Expectations are a tough thing. Here are some basic rules:
If your expectations for your son or daughter are higher than they can realistically achieve, you are setting yourself up for some serious problems.
There is something about the way we are built that we hate letting people down. And this is especially true for a young child. Expectations that are too high can therefore be a real downer. It creates in our children all kinds of frustrations.
In fact, a lot of what motivates them, is to fulfill your expectations of them. So when they feel what you want is impossible, they give up, or worse.
The worse is that they feel inept. They don’t know how to do what you want from them. To you it seems simple, but to them they just don’t know how to cope so they stop trying.
Alternatively, what if your expectations are too low?
This also is unhealthy. Our job is to bring out their best and if we don’t they may not get there (ever).
When your expectations are too low, then your child does not have the experience of challenging themselves. They live in a very limited world where what they think they can’t do, they can’t do.
I don’t know if you have seen the news lately, but there aren’t many job openings for people like that.
The third possibility is that your expectations are right on target.
Let us take little Johnny, he takes seven tests and fails the first six. His friend Sally at the next desk over, takes the same tests and passes all seven, which one is more likely to succeed in life?
Yes, you got it, Johnny.
Other than at a Starbucks counter, very few things in life work the way we would think or hope. The pattern of life is this — we try, we fail, we try again (and sometimes again and again). And that’s the key — the person who keeps on trying is the one who is going to succeed in the end. In other words, the only difference between one person and the next is at which point they give up.
Every parent thinks they are giving their child what they can handle. A good sign that you are right is when they fail but don’t give up. BUT, if they do give up, it probably means your expectations were too high.
However, giving up is not the same thing as whining at you. They may very well get upset at what you want them to do, but if they haven’t given up, keep with it – you are on target.
I know, it’s very hard to see your child fail and then complain or blame you for their failure. But that blaming doesn’t mean they have given up, it’s just par for the course, sort of a kid version of pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, before they give it another shot.
What’s going on is this, the child failed, on some level they know they can do it, but they have to try harder. They don’t want to. They think there is an easier alternative, whine to you (the parent) and Mom will get them off the hook.
And, it often works. Simply because parents have a hard time distinguishing between a child who really can do it, but is just whining to save themselves the trouble. And a kid that really can’t do it and this is going to make them feel inept.
To avoid this dilemma altogether, many parents adopt a fourth approach.
Not to express any expectations at all.
Parents, who themselves as children suffered form very excessive expectations, often resolve not to put their kids through the same painful experience. And the way they do that, is by not stating any expectations at all. This they think, is the best of all possible worlds.
Oh, that it were.
It’s very important and meaningful for a child to actually hear a father or mother say, “I know you don’t think you can do it, but I believe in you!”
So while a parent feels very uncomfortable dealing with a child who absolutely insists you are overly demanding and never satisfied with anything they do (read: “You are ruining your son for ever”), if you want them to believe in themselves you need to show them that you believe in them.
To do that, you have to expect from them more than they expect of themselves.
So, when your child asks you, “Isn’t 86 good enough for you?”
You can respond, “Yes it is. But it’s not good enough for you.”