“Lower expectations” is not often a phrase associated with good parenting. But parents, I am here to tell you that there are times in which lowering your expectations for both yourself and your children can actually make you a better parent. Sure, as parents we want our children to grow up to be healthy, happy and great contributors to society. But long before they are grown up and out on their own, we as parents expect our children to think and act in certain ways. And we might not realize it, but sometimes that’s not a good thing.
Reason 1- Lower High Expectations to Create Realistic Ones
I am no psychologist or parenting expert, but this is one lesson that I have learned in my 8 years of parenting. Our expectations for our smallest kids are often way too unrealistic and too demanding for their earlier stages of life. Let me give you some examples:
•We expect them to sit quietly and eat a full meal….and literally eat every bite of it.
•They are expected to behave all of the time and to never have meltdowns or to show their big emotions.
•It is expected of them to share their toys without any hesitation.
I could seriously sit here and make a list all day. While all of these expectations are great in idea, the fact is that they do not occur and will not occur 100 percent of the time. And when these expectations are not met, parents often times get upset with their child.
Our youngest children often have some of the highest and hardest expectations, especially when it comes to what stage of life they are in. In a time when they are experiencing new emotions and are learning how to begin managing those big feelings, we also expect them to carry out certain tasks without any issue. It’s just not realistic, nor is it fair to them.
We don’t expect adults to be on their best game 100% of the time, so why would we expect that of our children?
Reason 2- High Expectations Can Lead to Low Self-Esteem
Maybe you have seen this little blurb of knowledge floating around the internet, maybe you haven’t. But think about these words:
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”-Peggy O’Mara
If you are the parent that has high expectations for your children, and then makes sure to point out all of the things that they’re NOT doing right, I highly recommend you think about that quote.
If your kid doesn’t spotlessly clean their room, and you constantly call them messy or dirty, chances are they’re going to start believing that about themselves. They might even start saying it to themselves in their own mind. I’m not pointing fingers…I’m guilty of this, too. But just because you’ve made that mistake today doesn’t mean you have to make it again tomorrow.
Start pointing out the things that your kid is doing well, and create goals for them that are far more achievable based on their age and personality. As stated in an article written by Jasmine Loh,
“Find out what your child is good at, and set goals based on their strengths. This way, they are more likely to find it easier to meet your expectations and may even find it encouraging, which drives them to do better in future.”
If your kid is not athletic but instead is great with music, don’t expect and push them to be a star baseball player. Find their strengths and grow with them rather than setting a goal they might not ever (or even want) to meet.
If you still don’t understand it, think about it this way…if you set high expectations for your kid and they constantly struggle to meet them, there’s a good chance your kid will at some point think that they’re “not good enough” or that they’re not making their parents happy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my kids to ever feel that way.
Reason 3- It’s Better For Your Own Mental Health
Almost every parent is guilty of this next part. When you first find out that you’re having a child, you immediately have expectations for that unborn kid. You expect them to maybe look a certain way based on your own genetics. You expect all of the great and fun experiences that you’ll have together as they get older. We expect them to be healthy and happy. Do you see a trend here? Before our kids are even born, we are already setting the bar really high.
A lot of times we end up letting ourselves down as parents because we don’t always meet our own expectations. Yeah, you got mad at your kid when they didn’t listen to you the first time and you ended up fussing at them…but you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it. We all begin the parenting journey thinking we’ll be the best parent ever, and that we won’t repeat the mistakes of our parents. But guess what? We will.
Unrealistic, high expectations can even create doubt within parents. It can cause a parent to “beat themselves up” mentally for not achieving a certain goal. Parents aren’t perfect. Mom, you might not end up getting all of the dishes done in one day or have all of the laundry folded. But so what? Expecting a spotless house everyday is not realistic, especially when you have young kids. Lower those expectations to realistic ones. You’ll be better for it.
What Will You Do?
It may take time. Lowering your expectations as a parent might not happen right away. Give yourself some grace, and remember that we’re all learning each day. But please, consider lowering your expectations as a parent…both for yourself and your children.
I’m not asking that we lower our expectations when it comes to morals, manners or respect. Instead, I am asking that we as parents don’t push our children to be people that they are not. Create realistic expectations based on their ages and their strengths. They’ll grow up to be better people for it, and you won’t be constantly beating yourself up for it, either. No one said parenting was easy. But it’s an experience that we should be learning from each day.
What expectations have you lowered as a parent? Did you ever feel like your parents expectations of you were too high? Let me know in the comments below!