Saturday, December 28, 2013

Great Expectations

My four year old is taking his first trip without my husband and me and I was a bit nervous.  I know my parents will take wonderful care of him and he will have the time of his life.  It's them I'm worried about.  My son has a way of getting whatever he wants (late nights, endless candy, soda, video games...you name it) when he is with them.  Whenever he simply spends the night at their house, they look bedraggled (sorry, mom) and ready for a nap.  How in the world would they manage to keep him in check for almost three days?

I decided to handle it with my son before he left.  As we packed up the last of his must haves, we talked about expectations.  "I have three things I want you to do for me while you are at Disney with Granny and Papa," I began.  He looked up sharply and awaited my next words.  "Okay..." he said.  "First, you have to be a great listener even when they tell you to do something you don't want to do," I said.  Looking relieved, he shook his head vigorously, "Yes, okay.  I do that all the time.  No problem."  "Second, you have to go to bed and stay in bed when they tell you," I continued.  "Okay, yes.  Got it.  I do that all the time, too," he told me.  Knowing this was a complete fabrication, I pressed him a bit.  "Not always.  You sometimes come out of your room over and over to ask for drinks or hugs or snacks.  You can't do that.  Lights out - You're out, got it?" I asked him.  "Yes, well...I do that sometimes.  Does that count?" he countered.  "Nope - I'd like you to always do that.  Can you do your best?"  I asked him.  "Okay.  Stay in bed...Okay.  Got it," he said anxious to move on to his adventure.  "Third, you have to have an amazing time," I told him.  He broke out into a huge smile and hugged me.  "I WILL!!" he shouted.

While I have no idea if my words had any impact, I'm hoping that I at least got him thinking.  I hope he started thinking about his behavior and owning it.  At almost five, I think he deserves more freedom and more chances to mess up.  But I also owe it to him to let him know what I expect before he gets himself (or my parents!) into a contentious or exhausting situation.  It's my job to set him up for success rather than always catching his failures, right?  I think so.

How do you let your kids know your expectations in advance?  Is talking the best way or do you have other effective methods?
  

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