023 – Chapter 4, Part 2

Step 1: Specify Your Expectations to Your Child (continued)

Define your Expectations for Your Child

Now that you have a complete list of behaviors of concern, the next step is to select the specific ones you will start working on. Simply go through your form item by item and select those that you consider to be most pressing or which you think will produce the most important benefits to your family.

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Children are one third of our population and all of our future.

                    ~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

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I should note that many behavioral specialists stress starting much more slowly, either focusing on only one item or perhaps on one behavior to increase and one to decrease. My experience questions this conservative notion for two reasons. First, because addressing so few items means that significant change may seem slow in coming, parents with numerous concerns about their children’s behavior are likely to become discouraged and tempted to give up. Second, and more importantly, since most children and their parents seem to do fine by adhering to the following rule of thumb, there is no reason to risk such discouragement:

Plan on a maximum of one item per year of your child’s age, with an upper limit of ten or so since more than ten tends to become unduly burdensome for most busy parents to manage.

This means that for a five-year-old, five items is a good upper limit and busy parents of a twelve-year-old likely will find tracking ten or so items to be challenging enough.

Establish a Constructive Format

Producing lasting behavior changes in your children requires that they experience success, preferably from the very beginning. Once you are clear about which behaviors you will focus on, you are ready to move on to define exactly what you will consider successful behavior in each area.

The exact wording of your target behavior statements is very important, including sticking to this format:

“____ , you are successful when . . .”

This exact wording establishes the expectation that your child will succeed and focuses attention directly on what is required to make it happen. Even the word “when” makes it clear from the outset that you anticipate the success upon which further successes will be built.

But how do you write success statements to be sure that they are effective?  (Go on to Part 3 of this chapter for the answer . . .)


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