The Power of a Prep Talk: 5 Conversations About Expectations

By Stephanie Thomas

My parents live a few hours away from us. 

After years of travel, we’ve perfected our family road-trip routine. The boys look at books. They draw. We listen to a podcast or two. We snack, tell jokes, turn up the music, and dance around. 

Before long, we’re almost there! As we pull off the interstate, I dial back the volume on the radio and swivel around to face my kids in the back seat. In keeping with our routine, it’s time for a PREP talk. 

Do you do this too? 

I’m a big fan of a quick prep-talk. A few minutes of talking through expectations is often all it takes to help my kids make wise choices and enjoy a relaxing time with family or friends. 

Here are five of my go-to prep talks. What would you add to this list?

Five Prep Talks To Use With Your Kids

The formula for a solid prep talk looks something like this: 

  • Share your expectations with your kids
  • Talk through potential pain points and how your child might respond or ask for help
  • Remind your kids of the benefits of following expectations

In other words, keep your conversation short and simple. Let’s talk about what this formula might look like in each of the following scenarios. 

A Prep Talk for Visiting Grandparents (or other homes)

Share your expectations: “Okay, kids, we’re almost at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Aren’t you so excited to see them? It’s important that we are respectful of their home while we are there and that we let them know how much we appreciate them having us for the weekend.”

Talk through potential pain points: “How should we treat Grandma’s furniture? What should you do when Grandpa asks you a question? If you have lots of energy and need to jump around, where can you go to get it out?”

Remind kids of the benefits of following expectations: “When you guys treat your grandparents and their home with respect, it makes them want to have us over more often. And I know how much you love staying at their house. So thank you for being good guests!”

A Prep Talk for Having Friends Over

Share your expectations: “The Smiths will be here soon! We’re going to grill out hot dogs and hamburgers while you kids run around in the backyard or play inside. Please remember our house rules and encourage your friends to follow them as well.” 

Talk through potential pain points: “How can we make our friends feel welcome in our home? What should you do if you see your friend break one of our house rules?” 

Remind kids of the benefits of following expectations: “We love having people over, don’t we? When it goes well, it makes us want to have friends over more often!” 

A Prep Talk for Opening Gifts

Share your expectations: “Your birthday party starts in just ten minutes. Yay! You might get presents from your grandparents, or from your aunts and uncles. If you do, that will be such a treat! We want to make sure to smile and say thank you no matter what.”

Talk through potential pain points: “What do you do if you open a gift and it’s something you already have? What if it’s something you don’t like?”

Remind kids of the benefits of following expectations: “The best part of a birthday party is getting to spend time with family and friends! Gifts are a bonus. If you get something you don’t like or already have, smile and say thank you, and we’ll take it back to the store another day.” 

A Prep Talk for Meeting Up With Friends

Share your expectations: “We’re headed to the park to hang out with Blake, Matthew, and Allison. I want you kids to have a good time and treat one another with kindness.”

Talk through potential pain points: “What can you do if you and your friends disagree about what or how you should play? How should you respond if a friend is unkind to you or to someone else?”

Remind kids of the benefits of following expectations: “It’s such a pretty day outside. As long as you and your friends are having a nice time and treating each other well, we’ll stay until dinner.”

A Prep Talk For Eating at a Nice Restaurant 

Share your expectations: “We’re going out to eat for dinner tonight. While we’re there, it’s important to hang out in your seat and be calm so that other people can enjoy their meal.” 

Talk through potential pain points: “What games could we play if the wait is extra-long? How should we talk to the waiter? What should you do if you don’t like your food?”

Remind kids of the benefits of following expectations: “I know it’s not always easy to wait, but sometimes the best food takes time to make! If all goes well during dinner, we’ll stay for dessert!”

Give these conversations a try. And let us know on Instagram or Facebook what prep-talks we should add to this list!