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Explain New Rules Before You Start

Written by Debbie Parker. Posted in Parenting Corner

One of the ways to change patterns of behavior in children is what we call a Parent/Child Evaluation Meeting. Parents can call this meeting when they see unwanted patterns and are about to focus on change. The beginning of summer is a great time to clearly lay out some new rules and expectations. It's important to plan the meeting well and then choose the timing carefully.


The purpose of the meeting is to explain to the child how things are going to be different and ways that parents are now going to change their behavior to address some critical issues in the child. Here are some things that make Parent/Child Evaluation Meetings successful.

1) Announce in advance that you (both parents if possible) will have a meeting alone with your child. “John, Mom and I are going to have a meeting with you after dinner this evening.” The anticipation raises the felt level of importance to the meeting. Making this announcement in advance with teens and even giving a preview of the topic is also an honoring thing for parents to do since it allows everyone to come to the meeting prepared.

2) Meet with each child alone. You may want to do this with all of your children, but do it with them one at a time. Children have a way of hiding behind each other or defusing the importance of the meeting when others are present.

3) At the meeting share at least three things that the child is doing well or that you’ve appreciated lately. Share positive character qualities you see developing. “I like how responsible you’ve been with the dog lately. You’re doing a good job. I also like how diligently you do your homework. It’s been fun to watch you grow this year. I’ve also noticed your kindness with the baby, playing with her when she’s fussy. You’re growing up.”

4) Then share one concern you have which will hinder your child’s success if not addressed. “I have one concern I’d like to share with you...” Prepare what you will say in advance to give your child a vision for change by explaining why the change will be helpful. Always give specific suggestions for appropriate behavior. Ask the child to work on changing and agree to get back together the next day or in a few days to talk again.

Sometimes making observations in this formal way is enough to motivate children to think about their actions and make changes. More often than not, however, you’ll need to gently point out the dishonoring behavior when you see it, in order to help your child recognize it. Consequences may also be needed. The meeting actually helps children understand the new rules of play so they're not surprised by the changes.