The Value of Clear Expectations: What You Say vs. What They Hear

The Value of Clear Expectations: What You Say vs. What They Hear

The Value of Clear Expectations: What You Say vs. What They Hear

October 26, 2015 by Darlene Beaulieu

Your daughter is clamoring to go to a Halloween party this weekend. You know the parents so you’re not worried about safety, but you want your daughter to earn the privilege to go. You only ask that she cleans her room, and she’ll be able to attend the party. She happily agrees.

Thirty minutes before it’s time to go, she tells you to come take a look. You notice a pile of clothes in one corner, an unmade bed in the other, and a floor in desperate need of a vacuum.

You explain that she still has some work to do before she can go to the party. She’s not impressed.

I did what you asked me to do and I still can’t go?! This is bull****!

With that attitude, she’s definitely not going. You throw up your hands and think, Why does every day have to be so difficult? Why can’t she just listen to me? What am I doing wrong?

If you identify with this scenario, you’re not alone! I talk to a lot of parents who think they’re being very clear with what they ask of their kids. Commonly, what you say and what your child hears can be two different things. To help your child better understand what you are asking of them, start with being crystal clear with your expectations.

Clearly defined expectations offer your child safety and security. If they don’t understand the boundaries that are being set, they are much less likely to be motivated toward good behavior.

In this example, the parent’s definition of a “clean room” was much different than their daughter’s. Again, it’s important to be specific. Next time try:

If you clean your room – that includes putting your clothes away, making your bed and vacuuming the floor – then you can go to the party this weekend.

The goal is for your kids to earn privileges through good behavior – this parent has it right! When you clearly define what is and isn’t allowed, you help your child understand what your expectations are and how to meet them.

If you’re not explicit when outlining rules and consequences, your child will eventually stop trying to follow the rules and give up. Then, everybody loses. To avoid this, try discussing your expectations as a family. This will help put everyone on the same page, so you’re less likely to be misunderstood.

If you need more help understanding the value of clear expectations, check out Parenting Rules and Expectations: “But Everyone Else is Doing It!”

Remember, we’re here to help you get the most out of your parenting! Keep in touch in the comments below.


Darlene B.

“You have rules and expectations for your child and they are responsible for following those rules. If they don’t follow them, they do not get “paid” with the privileges and rewards they value.” – Megan Devine, LCPC

Young Adult Survey

Young Adults, Advocates and Supporters

I am involved in a course at Suffolk University where I am working with a small team that is trying to assess the links between mental health and housing for young adults ages 18-25.

We have developed a survey to help us to better understand the experiences of young adults.  Please help us get the word out!

The survey is only open until Friday, October 30th, so it’s a short turnaround.

Please help us to encourage participation in the survey.  It should only take about 3-5 minutes to fill out.  Thank you in advance for your help!

Please forward the link below.

Participants, just click and begin!
Thank you!

Heidi Holland

STAY Project Director

Massachusetts Department of Mental Health

Child & Adolescent Services

25 Staniford St.

Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-626-8082

FAX: 617-8225

SIBLING OUTING 9-16 yrs old


Siblings of individuals with disabilities need attention too!

Come apple picking at Dowse Orchards in Sherborn!
Here we will build friendships while exploring the orchard!
Sisters and brothers gather to build long-lasting relationships while
discussing challenges with a wellness approach.

1 – 3 PM
Ages 9-16
Saturday October 24

Drop off and pick up at
4 Strathmore Road
Natick MA

RSVP to Sally Black

__ ()

Sally Jane Black Family Support Coordinator Charles River Center
4 Strathmore Rd, Natick, MA 01760Office: 
__ ()

Has Anyone Seen a Giraffe on a Bicycle? A story about a Family’s Sensory Friendly Halloween!

How My Family Created a Sensory-Friendly Halloween

What I Wish I’d Known Sooner blog post by Amanda Morin
Oct 15, 2015

Child in giraffe costume smiling and riding a bike

“Has anyone seen a giraffe on a bicycle?!”

