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But if the request is not met and it’s not a one-time event, then it’s time to begin shaping the desired behavior.Start with a lot less than you will eventually settle for: less behavior, for less time, less often.It’s normal for a 2-year-old to get bent out of shape if he doesn’t get something he wants; it’s normal for a 3-year-old to lose it if there’s an unexpected change in the bedtime routine; it’s normal for a 6-year-old to fail to sustain focus on a baseball game, to pursue one fly ball with steely purpose and to let the next fall untouched in the grass because he’s daydreaming.
So stop hitting them, or I’ll have to spank you.” Frequently, we want something very simple from kids, like peace and quiet. When you bear down harder, in other words, you increase the likelihood that your child will escape and avoid your authority, which will inspire you to bear down even harder, and so on.
The spiral of escalation twists up and up, sometimes to the point that a parent loses it and ends up doing something normally unthinkable—slapping small children, for instance, for failing to nap when they’re supposed to.
When we enforce unreasonable expectations, and especially when we punish according to them, we put stress on kids, who respond by avoiding, escaping, and becoming irritable.
Ironically, that puts them off whatever activity, skill, or virtue we’re trying to inculcate, making it aversive rather than attractive.
Should a 10-year-old to be able to sit down and do an hour of homework?
One reason why such questions produce so much conflict and woe in the home is that parents’ expectations for their children’s behavior tend to be too high.A designated number of minutes of actual unconsciousness on her part is probably unnecessary.If you find yourself saying, “No matter how hard I try and try, I can’t make my kid do X …” or “No matter how hard I try, I can’t make my kid understand Y …” it’s usually a clear sign that expectation and enforcing that expectation are a significant part of the problem.So how can a parent seek to counter the natural tendency to expect too much behavior from children?First, aim to build competencies by inching toward success gradually, and focus on process rather than successful outcome: That is, focus on trying to do what’s valuable, not on immediately reaching the level of performance you think a child of that age should reach.Because parents love their children and want the best for them, they worry about them a lot, and one of the things that parents worry about most is whether their children are hitting age-appropriate targets for behavior.Shouldn’t a child be toilet trained by the age of 4?If you’re in that position, recognize that the problem here is in part the expectation.Shifting it to, say, having the child play quietly in her crib at that time will take care of most of what’s really at issue: The child needs to rest, and you need a break.I’m not talking about permissiveness or strictness here; I’m talking about accurately estimating children’s actual abilities.A reliable body of research shows that we expect our children to do things they’re not yet able to do and that we judge and punish them according to that expectation. We all know that children develop differently, but it’s natural to underestimate the astonishing variability among and within individuals.