Clearly Communicate Your Expectations

Parent: “Good, I’m glad you listened carefully and understand what I expect you to do when I call you to the table to eat. When you meet these expectations, you will continue to have those privileges you enjoy so much. What are some of those privileges, Billy?” 
Note : Don’t tell the children what those privileges are. In fact, never tell children something they already know. Let them tell you. It can be very instructional for you, and it engages the child in the discussion in a very dynamic way.
Billy: “Do you mean to tell me that if I don’t come to the table within 30 seconds after I’m called you’re not going to let me watch television!” 
Note : A response like this is very instructional. Now you know exactly what the child values most: watching television.
Parent: “Thank you, Billy. Television is one of those privileges you really enjoy.” 
Note : The parent did not answer Billy’s combative question. This is very important. Parents who allow themselves to be drawn off track to answer such questions simply yield control of the situation to the children. When that happens, the ball game is all over, and no one has won.
Parent: “Mary, what are some privileges around the house you really enjoy?”
Mary: “Well, I like playing with my Barbie doll, but you’re not going to take my Barbie doll away from me just because I don’t come to the table are you?” 
Note : In both of these children’s responses the parent was immediately made out to be a bad guy who won’t let the children do things they want to do just because of some stupid rule. That is certainly the implication. Pay no attention to this. Rather, search the children’s responses for those bits and pieces of information that are in line with your instructional intent and build on those. Ignore everything else.
Parent: “Yes, Mary, you really do enjoy playing with your Barbie doll. Billy and Mary, when you come to the table to eat within 30 seconds after you’re called, you will have earned these privileges for the rest of the day. Mary, what privilege do you earn if you come to the table within 30 seconds after you’re called?” 
Note : The parent has put privileges in their proper perspective: as something children earn as a result of proper behavior. The availability of these privileges is entirely up to the children. It isn’t a matter of whether the parent is a good guy or a bad guy. The ball is completely in the child’s court and what he or she does with it is his or her business, as are the consequences.
Mary: “You’ll let me play with my Barbie doll for the rest of the day.”
Parent: “Thank you, Mary. That’s right, you will have earned the privilege of playing with your Barbie doll for the rest of the day.” 
Note : The parent did not respond to the child’s saying, “You’ll let me…” The parent merely restated the consequence in terms of what the child had earned.
Parent: “If, on the other hand, you become distracted or careless and don’t come to the table within 30 seconds after I’ve called, we will start eating without you and you’ll have denied yourself the privilege of playing with your Barbie doll or watching television for the rest of the day. Furthermore, if you are more than a minute late coming to the table, you will have to wait until breakfast (or lunch or dinner) before you can eat. Billy, what will happen if you chose to not come to the table in time?” 
Note : Since children will sometimes dawdle endlessly before coming to eat, its a good idea to put limits on how long they can dawdle before they lose the privilege of eating. And remember, if they do lose the privilege of eating, don’t worry about it. I’ve never known an otherwise healthy, well-fed child to starve over night. (Of course, this strategy would be modified if there were compelling medical reasons why a child must not miss a meal.)
Billy: “This is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t believe you, Mom. What’s so important about coming to the dinner table within 30 seconds or a minute? I can’t wait until I’m old enough to get out of this dumb house and away from all these stupid rules that treat me like a baby!”
Parent: “Mary, what will happen if you fail to come to the dinner table on time?” 
Note : The parent has completely ignored Billy’s juvenile and defensive outburst. There wasn’t a single thing Billy said that was worth a response. Not a single thing! Under those conditions, direct your question to another child. If there isn’t another child, simply redirect the question to the one child. “What privileges will you deny yourself if you choose to come to the table late?”
Mary: “If we don’t come to the table within 30 seconds, we won’t be able to play with our toys or watch television for the rest of the day. If we don’t come to the table within a minute, we won’t be able to have supper either.”
Parent: “Thank you, Mary. Now I know that you understand exactly what I expect. Thank you for listening carefully and answering correctly. 
Billy, what can you expect if you don’t come to dinner on time when I call?”
Billy: “I know what you mean, Mom. No T.V. or no supper! Brother, I can’t believe this is happening.”
Parent: “Thank you, Billy. I’m glad to know you completely understand what I expect, and that you understand perfectly what to expect if you do or do not come to dinner when called.”