Setting Expectations for Your Kids

I’ve not parented for very long but I have learned one thing. Most often, when I’m having problems with my kids, I’m the problem.

While I was recovering from my broken ankle, I realized a lot of ways I was parenting weren’t working. I was frustrated. They were frustrated. It wasn’t the way we wanted our home atmosphere to be. So I started praying about it.

The majority of times when I start praying about problems with my family I don’t hear words from heaven. Ok- I’ve never heard words from heaven. I don’t see writing in the sky or get letters from Sally Clarkson or find that my children just magically start doing what I want. But as I spend time praying about it over the course of days or weeks I start getting ideas. I read something in a book. I see a graphic on the internet. I hear something on the podcast. And I realize I can change what I’m doing.

Lately I realized that my kids don’t know exactly what I expect. It’s not exactly fair of me to be frustrated with them for not doing what I haven’t told them I want them to do, is it?  Yet I do that often.

I’ve been working on establishing expectations with my kids and working myself out of a job when it comes to the work at home. Today, I only want to talk about the first one.


  1. Tell your kids what you expect. Even if you think it shouldn’t need to be said, it probably does. Especially if your children are very small or need extra time learning or are high-energy boys who think it’s appropriate to throw things and yell. For example, I want my boys to be able to stand calmly beside me when we are waiting in line or I am talking to someone. So I called them to me, briefly explained what I wanted, and (key for our house) gave each of them a designated place to stand every single time. Then we stood for a few minutes reminding them how to behave while they were standing.
  2. Practice proper execution of those expectations. Now that my boys know where I want them to stand, I will randomly call for them to come stand with me, “Boys, come stand with mama.” Then we practice coming right away and going straight to our spots. With high-fives and hugs as it works. Practice, practice, practice, especially at times when it doesn’t matter. I don’t learn things immediately and I shouldn’t expect my kids to either.
  3. Enforce those expectations. Mete out appropriate discipline when they disobey once they know what they are supposed to do. Every single time. They’ll get the idea. It might take a few times but they will learn.
  4. Repeat. Keep doing it. Kids forget. They need to practice things often if they are going to remember what you want them to do. I’ve started prompting mine when we start activities. What are we supposed to do right now? That way I know they understand what I want instead of me just thinking that they understand.
  5. Also- a side note. Practice at home with small things. You might think that one little thing is no big deal but they won’t do it with little things in public. It will be big things.

I decided last month I wasn’t going to settle for crazy as a mama. There were better ways to do motherhood and I was going to fix as many of the “things that make me crazy” as I could. Try it. It really is better.

Also, I’ve been sharing other #dontsettleforcrazy strategies on Instagram if you want to follow along there!