Setting Expectations with ALL Kids – Not Just Special Needs

On our monthly trip to my son’s orthodontist I witnessed a classic parenting mistake, and I was torn about whether I should speak up. As I sat waiting for my son to be finished a mom came in to the office with her two sons. angry mother of teen playing computer gamesShe was frazzled from sitting in traffic, as we all are in this ridiculously overcrowded city. Her two boys immediately went over to the arcade style video game in the waiting room, which is set on free play.

The older boy kept winning, and the younger boy was getting more and more vocal about his frustration with the game. Every time he shouted out, his mom would say his name in a disapproving tone. He kept shouting and she kept calling out his name, using a gradually angrier tone each time. It was a little funny because she was getting angry at him for being loud but she was being just as loud and making it worse, but I kept my amusement to myself.

Here is what I noticed as an objective observer – she never told him to lower his voice! She kept getting madder while he had no idea what he was doing wrong! I wanted to point it out to her, but I felt it was overstepping the limits of polite society. Plus, I didn’t want to come off as a know-it-all and she was so upset I didn’t think she would really be able to appreciate the help. One symptom of many special needs diagnoses is the lack of ability to control volume or to read social cues so maybe that was part of this scenario. But I wondered if much of the fuss would settle down if she had just explained calmly to him that this was an office where people are working and they need it to be a little quiet so they can concentrate.

Think about the last time you got frustrated with your child, special needs or not. Did you clearly explain what you wanted or needed? I have certainly made this mistake both as a teacher and as a parent and even as a human being. What seems so obvious to one person might be completely unnoticed by or unimportant to another.

Try to be clear with your instructions and corrections, and offer an explanation. Better yet, discuss expectations beforehand – like while you are stuck in traffic. It’s the perfect time to remind your child of what is expected. Social stories can also help special needs kids with new or scary situations as well as remind them of what will be happening and what they can expect. For more on social stories check out this link:

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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