One of the biggest regrets my husband and I have is the expectations we placed upon our kids especially our son in his younger years.
None of the expectations had anything to do with him and everything to do with what we wanted and how we wanted to feel. Expectations are good. Unrealistic expectations are not and do not leave room for flexibility or change.
Clinical Psychologist Selena Snow says, “unrealistic expectations are potentially damaging because they set us and others up for failure.”
It took awhile for us to realize that our expectations were unrealistic and taking a toll on our son.
Life wasn’t fun for him anymore.
He felt trapped and did not want to make a mistake for fear of losing our approval. Taking risks was no longer an option for him.
When it comes to our family, our expectations must be placed in God, not our children.
Putting our expectations upon our children especially at a young age can create all kinds of frustration, anger and resentment, not just for the child but parent as well.
The Apostle Paul warns:
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV)
Unrealistic expectations exasperate or frustrate our children because they don’t believe they can ever be good enough to please us.
For our son, we were taking away the happiness he felt when he played sports and as a boy in school. A verse that was meaningful to us and one we actually printed out as a poster in our son’s room was:
“The Lord will be your confidence and keep your foot from being caught” – Proverbs 3:26 (NASB)
We learned that unrealistic expectations cripple and strip away a child’s confidence.
Unrealistic expectations are a snare to children.
It puts children off-balance, pulls their feet out from under them, causing them to slip and lose sight of themselves and their purpose in life. Their sense of value and self–worth is slowly eroded as we keep pressuring or encouraging them.
So how does one undo these expectations and the resentments that come with it?
- First, recognize when your expectations are strangling your child. Some of the tell-tale signs are they become withdrawn, unhappy, and lose their joy in the things they once loved — sports is a big one.
- Confess your faults to your child. Tell them you are not perfect and that you have made mistakes.
- Tell them you are sorry and ask them to forgive you.
Releasing a child from these expectations is freeing both for the parent and the child. Trust begins to build and communication improves as we allow our children to discover their identity without any strings attached.
Prolonged unrealistic expectations fan the flames of resentment and can take years to undo.