to a heated conversation or two. Either way, take it from someone who’s been married for 20+ years when I confidently say that our other halves most likely don’t know what we’re thinking unless we tell them. And I’ll go out on a limb and assume that our children fall into this “inability to mind read” category as well.
In all fairness though, we can’t expect our spouses and most certainly not our children to telepathically understand the inner workings of that complex contraption between our ears. But we can hold them accountable for those expectations that we formally communicate to them. And this realization leads me right into a discussion of the four keys to effectively establishing and managing expectations, a.k.a. Structure: Step #2. Now, the BTSB period would be the ideal time to implement this step, since the effects of a chaotic start to another school year are currently looming overhead for most of us; but, in reality, expectations should be a fundamental part of your family structure year round.
Leaving our spouses out of the remainder of this discussion, let’s look at the four keys in relation to our children. You’ll want to make sure and apply these keys to every expectation every time.
- Set realistic and measurable expectations. Your expectations are essentially the rules and responsibilities you expect to be followed. So, make sure they are attainable and objective. For example, I might tell Little Man that I expect him to have all of his toys picked up off of the basement floor before he goes to bed every night. Or, I might tell Toodlez and Junior that I expect them to alternate days for unloading and loading the dishwasher so that no dirty dishes are left out on the kitchen counter overnight. Perhaps, I might even have a homework requirement for all three and set an expectation that they have a 100% completion rate of homework assigned by their teachers.
- Make sure expectations are clearly communicated verbally, in written form, or both. One thing you’ll quickly find out about me is that I’m a stickler for visuals. So, when possible, use them to list your expectations. You might use a chalkboard, dry erase board, cork board, poster board, or a plain old piece of paper to display them; and if so, make sure you place your visual in an area of the house that your family regularly frequents. However, written form is not always necessary. Verbally communicating expectations works just as well, so long as the words don’t fall on deaf ears.
- Make sure expectations are understood. Take any mystery out of the equation. Don’t leave your child guessing what your rules and requirements mean. And, remember that he or she is not skilled at mind reading. So, once expectations are communicated, have your child retell them back to you in his or her own words to make sure that comprehension has taken place.
- Follow-up with positive reinforcement or constructive criticism when expectations are/are not met. (I’ll be talking to you in later posts about awards and incentives systems).
Hopefully, you can see that we’re building up the structure within our home…frame by frame…step by step. We started with a schedule (See previous post Structure: Step #1 – Start with a Schedule ) and we’re following up with expectations. I see the makings of a strong family homestead.