You Get What You Expect

Updated: Sep 4, 2019

Human nature tends toward negativity and pessimism. Quotes about expectations tend toward the idea of having no expectations so you will never be disappointed. Interestingly, as a teacher education student, the exact opposite is drilled into my naturally pessimistic brain. “Positive expectations yield positive results.” “Children rise to the level of expectation placed upon them.” “What you expect is what you’ll get.” “Focus on the stars and you’ll reach them. Focus on the ground and you’ll reach it too.” Phrase the idea however you want; the concept remains the same. There is more power in positive expectations than anyone really gives them credit for.

Now that’s all rainbows and unicorns of me, but how does it apply in everyday life? Let’s look at it in the realm of social media. The natural instinct of parents and teachers is to squash the technology because we don’t fully understand it, and let’s be real, there are a multitude of dangers. We expect that our children will pursue the loopholes, so we insist on monitoring and suppressing and keeping the thumb on their every move. The environment these actions create, while it may be “safe,” for all intents and purposes, is one of condemnation and hostility. Realize that I am not saying that any parent out there is sadistic and abusive and just wants to control their child; what I am saying is that, whether it is intended or not, those actions create that kind of environment. And that kind of environment is ineffective in managing behavior.

In the education setting, we are taught to set our expectations and standards clearly and to expect our students to adhere to them. If they do, they receive rewards. If they do not, they have chosen to receive the accompanying consequence. Education studies have proven that having positive expectations for students yields higher student achievement, better classroom management, and better student behavior.

The same idea can translate to the home. Instead of attacking the social media monster with no idea how to deal with it, sit down and have an actual conversation with the whole family. Allow everyone to have input and create guidelines that encourage digital respect and safe online practices. Your social media standards MUST have rewards and consequences, and ideally, the quality of the consequence should match the severity of the infraction. For example, if someone violates the standard about not posting negative comments, then a corresponding consequence should be an apology that is as public as the disrespect and a certain amount of time without the phone to reset the priorities. It is important that the consequences match the severity of the rule. A minor infraction, for example, should not incur a month without the phone as a consequence. It is also important to positively reinforce the good behavior. If you notice your child post a sweet comment on social media or do something worthy of commendation, be public about their acknowledgment. Or, ask your child how they like to be rewarded. This is a chance to get creative and bond as a family. Set a goal to follow all the social media rules for a month and then reward the whole family with a movie night or ice cream.

Of course, with any kind of “training” (for lack of a better word), the key is consistency. Type out your standards, consequences and rewards on a colorful sheet of paper, have everyone sign it, and hang it somewhere it can be referred to consistently. Review the standards once a month or so and hold each other accountable. Don’t wield your parental power to create a double standard. Lead by example, and your family will be much more inclined to work together to achieve your social media goals.

Email us for a copy of our Family social media constitution.

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