Every parent has goals for their children. Not just goals for the future… but what we want from them now. Most of us have a mental picture of what we expect from our children. A list of unwritten rules and expectations that we constantly refer to and use to help judge their behavior by.
The problem with this ‘picture’ is that it typically changes depending on our mood, our location or situation. When we’re short tempered we can be too nit-picky and when we’re happy, it’s sometimes easier to let things slide that we shouldn’t. If you’re a person who’s prone to being hot-tempered, like most men I know, we sometimes won’t discipline because we can’t trust ourselves to be good judges of behavior because we’re over reactors.
One way to overcome all of these issues is to set minimum requirements for your child’s behavior. Minimum requirements are the least amount of behavior that you will stand for in any situation. When you set minimum requirements it doesn’t matter what your mood is. Whether you’re in a good or bad mood, if your child steps below those minimum requirements you know you have to step in and correct the behavior. This is especially good for those who don’t trust themselves to be consistent in discipline.
For example, my expectations for bedtime for my four year old daughter is for her to brush her teeth, brush out her hair, no whining, no complaining, and 9:00 PM bedtime. Anything less than this behavior needs to be corrected. This is the case whether I’m in a good or bad mood. My minimum requirements for dinner are different. She eats the same thing we’re having, she doesn’t have to eat it all but she must taste everything at least once. She can’t take forever to eat and no complaining. Any behavior less than those requirements gets corrected.
Of course my standards are higher. My expectations for are much higher. I expect more than the minimum but anything above the minimum doesn’t mean to be corrected. It doesn’t necessarily need to be rewarded either… But we’ll talk about rewards another time.
So setting minimum requirements for church, home, extracurricular activities, school, chores and whatever else can be a great guide for parents. They help us know when to step in and help kids to change inappropriate behavior before it becomes bad behavior. Think of it like a pain of a candle flame that causes you to pull your hand back from the pain that keeps you from burning your hand off. It’s uncomfortable, but better than the alternative.
In future posts will talk about rewardable behavior and expected behavior. Battle of the teacher comments and feedback on setting minimum behavior standards or any other discipline topic in the comments below.