4 Tips to Setting Realistic Expectations for Your Child

4 Tips to Setting Realistic Expectations for Your Child

School’s back in session and things are beginning to look a bit more serious. Gone are the carefree days of summer, now everyone is back to work, back to a routine, and back to responsibility.

As moms, we are born encouragers. We want our kids to succeed. When kids succeed, they feel good about themselves, which feeds into self-esteem and more. So what steps do we take to get them on track to being their best?

Children will do what is expected of them. If you set high expectations for your children, they will generally live up to those expectations. Expect very little of them and they will give you very little.

As a parent, it is important to find the right balance of setting expectations that are high without setting your child up for failure or causing undue stress on them when they are unable to reach those expectations. It is a balancing act and you know your child best and can make the appropriate guidelines for him. We too often doubt ourselves. I talk about this in my book, Become the Confident Mom You’ve Always Wanted to Be, and how we truly need to believe in our own instincts as moms and the knowledge only we have about our children.

Here are a few things to consider when setting those high expectations for your child.

Your child is an individual.

Look at your own child’s strengths and weakness, interests and talents. Set your expectations based on the individual. There are many charts, averages, statistics, and data that are out there to tell you what the average child of a given age should be able to do, but no child is simply average.

Each child is unique.

Most children do not fit neatly into any given mold and their unique abilities should be considered when you are setting high standards for them. Consider developmental norms along the way, but remember that your child is one of a kind.

I’ve had to learn this the hard way with having children from three different sets of parents in my home. I used to be under the thought process that every child was pretty much the same if you parented them the same. Well, I can now say, that is completely untrue! Parenting, personality, nurture, nature – it all plays a role in how your child functions and what strengths and weaknesses he will have. Being aware and open to this is important.

Don’t set your expectations based on yourself.

You may have been lousy at math as a child, so you subconsciously expect your child to be lousy at it too. Your child will undoubtedly live up to that expectation. This really relates to looking at your child as an individual. It is important to avoid setting expectations that are too low simply because something was difficult for you as a child.

Be clear and consistent.

Give clear expectations for the long-term and set milestones along the way. Show your child what is expected for the future. Perhaps going to college is a long-term expectation, but be sure to break the long-term goal into short-term goals along the way. For example, strive to maintain good grades and complete homework assignments regularly. Celebrate the short-term achievements and allow your child to enjoy the success. They will learn that they are able to reach the expectations that have been set for them.

If cleaning a room up before moving on to playing with things in another room is your “norm” – then make sure that is something that is clearly related. Be sure to be as consistent as possible with expectations too. So many misunderstandings occur everyday simply because we do not communicate well. I not only find this in my relationship with my kids, but it certainly comes into play with my husband.

Erase the all-or-nothing attitude.

While it is important to set high expectations for your child, be sure to let him know that falling a little short of them doesn’t mean he is a failure. When you reach for high standards, you still make great progress, even if you don’t exactly hit the mark. We can easily fall into a pattern of perfection if we do not learn to appreciate and applaud the journey to make progress.

The work that took place while reaching for those standards is valuable in itself. Praise your child for the effort and the accomplishments reached along the way, being specific with characteristics that you see along the way rather than general praise, like a “good job”. Instead recognize when they’ve taken extra time to complete a task with skill or used problem solving skills to fix their own mistake.

Parents who set high expectations, communicate those expectations clearly, and encourage their children to reach for them along the way do a great service for their children. Their children learn that they can do more than they may think, hard work pays off, and they are loved no matter what they do.

As moms, we play a huge role in teaching our children how to be the best they can be!

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