Are you frustrated with the parenting life? Is your child simply not turning out the way you wanted? You’re not alone. We all get frustrated with the efforts and results of parenting. Our kids feel the disappointment too. In my classroom, I hear students say,
“Ms. Campos, I know I am disappointing my parents. I’ve tried my best, but nothing I do is ever right. How am I going to tell them that I failed again?”
Your child has likely felt the same way at some point. Yep, EVEN YOUR CHILD! It is not our intention to make our kids feel this way, but we do it all the time. How? Expectations. We expect more from our children than anyone else. “What? No, I don’t, Kristina. Not me,” you might be saying. Well, I am going to challenge you on that thought.
We all start parenthood with an ideal dream. Think back to your pregnancy with your first child. You had high hopes and were full of excitement. You wanted that happy family. You probably even daydreamed about your new life as a parent and envisioned your child in your imagination. You saw yourself parenting better than your parents did and raising a great human being who would turn out successful.
What does “successful” mean to you? I challenge you to stop here for a moment and brainstorm words that equal success in your mind. Does that mean to have a good job, make a certain amount of money, or have a certain amount of independence? Then, what does your child have to do to BE successful? Get good grades, not play video games, become a good athlete, be heterosexual, or dress a certain way?
These questions take time to answer and a lot of soul searching, but if you take the analysis seriously- then you will get to the heart of your expectations.
Parenting disappointment stems from having expectations. You see, expectations ruin relationships and kills happiness. Expectations hurt our relationship with our children. Eventually, children will fall short of meeting our expectations, and when they do- they feel hopeless, sad, confused, and worthless. Over time, if our child keeps feeling that they are not living up to our expectations, they can eventually give-up all together, feel unlovable, and disconnect from our parent-child relationship.
It is not your fault that you have expectations! Most expectations come from society brainwashing us to “be a certain way,” but expectations can also come from our hopes and dreams. Expectations can come from our upbringing, or anywhere we were taught, “This is how things are supposed to be. This is what things are supposed to look like.” But the keyword here is taught. Expectations are TAUGHT. That means we can change our expectations if we choose.
I think parents expect more from their kids than anyone else. It is 100% natural to envision a home full of bliss and bonding, but we find out the minute you have a baby that will not stop crying- that parenthood especially- is not what we expected. Yet we continue to hope for things for our kids and expect them to act a certain way. We expect them to do certain things. All these expectations cause a significant burden on your child. The pressure is enormous, and when you keep having expectations- they will eventually fall short, and here is where your relationship suffers.
What happens when our kids do not live up to our expectations? They do not become the athlete, the musical genius, the straight-A student… that we wanted them to be? Well, this leads to disappointment for you and despair for the child. We are setting up our relationship with our children for doom when we have expectations. And what if you have a “people-pleasing child?” What happens when they cannot live up? “People pleasing children” put all their self-worth into pleasing you because their love language is Words of Affirmation. When they cannot live up to expectations, they feel like a failure and go into depression. Some children will interpret your expectations as “conditional love.” What! Conditional love! I know that is not what you intended, but that is how it is perceived.
So how do we combat this?
Parenting is Not What I Expected. Change Step 1: Identify when you feel disappointed in your child and then ask yourself if the reason for that disappointment is due to an expectation.
Parenting is Not What I Expected. Change Step 2: Challenge that expectation. Why do you have it? Where does the expectation stem? Is society telling you to expect that? Let me give you some examples:
Why am I disappointed that my child has Bs and Cs? Is it because they are not an A student? Is it because I am embarrassed about what others will think? Am I embarrassed because they will not get into the University that I want?
Or Why am I disappointed that my child wants to have a same-sex partner? Am I disappointed with what others will say? Is it because my upbringing TAUGHT me to disagree with it?
Being honest with yourself and finding the answers to WHY is tough! Be aware that you will likely try to make excuses for yourself and your feelings! But dig deep and evaluate your feelings. This will not be easy but understanding where your expectations are coming from is essential. I hope that this self-analysis on “Why things need to be a certain way” will lead you to an ah-ha moment, which then will lead you to surrender those expectations and accepting your CHILD for the person they are. It can save your relationship.
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