On any other day of the year, my frantic shout to people passing by would have sounded absurd. But it was Halloween, so it wasn’t that strange.

What was unusual was that I couldn’t find Jacob, my costumed son. I’d turned around for a minute and the beast on the bike had pedaled off without me.

Once I stopped to think rationally, I knew Jacob was headed home. My child knew his limits. He hadn’t even wanted to come out trick-or-treating in the first place.

Here I was asking my child, who has sensory processing issues and trouble understanding social rules, to request candy from strangers. And to do it in a crowd surrounded by flashing lights and spooky music from our neighbor’s haunted garage.

It was just too overwhelming to him.

That’s why he’d wanted to take his bicycle. It kept some distance between him and the other kids.

He also didn’t want to visit the candy van sponsored by the local radio station. It made him anxious to accept candy from people he didn’t know—a big stranger safety issue. (And frankly, who thought it was a good idea to loudly broadcast, “Come to the back of the van, kids. We have candy!”)

And that’s why he finally rode off on his bike.

His younger brother benefited from his solutions—and my mistakes.

The next year, we changed our Halloween approach. Instead of trick-or-treating, Jacob stayed home to hand out candy. We bought him his own bag of it when it was on sale the next day. Everyone was happy.

Five years later, when his brother, Benjamin, hit costume age, I expected we’d arrange a similar Halloween alternative for him. After all, Benjamin also has sensory processing issues and attention issues. He’s easily overwhelmed and easily distracted, and that can cause him to bolt and run away from us.

My husband and I were hopeful that we wouldn’t have to navigate trick-or-treating with Benjamin. But to our surprise, he wanted to trick-or-treat.

This time, though, we were able to use what we’d learned from Jacob to make a plan:

  • We chose to trick-or-treat on a quiet street in the neighborhood.
  • We talked about safety rules ahead of time and only went to houses of friends and family we knew.
  • We let Benjamin know that if he wanted to come home early we’d add to his candy stash—so he didn’t feel short-changed.

But that didn’t solve the bolting-and-running-off issue. How were we going to make sure he didn’t run when he got overwhelmed or saw a friend down the street?

Jacob solved that one for us.

“Doesn’t Benjamin want to be a police officer for Halloween?” Jacob asked. “Why doesn’t he drive his police power wheel? It only goes like 3 miles per hour. It’ll give him plenty of space from the other kids and we can keep an eye on him.”

Oh, out of the mouths of babes—or, in this case, brothers.

The solutions our family comes up with to manage one of our child’s issues often works for the other, too—but not always. My husband and I are lucky to have boys who can help us find creative solutions to their challenges.

And you never saw a happier police officer and un-costumed brother than in our Halloween photos that year.

Planning on trick-or-treating with your child this year? Learn more about common Halloween challenges for kids with learning and attention issues. And get more tips on how to help kids with sensory processing issues have a fun Halloween.

About the Blogger

Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin More Posts by the Blogger

A parent advocate and former teacher, Amanda Morin is the proud mom of kids with learning and attention issues and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

ADHD and Emotions in Kids

ADHD and Emotions:

What You Need to Know

By Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.

At a Glance

  • Kids with ADHD feel the same emotions as their peers.
  • Emotions are more intense with ADHD and impact everyday living.
  • ADHD makes it hard to manage emotions.

If your child has ADHD, you probably know about the major symptoms. Trouble focusing. Impulsivity. And in some cases, hyperactivity. But many kids with ADHD share another symptom that often isn’t mentioned. They have trouble managing their emotions.

There are official criteria that doctors use to diagnose ADHD. Trouble with emotions isn’t one of them. But researchers and professionals who treat kids with ADHD often report that emotions play a big role in the daily difficulties kids face.

Kids with ADHD don’t have different emotions from most of their peers. They feel hurt, anger, sadness, discouragement, laziness and worry just like everyone else does.

