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Help Your Children Succeed through Clear Expectations


Establishing clear expectations and rules for children to help them navigate their daily lives is crucial. Children, especially those with executive function difficulties, often struggle to understand what is expected of them. They may feel overwhelmed by all the rules that govern their routines. Setting reasonable expectations and providing support and guidance can lead to a sense of security, help your child boost their confidence, and grow independence to succeed academically and socially.

The key to this is proactively communicating your expectations upfront. Children sometimes struggle to follow the rules, solve problems independently, maintain focus, and productively manage their time. As parents, identify these delays and provide accommodations and modifications that allow your child to believe in their abilities. To help overcome these barriers, establish clear expectations through consistent routines, precise schedules, and a structured environment.

Here are some effective strategies to help you implement this successfully at home.

  1. Create a sense of urgency. Parents often ask teachers to accommodate their students by extending assignment deadlines. However, students given long extensions tend to procrastinate on the project while falling behind in other subjects. Maintain structured and specific deadlines to help prevent procrastination and keep them on track.
  2. Tap into their interests. Connecting your child’s passions to their schoolwork will help keep them engaged with the material. This can lead to meaningful conversations about their coursework and allow them to apply their prior knowledge to understand new concepts better.
  3. Recognize their efforts. Remember that your students may feel frustrated or inadequate compared to their peers, even when they put in significant effort. This can lead to low self-esteem and create even more barriers to success. Remember to treat them with sensitivity and understanding. Building their confidence and independence requires patience and kindness. While some behaviors might be challenging (such as lack of impulse control, academic struggles, or social difficulties), offer frequent, positive feedback to encourage their progress.
  4. Be specific with your expectations, and identify appropriate consequences when they don’t meet them. Instead of using vague instructions like “be home by dark,” set specific curfew times like 10:00 p.m. to avoid confusion and arguments. If a rule is broken, be sure the punishment fits the crime! Consequences should be proportionate to the offense. For example, if your child arrives five minutes late, adjust the curfew time by five minutes earlier the next night rather than grounding them for a month. Having clear consequences is key.
  5. Seek support from others. You likely already know that teenagers tend to rebel through puberty. Significant changes in hormones, brain development, and a desire for independence can lead to impulsive decision-making and swiftly changing moods (like those intense arguments that come out of nowhere!). During this time, they may resist listening to your advice. This can be frustrating in the moment, but remember – this is also a confusing time for your student. Don’t hesitate to bring in other trusted adult figures (teachers, mentors, coaches, etc.) to help them with their accountability. They will likely be more receptive to listening to these respected adults than their parents.

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