Clearly Expressed Standards

Do you talk to your child about behavior standards?  I mean, sitting down with them and expressing your expectations for their behavior in various situations.  When we wait until something inappropriate comes up, it is already too late.  By being proactive and clearly expressing your standards for their behavior, they will know how to behave when those situations come up.  Learning when to join in the fun, vote with their feet, and walk away is a lifelong skill—knowing when to be a supportive bystander and not an upstander.  When to stay silent and when to speak up and defend themselves.  When not to say what you would like to say and when to go ahead and adequately express yourself.  Think about various situations kids can find themselves in and discuss how to handle them.

I enjoy doing this with kids when there is some downtime, say traveling in your vehicle somewhere.  The trips often take 15-20″ and allow for some significant time to talk.  Ask your kids to put down their technology and then begin a conversation with various scenarios, asking what they would say and how they would behave.  By taking the time to develop this proactiveness in kids, we help them to build resilience.  That is the Teflon coating in life that allows them to bounce back, which will enable them to think on their feet in stressful situations.  As I approached the school where I was a middle school principal one day, I knew I was about to be faced with an awkward conversation with a colleague.  I had already visualized how it could go and how I would react.  I even envisioned the actual words that I would choose depending upon her response.  I scheduled the conversation early in the day and dove right into it.  It was a bit rough at first, and then it merely turned for the better.  She accepted my guidance and offered to make improvements.  I am confident that it was because of the prework that I did. Otherwise, my behavior may have come in the way of her rough responses.  I set the tone early by anticipating some of the comments.  This visualization helped bring about the result that worked for both of us.  The same with kids; by assisting them to practice and visualize situations, they have a better chance to uphold their standards.

When we do this kind of work with our kids, we help them to be their best.  We help them to avoid regrets at a later time or the need to backtrack and apologize.  Regardless of the intended purpose of a situation, it can get out of hand, and kids are vulnerable to follow along even when they know better.  By clearly expressing our standards for our kids’ behavior, we help them meet those expectations on the front-end of things rather than on the regretful backend.

For another look at helping kids, click here The Best Way to Raise Assertive Kids Who Stand Up For Themselves (

I have another post on Promoting Positive Behaviors in Youth here Promoting Positive Behaviors in Youth – Dr. Rich Patterson (


Yours for Better Parenting,