One key parenting skill that helps when disciplining or communicating with your children is knowing how to set a reasonable expectation. When you can set an expectation, understand what it is you are asking of your child and then get them to understand it as well, your will be motivating your child to accomplish the task or responsibility.

Know that parents have expectations whether they think them through or not. Children understand that their parents have expectations but sometimes don’t understand what those expectations are because they are not clearly communicated to the child. So, a big part of setting reasonable expectations is following through and letting those involved – kids, spouse, coach – know what they are.

Here is some successful parenting advice on setting expectations that will motivate your children:

Be fair when setting an expectation. It happens all too often that parents feel their kids are able to do things just because the parents asked them to. This is hardly ever the case. Kids simply aren’t able to do just because they’re asked. As parents, we make the mistake of thinking our children have shared our experiences or that they pay attention to what we are doing. They don’t. Our children have their own memories and are hardly ever in-tuned to the tasks we are doing. Therefore, when you ask your child to do a new chore or make their own sandwich, you are going to have to be there to supervise, maybe more than once. This way things will run more smoothly because your child will know how to do what you are expecting and you won’t be disappointed.

Think through and assess your expectations. When thinking about the behaviors you would like your child to exhibit, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your child have the ability to succeed at what you are asking of them?
  • Can I clearly communicate to my child the behavior I am looking for?
  • Or do you feel that you just want your child to try and you’re good with whatever outcome happens?
  • Is the expectation too easy for your child leading to a sense of over-confidence?
  • Is my child developmentally ready to carry out the behavior?
  • Will the behavior result in positive experiences for my child?
  • Do I have the time to develop and carry out the course of action?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, your expectation is reasonable. If you answered ‘no’ to one or two, rethink your expectation and change it up a bit. If your answer was ‘no’ to most of the questions, you’ll need to change the expectation and either shelve it for another time when your child is more mature or get rid of it all together and handle the issue a different way.

Be clear when communicating your expectations to your children. Telling your child what you want them to do one time as they are tapping their foot to their music doesn’t count as clear communication, even if they acknowledged your presence. Here are a few tips that will help you be sure you are communicating clearly:

  • When you are giving them instructions, have your child repeat back to you what you have told them.
  • When you have tasks you want them to complete, like chores, write down what you want them to do.
  • For family values that you expect your child to follow, make your expectation a part of frequent conversations the family has.

Reassess your expectations on a timely basis. If your child is handling what you are expecting of them, talk to them about it and add a little more responsibility. If you don’t feel your child meeting your expectations, ask them what they they they can do to reach that goal. You may be surprised that there is a simple answer that you overlooked. Whatever your outcome when you reassess, keep your child in the loop to keep them motivated.

Recognize when your child meets your expectations. Praise your child for their efforts. No need to over-praise, but letting them know that you are paying attention and appreciated their efforts will keep them motivated to meet

If your child does not meet a reasonable expectation, help them learn from it and then try again if possible. Talk about what happened, what needed to happen and what will happen from this point further.

Note: You will have to accept that your children will not meet all of your expectations all the time. But keep trying! As long as your expectations are reasonable and remain consistent, your child will begin over time to successfully meet them more often than not. As long as you are trying, your children will as well and you will be motivating them to do their best.