Expectations – A Powerful Tool of Parenting
As a young parent, I naturally had high expectations for my children. These heightened standards, however, could get confused with developing a talent or achieving a goal. Later in my parenting, I connected my expectations with character and expressing a deeper purpose in life, which is the way I was raised.
With our first child, I decided it was important that she walk before she was one year old. Apparently, I had walked at 11 months and it felt like an important precursor to success; my job was to help her achieve this milestone. I told myself it would be good for her and help her get ahead in life, but looking back, I can see that it was clearly tied to my own ego as a parent. (Perhaps there was a little competition with my husband, who didn’t’ walk until 14 months.)
I would walk Sarah around the house, holding her hands and encouraging her to take steps with her 10 month old legs. A good parent could surely create a successful outcome to give her young daughter confidence, right?
In my own growing up, the core principle in our home was ‘do your best.’ My step father often said, ‘there is no such word as can’t’ and we were sometimes pushed beyond reasonable limits. But I knew the expectations were tied to our character and integrity. Grades were important, but our effort was more important. A lot wasn’t always said, but I just knew these were the expectations.
I have always valued this foundation in my life, but like my attempt at controlling the outcome of my daughter’s walking I can get confused with two temptations. The first is to focus on the achievement as its own reward, to the detriment of effort, hard work, learning from failure and perseverance. The second pit fall is to lower my expectations so it would be easier for my children to succeed.
I think parents can be confused sometime s about setting high expectations and letting go of the outcome, one of the Biggest Job priorities. We must always keep the high standards for our children and for ourselves. This honors our potential and serves as inspiration and challenge. Saying to our children, ‘I expect your best effort’ (and meaning it) is a powerful message. But we do have to let go of controlling the outcome and letting our ego set the expectations. This has been an important lesson for me as a parent.