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Expected vs. Unexpected Behavior

As parents, caregivers and educators, one of our most important responsibilities is to guide our children in developing good social skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. Teaching children about expected and unexpected behaviors is a crucial aspect of this process. By helping our elementary school age children understand the concept of expected and unexpected behaviors, we can empower them to make positive choices in their interactions with others and navigate social situations with confidence without guilt and or shame. When kids act in expected ways, they end up feeling better about themselves and their environment.

Expected behaviors are actions or responses that align with social norms, rules, and expectations. These are behaviors that are generally considered appropriate and acceptable in a given context. For example, saying "please" and "thank you," waiting patiently for a turn, or raising one's hand in class are all examples of expected behaviors in a school setting.

On the other hand, unexpected behaviors are actions or responses that deviate from social norms, rules, or expectations. These are behaviors that may be seen as rude, disrespectful, or inappropriate in a given context. For instance, interrupting others while they are speaking, not following instructions, or using hurtful language are examples of unexpected behaviors.

Here are some tips for parents on how to effectively teach elementary school age children about expected and unexpected behaviors:

  1. Define and explain expected and unexpected behaviors: Start by clearly defining and explaining the concept of expected and unexpected behaviors to your child in age-appropriate language. Use examples and scenarios that they can relate to and understand. For instance, you can use a role-playing game to demonstrate expected and unexpected behaviors in different situations such as at home, school, or in public.

  2. Establish clear expectations: Set clear expectations for your child's behavior in different settings. For example, let them know what behaviors are expected at the dinner table, in the classroom, or when playing with friends. Be consistent in enforcing these expectations and provide positive reinforcement when your child demonstrates expected behaviors.

  3. Give your child the opportunity to try again when they do something unexpected. Using a neutral tone and body language, you can say, "That was unexpected the way you yelled at me. Can you try saying that again again in a kinder tone?"

  4. Teach empathy and perspective-taking: Help your child develop empathy by teaching them to consider how their actions and words may affect others. Encourage them to put themselves in others' shoes and think about how they would feel if they were on the receiving end of unexpected behaviors. This can help your child understand the impact of their actions on others and make more thoughtful choices.

  5. Practice problem-solving skills: Help your child develop problem-solving skills to manage unexpected situations. Encourage them to think through the consequences of their actions and find appropriate solutions. For example, if they encounter a conflict with a friend, guide them in brainstorming ways to resolve the issue respectfully and considerately.

  6. Model expected behaviors: Children learn by observing and imitating their parents and caregivers. Be a positive role model by demonstrating expected behaviors in your own actions and interactions with others. Show respect, kindness, and consideration in your words and deeds, and your child is more likely to follow suit.

  7. Encourage open communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental environment for your child to express their thoughts and feelings about expected and unexpected behaviors. Encourage open communication and active listening. Validate their emotions and perspectives, and help them process and understand the reasons behind their behaviors.

Teaching elementary school age children about expected and unexpected behaviors is an ongoing process that requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. By instilling these important social skills early on, you are equipping your child with the tools they need to navigate social interactions with confidence, empathy, and respect. With your guidance and support, your child will develop into a socially competent and considerate individual who can thrive in a variety of social settings and feel good about themselves and their world.

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