Get Real About Good Behavior

More unreasonable expectations

Unreasonable: If you say no to your 9-month-old when he's about to do something that's dangerous, he'll get startled and then stop immediately.

Reasonable: He'll stop, smile at you, and continue trying to chew on the lamp cord. You'll have to pick him up and move him.

Unreasonable: Your 18-month-old will hold your hand as you walk together through the mall.

Reasonable: She'll run off ahead to explore any chance she gets. Take your stroller.

Unreasonable: Your 4-year-old will sit patiently and watch his cousin open his birthday presents.

Reasonable: He'll freak out because he hasn't gotten any gifts, and he'll want to unwrap the birthday boy's for him.

Unreasonable: You'll be able to enjoy yourself at an adult holiday party with your 22-month-old (especially when the host has encouraged you to bring her).

Reasonable: If there's a staircase in the house, you'll spend the entire time walking up and down the steps behind your toddler. And you can just forget about eating.

Unreasonable: Your 6-year-old can answer the telephone and say, "I'll get Mommy."

Reasonable: Normally a motormouth, she's suddenly speechless after she picks up the phone and then decides to hang up.

Unreasonable: Your 3-year-old will always remember to say "please" and "thank you" —especially when she's with her grandparents.

Reasonable: You'll probably have to remind her a thousand times before she does it automatically (and then you'll still have to nudge her every now and then).

Unreasonable: Your potty-trained preschooler will be able to wipe himself after he poops.

Reasonable: He'll need you—or his teacher—to do it for him.

Originally published in the October 2007 issue of Parents magazine.

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