I knew I was in trouble when I was asked, “When do you enjoy your child the most?” and my answer was, “When he’s sleeping or at school.”
Talk about an eye-opening moment. The sad part was that it was true.
There was a time a few years back when spending time with my son was difficult because of my limited patience and high stress level, combined with his non-stop movement and other undesirable behaviors as a result of his ADHD diagnosis.
It was difficult because I had had expectations, and my expectations had not been met. Even worse, I didn’t think they would ever be.
In hindsight, that was my problem, not my son’s, and it took me a couple more years to figure that out. Once I did, things improved considerably, for both of us. A very important lesson needed to be learned, and now I share that lesson with you.
Parents: Have hopes for your children versus having expectations.
As parents, we have big dreams when our children are born. We want them to be well behaved, ambitious, smart, self-sufficient, competitive, yet compassionate and kind as well. That’s a tall order.
The reality is, we don’t know what we’re going to get but that never enters your thought process. Even if you know someone that has a “challenging” child, your thoughts will always be, “not my child.”
The funny thing is no one gets the child they were expecting, even our parents didn’t get the children they were expecting, they got us! But somehow, here we were in the same shoes trying to achieve the same goals our parents had. That’s where it gets tricky with expectations.
Expectations, or should I say unfulfilled expectations, can lead to the greatest disappointments. You can expect that your kids will follow your rules, values, morals, and traditions you model, but don't be surprised when that doesn't happen.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s not that they are bad kids and willfully going out of their way to get under our skin, they are individuals, and they are going to be who they are going to be. We as parents also say, “I’m going to raise my kids the way I was raised,” and that just can’t be done. We were raised in a totally different time and what worked then, has a low probability of working now.
The main factor is individuality. Two kids can be born to the same parents, live in the same house, in the same environment, and raised to the same standards and turn out vastly different in their behavior, outlook, and achievements. Therefore, the adoption of hope in this situation will take you much further than old school parenting and ridged expectations ever will.
Some would say a lot depends on nurture versus nature but it’s really anyone’s guess. We do our best and hope for the best. In the end, our kids may want to please us, but it’s not their job to please us or meet our expectations. We're not here to meet theirs either.
So where do we turn? It's all about hope.
Hope doesn’t lock you into a definite outcome.
Hope opens possibilities that can lead to successful outcomes.
Hope keeps you grounded and away from the stress-inducing situations that having expectations produce.
Hope keeps us more rational, present, and more pleasant for our kids to communicate with.
If we’re busy laying out our expectations, where does that leave room for curiosity and creativity? Why would they comply with tyrants? How does doing so leave them feeling after an interaction with a parent that couldn’t see through the fog of expectations? Fearful and judged?
That’s not where we want to be.
Parenting with hope requires a lot of understanding and flexibility. I’m not talking about leniency, just the ability to meet your child where they are and yet instill in them life skills to go out into the world and be the best representation of themselves and you.
What does parenting with hope versus expectations look like? It looks like pulling back your emotional investment to a more reasonable, achievable level. It looks like…
Telling your child to have fun playing a game versus telling them to go score points and critiquing their performance post-game.
Saying “I know you will do your very best,” versus “You better get an A on that test.”
Encouraging your child to pursue an activity or area of study that interests them, not pushing them to join a premier group or gain acceptance to a program you think is best for them.
Hope is also the realization that your child may not be where you’d thought they’d be, but that they will get there in their own time.
Sharing your disapproval and disappointment with your child only makes a situation more volatile. Were you a high achieving person grateful for the encouragement and support of your parents, but would have liked a bit more understanding as well? If so, remember that feeling and try to provide your kids with the opportunity you didn’t get.
Set the expectation that there is no expectation of perfection, only the expectation of effort, and effort goes a long way.
I think back now on my own childhood and there were standards, but no hard and fast expectations. When my son was young, my approach was the same, and then it changed as he got older.
So where did this new concept of "expectations" I envisioned for my son come from? Societal expectations, media, my own insecurities, and a distorted perception of how I “thought” he should be compared to other kids, and that was the worst mistake I ever made.
After a few years of trying to fit my square peg kid into a round hole, I finally remembered to let him be who he is destined to be, and I'm enjoying watching the process. It’s a bit cringey sometimes but I have hope. And what I think might be cringey, could be the coolest thing ever, but I'm a mom and my cool card got turned in long ago! 😀
Now, I enjoy my son when he's home, awake, bouncing off the walls, or vegetating on the couch. My expectation is that he feels happy and supported by me. Well, that's my hope at least.
If your expectations are making your relationship with others difficult, especially with your kids, book a call and let's talk about it! Working with Committed Change Health & Wellness LLC can help you reframe those expectations into hope and help you be Better4U and Better4All!
Take care and be well,
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