Giving Children our Expectations

It was a mess. My kids had brought the grocery bags in for me, and I was putting them away. That’s when I noticed the raw egg dripping onto my hands, the refrigerator shelf and even my clothing. I knew just what had happened.

My five year old son had brought the bag of eggs in for me and abruptly plopped the bag down on the ground, causing 19 of the two dozen eggs I had bought to crack. (boys have a knack for doing things like this- gotta love em ;)). I was frustrated. “He should have known better”, I thought.

And that’s when it hit me. He didn’t know better, because I hadn’t TOLD him that there were eggs in one of the bags and I hadn’t TOLD him he needed to put the eggs down gently. I hadn’t given him my expectations.

But isn’t that what we do many times with our children? We get frustrated at their behavior, but we haven’t given them clear expectations of what their behavior should look like.

I believe most children WANT to please their parents. Shouldn’t we make it easier on them by giving them clear instructions and expectations BEFORE the situation arises?

For example, before church we might remind them: “remember, if an adult speaks with you after church, look them in the eye and answer them politely”. Or, before we go into the store we might review the rules with them. “Keep your hand on the cart and use quiet voices.”

Giving our children specific expectations gives them something concrete to remember and strive for. This helps our children succeed.

Then we can praise them for their efforts if they’ve met our expectation. (I believe I remember reading that the Duggars try to praise their children 10 times as much as they correct them!) Sometimes this will require follow-up. (Did they complete their morning chores thoroughly and correctly?). Sometimes they won’t meet our expectations, and of course we need to correct them.

But we can help our children succeed in developing godly character and behavior by lovingly giving them our clear, specific expectations, and then generously praising their progress and obedience.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you so much for this post! I think we all need to be reminded of this from time to time. Too often we take our stressors out on our kids without clearly giving them direction. Have a great holiday weekend! God bless! 🙂


  2. Ahh. Timing is EVERYTHING! So glad to have read this this morning. I’m working on a college degree and have about a year in which to be done. It’s getting to be crunch time–I’d really like to finish early, so I’m studying like crazy. As I went to bed last night, I noticed how disorderly the house was. I didn’t have the energy to put it back in order plus, my kids each have chores, and the crazy areas were there’s (there were a few places that were beautiful). Because of your post, I was able to handle the child, whose job it is to clean the main part of the mess, with love and care and patience (and praise for other things she’s doing well). Thank you SO MUCH for the reminder. Can’t tell you how much I appreciated it. Thanks for linking up to Women of Noble Character.


  3. “Giving our children specific expectations gives them something concrete to remember and strive for. This helps our children succeed.”…amen…as GOD does with us, and Grace when they fall.


    • Wonderful point, Connie! God does provide us with both His expectations (in His Word) and His Grace (through Christ). Thanks for contributing your thoughts!


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