“I’m going to give you to the count of three. One… two…” What happens once you get to three? More importantly, what happens when you get to three and your child is still not following your directions?

Being able to set clear expectations for your child is one of the most important tools you can have as a parent. It’s tricky, it’s tough, and it’s not a perfect process, but when you have it down to a science, you’ll find that life becomes so much easier. Find some tips from our private school, and learn more about Liberty Leadership and what it means to be an Acton Academy from our FAQ page!

Be Clear

Your 5-year-old does not have the same worldly understanding or vocabulary that you do. When stating a direction, such as telling them they need to clean up their toys, make it a clear statement that has only one thing that is expected of them. You can always have a reason why you’re giving them this direction, and you can and should be able to explain it, but you don’t need to bargain with your child about relatively simple tasks.

Example: “My’Keil, it’s time to put your toys away. Please do so.”

Be Concise

Younger children in particular have difficulty following multi-step directions. Try to limit each expectation or direction that you set to include no more than two tasks at a time. Saying “I need you to clean your room, make your bed, put away your toys, and put your laundry downstairs” almost guarantees that something is going to get forgotten along the way.

Example: “Kylee, please bring your laundry downstairs” or “Kylee, please make your bed and then bring your laundry downstairs.”

Be Calm

When kids start trying to argue with you, it can be all too easy to try and defend your ground. This can lead to heated discussions or yelling, and as the adult, it’s your job to stay calm, cool, and collected at all times — even when you don’t feel like doing so. You’re also setting a good example for your child by maintaining your composure in the heat of the moment. More than anything, however, you don’t want things to escalate, and if you’re staying calm, you’re still in control (even if your young one is not).

Example: “I know you don’t want to clean, but I need your help. I expect you to take responsibility.” If they try to argue, simply hold your ground and say “I’ve stated my expectation. It’s time to clean.”

Be Accountable

No parent wants to deal with a screaming child that’s refusing to do something, and that’s when most expectations start to break. Continue maintaining your composure, and then state the consequence for their behavior. If they choose not to follow your direction, this is the most important part of all: Give them the consequence that you have stated. Far too often, parents back down from this part, and that only teaches the child that they ultimately don’t need to follow directions.

Frame everything that you direct and expect of your child in terms of choices and consequences. If they are choosing not to meet your expectations, they are choosing a consequence — put the onus on them! It teaches responsibility, and shows that their actions have outcomes.

Example: Telling your child that if they do not clean up in the kitchen in the time that you granted them, they will lose screen time for the rest of the day. Then, if they don’t clean up in that time, make sure they do not have screens for the rest of the day as you stated — even if they do end up cleaning the kitchen, they still did not follow all the directions, and they can be held responsible.

Elementary and middle school children require lots of guidance as they’re growing up. At our Acton Academy in Bel Air, we set clear and concise expectations that are designed to help children thrive. Contact us today to give your child the best in education, and good luck setting those clear expectations!