Since your childhood you keep hearing from your parents, how should you behave to make them happy and what should you not do to disgruntle them. At every stage of your life as you grow up, you are burdened with your parents’ expectations from you.
Unfortunately, we too try to tune our children the same way, the way our parents did. And probably, the environment in which we grew up, we end passing on the same to our children.
As much as your children mean the world to you, you too mean the world to them.
According to the doctors, the baby can hear the mother’s voice in the womb, even before the baby is born. Imagine what magical connection and bond you and your baby have.
Parents' Expectations increase, as kids grow up
As soon as your child is born and starts growing up, so do your expectations keep growing exponentially. That reminds me of the famous Bollywood movie called “3 Idiots”, where a child no sooner enters the world, his parents start deciding on their own, on what their son will achieve professionally when he grows up. Is it not too much?
Well, that was a story of a movie, but in real life too, we parents are no better.
Right from the day, your baby starts understanding your language, be it gestures, expressions, or verbal language, he does start sensing that he is supposed to behave in a way you like him to.
Your children do benefit from a healthy level of expectations when you are deeply connected and share a close bonding between you and our children.
But, how do I know if my expectations are reasonable? When could my expectations become burdening and making them anxious?
Let’s see how your expectations can be different from your children.
Let us try to understand how you can find the appropriate balance to ensure your kids’ development healthily.
When your expectations are too high.
It is unfortunate to find, that you as parents, sometimes do not realize; how much you are pressurizing your children with your expectations from them.
1. When you are putting a burden of your expectations on them
Talking about my daughter’s friend, Rhea in the neighborhood, I see her everyday rushing from one hobby class to another. By the time she is done with it, her mother makes her sit for studies and each day passes away having no time for play. My daughter, whenever inquires about why doesn’t she come to play in the park, she sadly replies, her mother doesn’t allow her. Though she badly wanted to join my daughter.
Poor girl, she is hardly 6, and she is burdened with so many activities. Where she must be cheerfully enjoying her childhood, she is expected to fulfill her parents’ wishes.
Do you think it’s justified? Well, as a parent you may argue, that hobby classes are for her benefit. However, what good is it doing where she doesn’t even have the freedom to spend a few minutes with her friends? If her mother had been sensitive towards her needs, she would probably have reduced one of the hobby classes and let her play for some time with her friends.
She had been forgoing her friends and toys, solely to be the gem of her mother’s eye. Had you been her parents, don’t you think, you are expecting too much from her?
2. When you put the burden of your failure and expect them to win.
In another incident, a few days back, my younger sister called me up to discuss her son’s academic performance who is studying in the 1st standard. She said she scolded her son badly because he scored 28 out of 30 in Mathematics and not the full marks. She intimidated, saying that she will not speak to him until he vows, to score full marks next time.
I was spellbound. Did she need to make him go through so much?
I confronted her asking, how could she put so much pressure on her son this way, as if she always stood first in the class and always scored full marks. Even if she did, she was not supposed to treat him like this.
You will be shocked to know what she replied. She said that’s the reason she is so strict with his studies. Because she was never an outstanding student and expected her son to outperform everybody in the class.
Every parent wishes that, but being so demanding; isn’t it making the child anxious? Too many expectations will intimidate your children. It will make them feel torn between your demands and their desires.
You need to understand that work ethics and responsibility will define your child’s success more than just a report card. Healthy expectations should include talent and life skills too.
3. When you become an attention-seeking parent
Children love their parents unconditionally. They strive earnestly and are willing to do anything and everything to be the pearl of your eye.
When you are putting your child under constant pressure to please you and keep you happy, you are not doing the correct parenting. It is not a healthy sign of a child’s development.
The other day, I called up my friend to wish her on her birthday. She was delighted to take my call though; she seemed a bit lost too. Initially, she was reluctant, but on coaxing, she revealed, she was upset because her 5-year-old son forgot to wish on her birthday.
Though the boy was already sorry for it, when he remembered later in the evening, he wished his loving mom along with a beautiful handmade greeting card.
What flabbergasted me, was the response my friend gave to her son. She yelled at him for forgetting her birthday and tore his birthday greeting card into pieces, in front of others.
Can you imagine the agony which her son would have gone through? Instead of appreciating the fact that her son realized his mistake and was making up for it, she hurt him to an extent that no mother should ever do it to her child.
4. When your expectations clash when your child turns into an adolescent.
Adolescence is the most challenging phase of childhood which requires you to handle it sensitively. Your child must be undergoing several hormonal, physical, and emotional changes during this phase.
Consequently, your teenager must be experiencing anxiety, anger issues, and behavioral changes. They might be finding it difficult to understand the reasons behind it and manage it properly.
