“If you expect it, you need to teach it.”

By: Allison Roderick/

At a recent presentation, the guest speaker made the statement, “if you expect it, you need to teach it”.  Although this was directed at early childhood educators about expectations in their classrooms; I couldn’t help but think of the importance of that in our own homes.  From the time our children are born, we teach them EVERYTHING.  Some of us have stronger expectations than others, (‘put your toys away when you’re done playing with them’, ‘push in your chair after dinner’, ‘don’t leave your toothpaste on the counter’, etc.) but we all have instructed our children to do many processes and have taught them many skills, sometimes without even knowing we are doing it.

But then, there are those days we get so frustrated with our children, because they just aren’t doing what we want them to do (and they certainly aren’t reading our minds!).    In these moments, instead of getting upset, take on the role of Teacher! Lay out clear the expectations, demonstrate HOW those expectations can be met, and communicate clearly with your child.  Of course, it will take practice and reinforcement, but in the end, we will be less frustrated parents if we teach what we expect. Often, we forget that they just don’t know.

No one buys their child a bike, sets them on it, and expects them to ride it.  We teach them step-by-step, while we simultaneously hold on and guide them.  When they falter, we even pick them up, brush them off, and encourage them to do it again.  If parents used this technique for every expectation they had, imagine the support and confidence a child would feel!

Whether it be handling their emotions, socializing with others, or completing chores and tasks at home, children need to learn HOW something should be done before we can set an expectation for them.  You are your child’s first teacher; give them lessons that will last them a lifetime.

Allison Roderick a former classroom teacher, now early childhood specialist for the Lenawee Great Start Readiness Program.


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