Setting expectations for success

By Karen DeBolt | 22nd Jun 2009 | Filed under Parenting, Techniques

playground_safety1.jpgWhen I was about 10 years old, my mother handed me a can of comet and told me to clean the bathroom. Well, she never actually told me how to clean, but somehow she thought that I already knew just from watching her do it. So I went in the bathroom and sprinkled comet everywhere and then used my hand to scrub out the sink and rinse as much of the blue off as I could. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most perfect job. Sure it was better, but really clean—no.

So, one time mom walked in as I just scrubbing the porcelain with my hand and realized her mistake–she had forgotten to set up some expectations about how this job was to be done.

To her credit, she didn’t yell at me for doing it wrong, she said, “Oh no wonder!” then proceeded to teach me how to clean a bathroom sink. After that, I always used a wash cloth and the sink looked great!

One way that people tell children to behave the way they want them to behave is by saying “Be nice” and they assume that children know exactly what “be nice” means, but the truth is that some children really don’t understand what that means or why “being nice” at the park is different from “being nice” at school or in church. So when little Joey gets in trouble yet again and then blames someone else yet again, his parents worry that he is willfully being disobedient because after all “He knows better.”

So, how to avoid setting your child up for trouble?

I believe in a two pronged approach. First, is to teach very specifically what your expectations are, then set a reasonable consequence if that expectation is broken. For example, sit down with a piece of paper or use a white board then do a brain storm around the two phrases “Nice” and “Not nice” for a particular place and time, then list phrases that help you child to not just define, but have examples to generalize from.

At the park


Climbing on the play structure
Running in the grass
Swinging with your bottom in the seat
Yelling to your friends
Digging in the sand

Not Nice

Hitting, pushing or kicking others
Twisting in the swing
Not allowing others to pass on the slide
Swearing or name calling
Not coming when you are called by parent
Blindfolding my friend and pushing him down the slide

You get the idea. You can have a lot of fun with this brainstorm as your child will come up with all kinds of funny ideas that you never would have dreamed about. Just write them all down and laugh along. . . . Make sure all the important considerations are there too.

Once you and your child are clear about what the expectations actually are, then help your child to set a clear consequence for when the expectation is broken. In other words, if you child pushes another child on the play structure, then what would the consequence for that be?

Keep these simple, if consequences are too complicated you will forget what they are and end up being inconsistent.


Advantage Day Camp

At Advantage Day Camp, we brainstorm expectations right on the first day, so that our campers know what we expect of them. What we have found is that by setting those expectations very clearly, then the children are much more likely to take ownership of them which leads them to follow those rules. In other words, we do everything we can to set them up for success right from the start so that they can focus on learning new skills rather than on getting into trouble.

We help kids to build:

  • Social Skills (Making and keeping friends)
  • Energy Control (Staying out of trouble)
  • Emotional Intelligence (Notice and talk about feelings)
  • Self Esteem (Feel good about themselves again)

And the best part is that they will be learning by playing, and you will have peace of mind knowing that your child is getting a head start for school next year.

So if you want to get the advantage for your child, then please visit the web page and feel free to ask me any questions. Here’s the link:

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Creating an environment of success

By Karen DeBolt | 5th Jun 2009 | Filed under Parenting, Personal, Techniques

A quick note before our regularly scheduled

About two years ago, I attempted to create a Day Camp that would address the specific needs of children diagnosed with ADHD which would help them to build specific skills through play. While I got lots of people interested, not enough signed up to make it go. I realized that part of the problem was that I wasn’t doing a good job of communicating about the camp, I was being limited by the ADHD diagnosis, and I was shy about getting the word out.

Doh! No wonder no one signed up.

Well, I have gotten a ton of phone calls and emails since then asking about social skills groups. After a lot of soul searching, I decided that this is the year. I have been lucky enough to get a great staff together and that is making all the difference!

So without further adieu. . .

Announcing Advantage Day Camp

Check out all the details at:


If you have any questions, feel free to fill out the form on the page or contact me here.

I’m really excited about what we are putting together, and I hope
you will be too.

All the best, Karen

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog article. . .

Creating an environment of success

My son is getting ready to move up to middle school next year. This is a big deal for any child, but for someone who is already struggling with school, it is an especially stressful time. He referred to school recently as “Six hours of complete misery.” Add to that, the fact that he is starting to be aware of how he is different from other kids and what it means to have “Asperger’s Syndrome” and well. . .it’s been a tough couple of months for him and us.

One of the things that we did to help him cope with the transition is to go take a tour of the new school. We are very lucky in our district to have a special classroom for children who have high functioning autism. In the new classroom, we saw work tables with walls to block out distractions, a break room where you can take a short nap, a quiet room where you can go read quietly, and organizational areas that allow each child to know what books and materials they need for each mainstream class and to take home.

There was a lot more, but you get the idea. My son was practically in tears when he saw the quiet room and the break room because he was so happy. He often needs to take a break during the day, and here are two areas where he can go and cool out in his classroom. I thought the organizational area was a revelation because that is a huge problem for him now.

So all this got me to thinking about how environments really affect how children behave. It seems like if an environment is set up really well then it will be easier for your child to be successful. In other words, how can we adjust the physical areas of our home to better support our children doing what we would like them to do?

Ideas for improving the environment in your home:

1. Analyze the problem areas – For example, you have trouble getting your children to pick up toys and you are always stepping on little bits and pieces in the family room.

2. Assess the reason for the problem – Maybe they are not getting all the Leggos up because the pieces are so small that they tend to get caught up in the carpeting.

3. Adjust the environment – Making it easier to get those little pieces up out of carpeting will make it more likely to actually get done so. . . Try providing a small dustpan and hand brush that is to be used only on picking up toys. (I got ours at the dollar store) dustpan.jpg

This process of analyze, assess and adjust will work on all kinds of problems to help you and your children come up with better ways to cope with problems. Adjusting the environment is one of the first steps towards calming the chaos around your house.

What are some ways that you have adjusted the environment at your house? We would love to know!

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