What is different for many kids with ADHD is that these feelings seem to be more frequent and intense. They also seem to last longer. And they get in the way of everyday life.

What Trouble With Emotion Looks Like

When kids have trouble managing their emotions, it can show up in different ways. Some might be unable to put the brakes on their feelings when they’re angry or stressed about something. Others might struggle to get revved up to do something when they’re feeling bored.


Kids with ADHD, more than most others their age, may also:

  • Be quick to get frustrated by minor annoyances
  • Worry too much or too long about even small things
  • Have trouble calming down when annoyed or angry
  • Feel wounded or take offense at even gentle criticism
  • Feel excessive urgency to get something they want immediately

Consider how that might play out:

You hear your 11-year-old screaming at her younger brother. She comes running to find you and shouts about what he’s done. It turns out he’s made some comment about her hair. She wants you to punish him, and she gets mad when you don’t react. Then she complains all night long about how unfair that is.

Here’s another potential scenario:

Your 15-year-old has a ton of homework. But he doesn’t sit down to do it. Instead, he spends the afternoon texting with friends. You’ve already tried using consequences to try to motivate him to do his work. He just says it’s boring and acts like he doesn’t care. Nothing makes him stop what he’s doing and get moving on the homework.

Why Kids With ADHD Struggle With Emotions

How people feel and handle emotions starts in infancy. Some babies are just naturally quick to startle while others are generally calm and less reactive.

Some tend to get irritated easily. They’re quick to cry and slow to calm down. Other babies are not easily upset and are quickly calmed.

The basic temperaments people have at birth influence how they behave from the start. They may change a quite a bit—or not that much—as kids grow up.

Like their peers, kids with ADHD aren’t all alike in their temperaments. Some are more laid back or timid. Others are more reactive, outspoken and aggressive.

But often, they don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions as other kids their age. They have less ability to react to their own emotions using their brain’s reasoning powers.

Kids with ADHD typically have trouble with working memory (along with other executive functions). And that makes it very hard for them to keep the bigger picture in mind. They tend to get stuck in whatever they’re feeling in that moment.

As they grow up, most kids who don’t have ADHD learn how to manage their emotions so they don’t get too caught up in them. If they begin to feel too angry or hurt, they learn to say to themselves, “Calm down, chill out—this doesn’t have to be such a big deal.”

If they’re getting too discouraged trying to do something, they might be able to tell themselves, “OK, that doesn’t look like it’s going to work. I’ll try again or will try to find better way to deal with it.”

Kids with ADHD are slower to develop those processes (and many other aspects of their executive functions). It takes longer for them to gain the ability to calm down and get perspective. So they’re more likely to get too wrapped up in their own emotions.

As a result, they may:

  • Be overwhelmed with discouragement, frustration or anger
  • Be too fearful to begin tasks
  • Give up too quickly on whatever they’re doing
  • Be reluctant to get started on something they ought to be doing
  • Avoid interacting with others

In other words, their immediate emotion of the moment takes over all of their thinking.

How You Can Help

When your child is struggling with his feelings, it may seem like there’s no way to get through to him or to stop his behaviors. But there are things you can do to help him get control of and manage his emotions.

Start by acknowledging how he seems to be feeling. “I can see how disappointed you are about coming in second in the science fair.” Don’t argue about whether he should be feeling this way. That usually just escalates the problem.

Once he’s calm, offer to help him figure out some better way to deal with that emotion—one that might help him switch his thinking. For example, you could say:

  • “I know you’re upset and just want to leave the science fair and go home. But I’m proud of what you did.”
  • “I know you worked hard on it and a lot of the people who looked at it seemed impressed. Even though you feel really disappointed about getting second place rather than first, you still have good reason to be proud of what you did.”

If your child often struggles with managing emotions, it can be a good idea to talk with his doctor. You may want to discuss having your child see a counselor or try taking ADHD medication. Having some counseling and well-tuned medication may help improve his ability to manage his emotions more effectively.



