I’d never really thought about how my statements could be setting expectations for my four-year-old grandson until I heard a mother announce to the other parents at the playground,“We’re grouchy today. We got up too early.” She was sitting on the park bench with each of her children, a child of two or thereabout and another around four, wiggling to seemingly get onto her lap. The four-year was whining loudly that Ian, the younger, was in his way. Ian was whimpering.
I wondered what these children were hearing. Was the expectation set that they should be grouchy? If, as I like to think, children this age are trying to figure out what their role is and what they are suppose to do, by listening to what they are told, these children were behaving very obediently.
Would the children’s behavior have been different if the parent had said instead, “ We got up way too early today. We will have to work hard to keep our voices low and to find things to do to not be grouchy?” She might even have continued, “Let’s go for a nice high swing,” while actually getting up and guiding her children toward the swings. Who knows what the outcome might have been but it is worth thinking about what expectations our words may be giving to our children.