They are at a stage where your children are in a process of transition from childhood to adulthood. There are likely to be more conflicts between you and your kids’ views and expectations, as their self becomes more dominant than anything else.
Making your child disciplined is correct, but enforcing it, is controlling.
You are being strict and a controlling parent when:
- Your expectations are high in control and demandingness, but low in expressing love and warmth towards your kids.
- You are compelling your children to excel in their studies, beyond their capabilities.
- You are constantly nagging them for not living up to your expectations.
- You keep comparing your children with their peers, in terms of academic performance, discipline, and behavior.
- Not letting them make their own decisions, without giving a reason for doing so.
When Parents' expectations are too low
Parents setting low expectations from their kids does not lead to the healthy development of your child.
- As parents, if you have less or no expectations from your children, then it is likely that they will lack purpose and direction in their life. Your children should have goals and purpose to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem.
- With no or few expectations from your parents, your kids will not have a sense of purpose and be motivated to do anything significant in their life.
How can you strike a balance between yours and your children’s expectations?
Healthy expectations will encourage and allow your children to do well without putting pressure on them. They will develop a sense of security and trust in the relationship with you.
1. Have realistic expectations
When parents’ expectations are unrealistic or set high, it will lead to an overemphasis on perfection. Consequently, your children will develop anxiety due to fear of failure.
- In such instances, your child will feel powerless or will create a sense of defeat in him or her, if unable to live up to your expectations.
- Realistic expectations also include accepting their mistakes along the way, helping your children to understand setbacks as a normal part of life.
- They will feel responsible and will be motivated to pursue their tasks with a positive attitude.
2. Respect your children’s individuality
Because you created them, your children are not your possession. They are human beings like you and me, who have their wishes, desires, and dreams.
- Your children might be having their aspirations and skills to achieve the same, which might not reconcile or relate to yours.
- Remember, they are not your dream projects. Everything you decide about your children may not be in the best interest of them.
- Instead of trying to mold them the way you think is right, try to see things from their perspective as well.
- Have open communication with your children and guide them to choose their path for a better future.
3. Stop comparing them with siblings and peers.
Every child has strengths and weaknesses. You need to closely observe your children what they are comfortable doing and what they are not.
My friend’s son is an excellent swimmer. Initially, he was reluctant, but with some encouragement, he took it and currently performs well in various competitions.
However, his sibling was terrified of water, so never wanted to learn to swim. At this point, my friend was sensitive enough to understand her second child’s plight and never forced him for it. Neither did she ever compare his performance to his elder son’s accolades in any of the other activities.
She was wise enough to understand her son’s capabilities and accordingly developed an encouraging environment for effective learning.
She motivated him towards other activities in which he was interested without letting him feel any less than his elder brother.
4. Stop controlling your children in the name of discipline
Expecting children to be disciplined and well-behaved, is every parent’s wish. You discipline your children to teach them appropriate ways to behave. You convey them about the morals and values they should carry.
All well appreciated but, as parents, you need to understand that discipline isn’t about punishment. It’s about guiding your children towards appropriate ways to behave. You can discipline your teenager by agreeing on and setting appropriate limits and helping them behave within those limits.
Discipline is effective when:
- Communicate openly with your children and reach an agreement about the limits and rules you set, and guide them towards making the correct choices.
- Treat your teenager as a grown-up. Involve them in discussion while working out rules and limits. Letting them contribute will make them perceive it as justified and stick to the rules set.
- Be clear about the behavior you expect from them and agree on what will be the consequences if they do not stick to the rules.
- Discuss the responsibilities they should undertake related to home, like tidying up their room, taking care of pets, etc.
- Create and maintain a warm and loving family environment for your kids. This will help them learn to control their behavior when guided by you.
- Try to be a friend to them and avoid judging them on a drop of a hat. Give them a chance to explain the reason for their behavior.
5. Support your children and love them unconditionally.
For every other reason, attempting to impose on your children, that if they don’t stand up to your expectation, they will not be loved, will cause irrevocable damage to their self-esteem.
No matter what, make them believe, you love them unconditionally, and will always be beside them throughout their thick and thin.
Being wiser than your children, in terms of age and experience, help them understand, that any expectations you have with them, is only for their betterment and will be beneficial in the long run.
Parents’ expectations can be inspiring as well as frightening for your children.
You should remember that setting expectations that are not too high or low will help your children develop a healthy sense of self-worth and competence.
When you set realistic expectations, children will trust you more and work towards meeting them. Healthy expectations will encourage and enable them, a sense of responsibility, and independence.
As parents, you must strike the right balance.
Krishna is a Management graduate in Human Resource. She is an avid reader, knowledge seeker, and an adoring mother of two lovely kids.