Key Takeaways

  • Kids with ADHD are slow to develop the ability to manage emotions.
  • Trouble with working memory plays a role in this.
  • The emotion kids with ADHD feel in the moment can dominate their thinking.


About the Author

Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D.

Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and associate director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders in the department of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.


Backtalk: How to Handle it Effectively

Found this article interesting and not really sure what to make of it.  What do you guys think?  John

Backtalk: How to Handle it Effectively

October 16, 2015 by Rebecca Wolfenden

Halloween is coming and your house looks like a tornado blew through it.

Tired of wading through pumpkin seeds and candy wrappers, you tell your daughter it’s time to stop playing her game and help clean up the kitchen. She responds with,

“We NEVER do anything fun around here. We ALWAYS have to clean up. I hate this family!”

Whether it’s Halloween, Christmas, or just an average day, this kind of behavior happens in a lot of families. Parents try to work their way through the chaos of a busy home, and kids respond to simple requests with backtalk or a bad attitude. We understand how tough this can be – nobody likes to be talked to this way.

While you might feel like it’s your job to change your child’s attitude, responding to backtalk in the moment can actually feed bad behavior. Instead, try and focus on your child’s actions. Did she stop playing the game? Is she picking up her mess even though she has a terrible attitude?

Focus on the behavior you want to see. You have the power to choose your battles – in the heat of the moment, it’s okay to ignore some backtalk.

Even if your child is swearing, mumbling, or resisting every time you give them a chore, their acting out, complaining behavior won’t change the rules.

In the moment, taking the pressure off yourself to respond to every little thing can help you parent more calmly and effectively. This doesn’t mean you’re not setting limits around your child’s behavior – if it feels appropriate, you can follow up with your child later to discuss consequences.

Take care!

Rebecca W., Empowering Parents Coach
Learn more about 1-on-1 Coaching

“In order to get a handle on backtalk, we need to focus on our child’s behaviors instead of responding emotionally. When we’re able to do so, we become our children’s limit setters, teachers and coaches, promoting the kind of behavior that will make them successful in life.” – Janet Lehman, MSW

Read more:

Adaptive Sports and Recreation program at the Sudbury Park & Recreation

Adaptive Sports and Recreation program at the Sudbury Park & Recreation.  The program is called “Calming Strategies for Kids”.  It will be given on Fridays in November starting on November 6th (except for 11/27, the Friday after Thanksgiving) from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.  It is geared for ages 7 -10.  The class is listed in the Adaptive Sports and Recreations Programs of the Fall 2015 brochure.  You do not have to be a Sudbury resident to participate.

This is a four week program focusing on a different calming strategy each week.  They will make a  “worry box” a “fidget box” work on mindfulness and even yoga for relaxation.  They will practice taking sensory breaks and advocating for those breaks when needed.  They will also use IPads to introduce students to many great apps that they can use at home.  The cost is $56 for the four sessions.

Please sign up within a week to reserve a space and the program.

Link to description:



MBHP is looking for a Family Liason


The MBHP Family Advisory Council

The purpose of the MBHP Family Advisory Council is to act as a liaison between family members of consumers and the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership (MBHP).  Council members advise MBHP and offer recommendations and feedback about programming and services.  The council serves as a forum for participants to express their views on Members’ issues, offer suggestions for improvements, and share their unique perspectives on the system.


The application process is rather simple: once you fill out the attached form, you can either e-mail, fax, or mail it back to us at the address listed on the form. The application will then be reviewed by the council. You’ll be invited to attend a council meeting, after which the council will vote on your membership.  Council members are compensated with a $50 stipend for each meeting they attend and are reimbursed for travel expenses.


The MBHP Family Advisory Council meets on the first Monday of every month from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. in downtown Boston.  We ask that council members commit to attending as many meetings in person as circumstance allows.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kaitlyn Sudol at (617) 350-1952! Thank you and we look forward to reviewing your application!

Here is the application:

[gview file=””]