How To Manage Back To School Expectations – Parent Edition

We all have expectations, for ourselves, our families, our friends, and our futures, to name a few. When it comes to the expectations our kids have for themselves, their friends, and their futures, it’s often a topic that is overlooked. As we enter another back-to-school season, I’d like to encourage you to address these expectations with your child, your and theirs, for the upcoming year.

Tip: I like to coordinate all of these expectations this with a back-to-school contract and, if you are interested in having one for your kids as well, you can print your own for FREE HERE.

How to Manage Back-To-School Expectations

This happens in two parts: your expectations for them AND their expectations, and both are important. Today we are going to discuss YOUR expectations for them.

Start out on the right foot

Imagine if your boss asked you to complete a project. He gave you clear instructions on what he wanted the end result to look like, and then told you to get it done by a certain date. You’d get right to work and aim to meet that deadline with everything you have. But then he throws you a curveball, the day before the project is due, he adds additional parameters. Instead of those clear instructions he gave you that you were excited about following from day 1, you are now tired of the project entirely but have to cram an all-nighter into the mix to get it done.

Like us, our kids need clear-cut and unchanging expectations from the very start of a project. Once the school year is underway, changing those expectations and implementing new ones only gets harder, so it’s important to start out on the right foot.

It might take a bit of forethought on your end but, when given the right tools, it’s really not as hard as it seems.

Create a Schedule – And Stick With It

The most successful individuals create a schedule for their days and weeks. Ideally, a school day schedule should be encouraged, and before and after school routines implemented. I prefer to have a schedule like this posted in our home (one for each child), as you can see in the pictures. Not only does the schedule allow my children the comfort of knowing what to expect, but it allows them to be successful at fulfilling their plans for the future. When we don’t schedule appropriately, things get missed. Homework is neglected, chores aren’t finished properly, and, in the end, the whole family ends up miserable.

Tip: Grab this FREE Weekly Calendar to help you get (and stay) on track! Find it HERE.

Before School Routine

Our morning routine typically includes some variation of the following:

  • Wake up (Using Alarm)
  • Get Dressed (No Stained or Too-Small Clothing)/Hair Brushed
  • Chores – From their Chore Lists
  • Breakfast
  • Brush Teeth
  • Backpack and Lunch
  • Socks and Shoes
  • In the Car/Walking to School

I always like to add a timeframe for things to be completed, so that the kids can check out the clock and make sure they are on track. For us, breakfast is toward the end of the morning routine, because if they choose to move extra slowly, or don’t get their chores done in a timely manner, then it’s their breakfast that is on the line as a consequence of not being responsible.

Eventually, the timing falls into place and the kids no longer need to check the clock or have a parent reminder.

After School Routine

After school schedules are a bit different because they often get disrupted by after school activities. I always have an “activity day” schedule and a “regular day” schedule so that there is no guessing what needs to happen when they arrive home from school.

Ours looks something like this:

  • After School
  • Picked Up/Walked Home
  • Papers Signed
  • Free Time and Homework Time
  • Dinner
  • Lunches Made
  • Bath/Shower
  • Bedroom Time/Bed Time

Having a schedule saves a great deal of time and frustration for all involved, as well as allowing the kids to assume responsibility for the things that need to be accomplished around the house. When everyone works together to get their tasks done, the entire family is happier in the long run.

After School/Weekend Events

The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to outline what you expect of after school and weekend events for your children and family. I am well aware that some families can commit to having each and every night of the week (and most weekends) with commitments for each family member, but my family doesn’t work that way.

To prevent burnout, we’ve made a guideline that each child may have one after-school activity per week. Additionally, we don’t have friends over on the weekdays, because it cuts into the family time that we work hard to preserve (occasionally a special exception will be made).

As your children get into their teen years, it may be important to outline what curfew looks like, whether they are required to be present for family dinners, and any other commitments or responsibilities you require of them.

