Children come out of the womb and into this world with clear expectations; expectations that quickly become a reality for the parent or caregiver to meet. A baby that needs to be fed, cleaned, and/or nurtured will cry to communicate that these needs must be met. As children grow up learning that their expectations are met, it becomes second nature for them to continue to expect. While certain expectations are healthy, as children transition into teenagers and adults, they quickly come to realize that not all expectations are realistic or as healthy as once presumed.
Breaking off expectations or mindsets that were taught in infancy can be convoluted and difficult because it requires retraining. A child goes from continually having their needs met, to learning to be patient, having to wait for the right time, or simply not acquiring what they want. A child’s behavior must go from selfish to unselfish in order to adapt to this new transition. Teaching children about realistic and unrealistic expectations is necessary for the suitable development of their character.
Expectations placed on children should always be age-appropriate and realistic. When specific expectations are placed on children by parents or professionals, they work as indicators for the child’s developmental growth. For instance, to expect a child to walk at the age of 1 month is not realistic. However, as a child grows older, and time passes, walking becomes an expectation, as it indicates proper growth development. The same could be said about a child’s speech. A child is expected to go from babbling one word, two words, short phrases, and eventually to speaking in full sentences. A lack or delay in speech can indicate that an area of development needs attention.
As a child grows older, expectations may go from basic to increasingly complex. In some homes, chores are expectations and not merely suggestions. For some parents, expecting a child to brush their teeth, clean up after themselves, do their homework, take out the trash or make their bed, goes far beyond the task at hand. Implementing these expectations are a foundational way to teach children to be accountable and responsible adults. Expecting a child to be respectful and honor the rules of the home also aid in teaching them to respect and honor the rules outside of the home.
Children can recognize unhealthy expectations the world places on them when they have prime examples of healthy ones at home. Today’s world is forcing children to make adult decisions without the means to fully assess or to discuss the risk of harm with a parent. Teenagers are being inundated on social media with unrealistic body images and lifestyles from social media models and influencers who don’t fully depict truth. These false expectations in turn cause teenagers to fall into issues of poor self-image, low self-esteem, and to chase a lifestyle that can be toxic. Lastly, it is important to teach children that disappointment will follow when putting expectations on other people. Adults have already figured out by now that expecting something from others doesn’t always go as planned. If an expectation isn’t voiced there is no means of someone fulfilling it. However, even after an expectation has been placed, people have the tendency to let other people down; it’s human nature. For this reason, it becomes crucial to instill within children an understanding: someone’s failure to meet a child’s expectations is by no means an indicator of a child’s self-worth. While the world is full of expectations, remember that a healthy balance will require wisdom, dialogue, and agreement within the home. Till next time...