Modeling Expectations

When I began my student-teaching experience, my cooperating teachers began the year by introducing the procedures. Each day they would introduce several operations, and then they would model the appropriate behavior, an example or two of inappropriate behavior, and then call on a few student volunteers to attempt the procedure correctly. It worked. It worked really well. Often children seem disobedient, but they really just need a clear understanding of the expectations.

When I was given my own classroom, I adopted the same training method. Occasionally we would revisit the modeling of a procedure, but for the most part, the tasks we had modeled thoroughly were performed successfully by the students.

This seems like a pretty natural way to begin a school year in a classroom. It may not seem as natural for a mother to execute in her living room. Perhaps this is because the start date for a child begins way before they can understand our verbal communication, and the rest of the days just blend together… The principle remains the same: kids are most successful when they know what’s expected of them.  Often poor behavior results from a of lack of knowledge, not rebellion. God is like that with us,  “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” 
(Deut 30:15-16) God wants us to succeed, and He tells us how! Let’s provide our children with tools for success too!

Think about a typical meal time. How many behaviors are you telling your kids not to do? Are you and your husband constantly trying to get your kids to act appropriately at the table? Perhaps you already have a great system going. If not, the next opportunity you have, decide on your top 3 rules for meal time (for older children, you could try 5 if needed). Introduce them to your children. First, model the incorrect behavior. Be silly and have fun with it! Talk about the problems of the behavior. What would it mean for your family if everyone acted that way? Next ask them to model the incorrect behavior. Let them ham it up, and laugh with them. Finally, model the correct behavior and ask your children to do the same. Talk about the benefits of following the rules. For example, “If we all follow Rule 3, everyone gets an opportunity to talk about their day.” Hopefully you can get to a point in which you refer to the rule and the child corrects it. Then you can spend your time together having a positive interaction, rather than a rebuking session.

How about before you go to a play date? My son and I practiced this today. He had a few  friends coming over. They’ve barely played together, and one of the children is much more reserved than Lincoln. We talked about how to make the time fun for the friends. We decided on two rules: 1. Be kind and use your friendly face. 2. Share all of your toys. Lincoln added “Be respectful.” He had some examples of what that looked like, and I wanted to encourage his input, so we threw that one in too. I wanted to keep it really simple so he could remember them.


When I drop my son off at his new homeschool co-op classes, I say, “Be kind. Be respectful. Be a blessing.” There are lots of modeling opportunities for this one. From what I’ve seen, I may need to add in “Use your inside voice,” and model that one a bit! How about proper worship and prayer behavior? Store rules? Interruption rules? Doctor visit rules? You can, and should, model the expectations you have for your children often to set them up for success.

This may sound like a tip that is only for young children, but I think it is valuable for the toddler age through pre-teens. Laura recently video-taped her children role-playing the first day of school. Her daughter began by being very shy. When Laura played the video back, her daughter was able to see the timidity in a new light. She realized she was not friendly and it was not the persona she wanted to put forth. They role-played the activity again, and a new girl, bursting with courage and joy was captured! Consider taping your children so they can see themselves.

At a conference I recently attended, a mom of 14 shared about a family game she and her husband created. They basically play “Charades” with different scenarios the children may encounter. For example, “You are at a friend’s house and you are asked to watch a movie you know Mom and Dad would not allow. What do you do?” The kids then act out the situation and the solution they’ve decided upon. Will this solve all of your children’s sin issues? No, but it will let them know how they should respond if the situation occurred.

Lets strive to "admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." 
(1Thess 5:14)

Posted on September 30, 2015 and filed under Building Your Family.