Maintaining Academic Standards

Another good discussion to have with your children as school starts is what you expect from them academically. For me, it’s the effort put in. I understand that some children can perform at a very high level academically (I have one of those), and I also understand that some children will take longer to fully grasp the concepts being taught (I have one of those as well). What I won’t tolerate, though, is a lack of effort by either one, and they know that I know when they’ve put in their best effort.

It’s up to you, though, how you address this issue of academic success with your children, but I do suggest at least touching on it. It’s always harder to bring a child back from the brink of failure than it is to start out in the right direction.

Respect for Authority

I wish I didn’t have to discuss this topic, but as a former teacher and the wife to a current teacher, I don’t believe it’s something that’s being addressed enough in our society. Discuss what respect for authority looks like with your children and expect it of them.

According to the Google dictionary, to respect someone is to “admire deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” I’d like to caution that respect doesn’t necessarily mean agreement. We can respect those around us without fully agreeing with their beliefs or decisions. In the case of teachers, though, students should respect their teachers (and other adults working in the school) as a result of their ability to teach and their achievement as far as education goes to be able to do so. Nearly every teacher I know puts in a lot of work to help students succeed in life and, while you and they might not see eye to eye, the students in their classroom should show them the decency of some respect.

Side note: Have an issue with a teacher? You won’t be the only one, and this probably won’t be the only time. You know your child best, so don’t be afraid to advocate for them, but keep in mind that there are always two sides to every story. Contact the teacher as soon as possible to get the issue ironed out, and make sure you don’t give your child any reason to take your dislike of the situation back into the classroom and cause additional problems for the teacher or the remainder of the class.

All in all, make sure your child knows what you will expect of them as far as authority goes.

Encourage Parent/Child Discussion

Before school starts each year, I always have a discussion with my kids about talking with me or their dad about the things they are struggling with. You see, it’s easy for kids to come home and talk about all of the great things that happened in their day, and carefully gloss over the bad. What I really don’t want, though, is to find out about the bad things from the school, if my child has a chance to tell me about it first.

Situations including grades, peer issues, or bad behavior, should be quick to be confronted, and my kids are well aware that the consequences will be much greater if they have an opportunity to tell me first and I don’t hear it from them. It’s taken some training, but the first thing out of their mouths when they come home from school is anything they think I need to know. It’s a great system for us and allows us to have a discussion about it, getting to the root of the issue, often a long time before the school ever contacts me.

When the girls were younger, we used what we referred to as the High/Low game. We’d have a family dinner each night and everyone had to state what their Highs and Lows were of the day. It was great for opening up discussion and realizing that everyone has rough moments throughout their lives. To this day, if someone had a really bad day, I can always tell because they want to know if we can play High/Low.

…and we still do.

Allowing your children to have these kinds of open conversations when they are young, means that when they get older and things get even tougher or more serious, they will, hopefully, be willing to come to you for help.


In our home, I am adamant that it is not the parent’s job to make sure papers are signed or homework is done. This is the role of the student and I place that firmly in their court. I also have a rule in my home that I won’t sign papers in the mornings before school and, after learning it the hard way a few times, my girls bring their papers to me right away when they get home, complete with a pen in hand, so that they can have them signed.

My girls also take their lunches from home, and I place the same responsibility on them with regards to remembering them in the morning. If they call me at lunchtime and have forgotten their lunch at home, then I will, with great sympathy, tell them that I am sorry to hear that and that they will be able to eat that lunch when they get home from school.

These things can be so hard from a parent’s perspective as we don’t want our children to fail, and yet It’s important to train our kids to be responsible. The nice thing is, at these early ages the things they are learning to be responsible for won’t make or break their futures; and, if we are using those carefully planned schedules, we provide a routine that makes forgetting thing nearly impossible.

Take it a Step Further

Tip: I like to coordinate all of these expectations this with a back-to-school contract and, if you are interested in having one for your kids as well, you can print your own for FREE HERE.

How do you prepare your children for your back-to-school expectations?