If we could come up with some kind of all-encompassing study detailing how much of relational conflict is tied to unmet expectations, I have a hunch the percentage would be pretty high. When we compare people in our lives to our lofty ideals and preconceived notions of what they should be like, we’re not using a fair measuring stick; frustration is the natural result, both for us and for them. When it comes to our kids, falling prey to the expectations trap can have devastating results on both their self image and our relationships with them. To evaluate whether you’re guilty of having unfair expectations for your teen, ask yourself the following questions.
Are You Into Your Dreams, or Your Teen’s?
Of course, there’s the stereotypical issue of dads pushing their musical sons into playing football , but there are plenty of other ways that parents can push their own agendas on their kids. Instead, we do well to consider individual taste and giftedness and to let our teens choose their own areas of interest. Trying to put a round peg into a square hole can be more than exhausting for you—it can be extremely frustrating to your son or daughter. When you embrace your teen as an individual, fearfully and wonderfully made by their Creator, you’ll be on your way to helping your teen find areas and activities that will help them thrive. Even if your teen’s interests don’t match your own, you can find ways to learn more about those areas and support your son or daughter’s personal ambitions.
Are They Realistic, Based on Aptitude?
No matter what your teen finds interesting, there are some basic disciplines and classes that need to be mastered or completed. When it comes to school work, I’ve heard moms expect straight A’s simply because “it’s in his genes to be an overachiever.” Not every kid has the potential to get straight A’s, though. We should certainly encourage our kids to be the best they can be, but one person’s best is not another person’s best. When hard-working kids who want to please their parents are given goals impossible for them to reach, there are some pretty negative potential outcomes. One is the temptation to cheat, and another is depression. If you’re not sure what your teen’s academic potential really is, you can help figure that out by consulting standardized tests as well as your child’s past and current teachers.
Are You Teaching Them To Settle?
In their fear of stressing their kids out, some parents fail to set reasonable expectations for their kids. They accept playing video games for hours on end as healthy a diversion as practicing an instrument, volunteering in the community, or playing sports. Texting isn’t really a legitimate hobby, and sleeping in is not an extracurricular activity. Repeatedly failing to turn in class work or skipping school does not reflect anyone’s best effort.
As parents, it’s hard to strike just the right balance and to hold up fair and realistic expectations, but it’s well worth the effort.