A Decade of Lessons in Parenting
When her oldest child turns 10, one mother reflects on what she's learned
Lesson #6: Set Certain Expectations in Stone
And start early. If table manners are your thing, begin before they're old enough to know the difference. I'm a big fan of making proclamations to one's children ex cathedra--style: Thou Shalt Write Thank-You Notes, for example. Meet all protests with the same attitude you take toward the car seats--it's non-negotiable, these are the rules, and that is that.
It's never too late to start. Set a standard--your kids won't know it's arbitrary--like the one I came up with for Thad on his birthday. ("When you're four, you get a new chore. Yours is clearing your plate.") Birthdays are convenient times to lay down the law; I usually grant one privilege (a slightly later bedtime, for instance) and impose one new age-appropriate responsibility (a job I hate, like sorting socks or unloading the dishwasher) per year. If everything works according to plan, by the time they grow up, I'll be completely superfluous.