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Be Good...

Umm, what does that mean?


--Adam Maisen, LPC-S/TA

· Parenting

What are your goals for your children?  

When I ask this question to the parents I work with, I get a variety of responses.

  • I want them to act right.
  • I want them to obey.
  • I want them to treat others right.
  • I want them to have a better life than I have had.
  • I want them to be successful.
  • Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

I have come to believe that most of us really want our kids to become self-sufficient and productive members of society that are benevolent and have concern for the well-being of others. All of these goals make sense to me. However, these goals for our children are not super specific.

Part of our job as parents is to define the expectations we have for our children. If we are not specific about this, our kiddos can get confused.

For instance:

“Bobby, I told you to be good at school this morning before you ever got out of the car. When I asked you to make sure you understood, you told me that you were going to be good, but then your teacher sent home a bad note.”

Bobby came home feeling frustrated, confused, and discouraged because he really wanted to “be good” like his dad told him before he got out of the car. The message that Bobby might tell himself is, “I am not good. Every time I try to ‘be good,’ I mess up. I don’t even know why I bother. Maybe I am not a good kid.”

For the past few years, many of my clients have been 5-10 years old. This is a fun age to work with. However, many of these kiddos have been referred to me because of poor self-regulation that leads to behavioral problems at home, school, or both. When I ask them about behaviors that keep them out of trouble, they almost without exception have told me, “I have to be good.”

When I ask about specific good behaviors, the results have been inconclusive. Sometimes, they say something like, “I have to do what my teacher says.” This is good, but it is a very basic understanding of what is required.

In early childhood, the brain of the child is not sophisticated enough to make connections regarding specific processing on how to get goals met.

In other words, the child is not able to necessarily describe the process of “being good” without some specific explanation.

Here is an example:

Step 1: Be sure to use your ears before you use your mouth so that you can hear what your teacher wants you to do. (God gives us two ears and one mouth for a reason.)

Step 2: Think about what the teacher wants you to do to make sure you understand.

Step 3: If you don’t understand, ask for your teacher to help you understand.

Step 4: Once you are clear on what you are being asked to do, say, “Yes ma’am (or yes sir).”

Step 5: Do what was asked without arguing about it.

With this being said, I want to offer you a couple of easy solutions to consider:

  1. If you are co-parenting, I encourage you to do this tip with your partner.  Sit down and specifically write out 3 goals that you want to work on with your kids each month.

Not what I mean: “We want our child to stay out of trouble at school.”

What I do mean: “We want our child to say yes ma’am or yes sir when he is asked to do things

by his teachers at least 4 days a week."

The more specific you can be, the less confusing the message will be. Also, keep in mind that

training kids is a process. Pick just a few specific things to work on at one time to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed or overwhelming your child.

2. Each week, sit down with your child to talk about the goals that you have developed. This is an opportunity to discuss what is working and what adjustments will be necessary. Be sure to offer positive feedback and instill hope. “I believe in you, kiddo.”

Defining expectations for your child can be difficult. If you are feeling frustrated with your child’s behavior or you could use some help in communicating your expectations in a meaningful way, I can help! Give me a shout and let’s set up a private consult. My email address is: or give me a call or text at (870)293-2054.

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