Monday, July 30, 2012

Setting Expectations Using Clear Language

Using wishy-washy language when setting expectations with your kids leads to weak statements. If you want to set clear expectations, you need to use clear language.

Below are some cases where the first version sets a weaker expectation than the second statement. In the first example, saying “I expect” is stronger than saying “I hope”:
  • I hope you will get your chores done every day.
  • I expect that you will get your chores done every day.
Beginning a statement with “when” sets a stronger expectation than saying “if”:
  • If you get your homework done, you can go to Ryan’s house.
  • When you get your homework done, you can go to Ryan’s house.
Making an observation instead of request does not set a clear expectation:
  • It seems reasonable that when I call you for dinner, you come right away.
  • From now on when I call you for dinner, I expect you to come right away.
Making a statement that invites other opinions also muddies the expectation:
  • I think it’s time to start picking up your toys and get ready for bed.
  • It’s time to start picking up your toys and get ready for bed.
By clearly stating your expectations, you’re more likely to get the behavior you would like from your children.


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