When someone tells you “don’t look at that” what’s the first thing you want to do? Look, right?! Then you’re thinking to yourself “don’t look, don’t look.” Generally speaking and for kids, it’s much more helpful to say what to do rather than what not to do.
Setting clear boundaries with kids is so important.
When we tell them a list of don’ts, we are setting them up for failure. Instead, when telling them what to do we are setting them up for success. This way, we are telling them what we want from them. Of course, there are times when the words “no don’t do/touch that!!!” have to come out of our mouths. But that can quickly be followed with what to do instead too.
To do this, I use the word expectations instead of rules. The word “rules” sounds like a game and like a challenge for kids. It’s like saying, here’s a rule now don’t break it. Instead of here’s what you’ll do. Expectations are things that are lived up to and met, not broken, fought or challenged.
Take a rule & turn it into an expectation:
|Don’t talk to me that way||Talk to me respectfully (no matter how you’re feeling)|
|Don’t leave your shoes in the hallway||Pick up your shoes and put them in their place|
|No talking with food in your mouth||Chew & swallow your food before talking|
|Don’t leave your toys out||Put your toys away ____ (when you leave the room, at the end of the day, before you eat, etc…)|
|Don’t interrupt||Wait until I can listen **I have a post on this one!|
|No jumping on the couch||We sit on the couch and jump on the ground/trampoline/outside.|
**KEEP READING THIS PART MAKES IT WORTH IT**
The rules are generally shorter than when said as an expectation. It takes time, energy & patience to say as expectations. All things that parents are short on… With consistency, these get more fluid. Once you’ve said the expectations a few times you can switch to saying “stop & think, what’s expected?”
When they do it, it gives you a chance to give them positive feedback and switch from another nagging moment. “Yes! Exactly right. Put your shoes in the closet.” When these expectations are then associated with a positive moment, the kids are more likely to seamlessly live up to them. Instead of telling them what not to do, you get to give them praise and appreciation. Doesn’t that sound great?!
As always, let me know how it goes!