How to communicate your expectations clearly to your child


As a parent, you may sometimes struggle with getting your child to understand your expectations. It can be frustrating as it can lead to miscommunication or misunderstandings that can impact your relationship and your child's behavior. That's why it's crucial to find effective ways of communicating your expectations clearly to your child or children. In this article, we'll look at some strategies that can help you achieve that goal.

Understand Your Child's Age and Developmental Stage

The first step in communicating expectations is to understand your child's age and developmental stage. Young children, for instance, may have a limited attention span, so you'll need to be brief and concise when communicating with them. Older children, on the other hand, may understand complex instructions but may need more detail to fully grasp what you expect from them.

Also, remember that children's emotional maturity may not always match their physical age. You need to be sensitive to these differences in building effective communication strategies that work best for your child.

Be Clear and Specific in Your Expectations

One common mistake parents make when communicating their expectations to their children is being vague. For example, saying "Clean up your room" instead of "Pick up all your toys and put them back in your toy box and put your books back on the shelf" can lead to confusion and frustration on both sides.

Making your expectations clear and specific will help your child understand what you want them to do. Avoid using abstract terms such as "behave well" or "be responsible" as they can be hard to understand for children.

Also, be realistic in your expectations. Remember that children are still developing their organizational skills, time management, and interpersonal skills. Avoid setting standards that are too high for their age and stage of development.

Use Positive Communication

Positive communication is a strategy that focuses on the positive outcomes of the behaviors you want to see in your child. This approach is more effective than negative communication, which focuses on what the child did wrong. For example, instead of saying "Stop hitting your sister," use "Playing gently with your sister will make her happy."

Positive communication promotes a healthy parent-child relationship and reinforces positive behaviors. Children are more likely to respond well to positive statements, and they will be motivated to repeat the behavior.

Set Realistic Consequences

Setting consequences is an effective way to reinforce your expectations. Consequences should be set for failing to reach the expectations, and they should be realistic and concrete. For instance, if your child doesn't clean their room as expected, they may lose TV privileges for a day or have to do an extra chore.

However, avoid overreacting or making consequences too harsh. Children need to learn from their mistakes and grow from them. Harsh consequences may lead to fear, stress, or rebellion, which can make children resentful and unresponsive to your expectations.

Listen to Your Child

Effective communication goes both ways. You need to listen to your child to understand their perspective, feelings, and thoughts. Listening actively means paying attention to your child without judgment or interruption.

Also, understand your child's communication style. Some children may find it hard to express themselves verbally, and you need to be sensitive to nonverbal cues such as body language and facial expressions.


Communicating your expectations to your child can be challenging but not impossible. The strategies mentioned above can help you create a positive and nurturing communication environment that reinforces positive behaviors and strengthens your parent-child bond. Remember, effective communication is a continuous process that requires patience, empathy, and consistency.