All parents have hopes and dreams for their children's future, and along with those dreams come expectations. These expectations are parents' way of helping their child to grow, learn and succeed. According to the National PTA's Patricia Sullivan, however, what these expectations are and how they are enforced can do more damage than good. The key, she says, is balance. Use these guidelines to evaluate the expectations you have for your child and discover how you can best help him or her succeed now and in the future.
When your expectations are too high or not age appropriate, the results can be the opposite of what you intend. You may be trying to teach your child to be a high achiever, but if the goals you set are unachievable, your child may instead infer that he is a failure. Start by recognizing what your children already do well. When you set expectations that are based on your child's strengths, you allow him to excel and build up confidence that will benefit him the rest of his life.
Evaluate Your Expectations
Think about what it is you want for your child in the long run. Do your expectations actually help your child achieve those goals? Pushing children too hard will not likely help them to become the happy and motivated adults we hope they will grow up to be. Also think about what kind of goals you are setting for your child. Is getting an "A" the only indicator that she is learning, or trying her hardest? Does coming in first place matter if she hates the sport she's playing? What does matter is whether or not she's progressing and enjoying the journey.
Let them Guide You
When children are overwhelmed they'll tell you, either directly or indirectly. "When parents hear children say something like 'I hate reading' or 'I hate the violin,' that's a very clear sign to step back." says Sullivan. Forcing your child to continue something he does not enjoy is not only a poor response, but a detrimental one. According to Janine Bempechat, Ed.D, assistant professor of education at Harvard Graduate School, the ultimate goal is for children to be self-motivated. Let your child struggle as long as he is doing so happily and willingly. If he's uncomfortable, show him you are willing to offer encouragement and assistance when he needs it.
Let True Success be the Goal
According to Bempechat, the skills most essential to success are not always measured in the classroom. "It's the smartest kids who often fall apart at the first sign of failure," she explains. "Being smart isn't necessarily going to help you. But knowing how to pace yourself, how to keep going when you're completely stuck, and how to ask for help will." Don't set achievement requirements and assume your child will "build character" on her own. Help her to develop the qualities required to succeed--like dedication, perseverance and self-confidence--and support her as she applies these qualities to specific achievements and life overall.
Cited: Sullivan, Patricia. "Great Expectations: What's the Best Way For Parents to Help Children be their Best?" published online at http://www.pta.org/archive_article_details_1118085001546.html