High Expectations = Responsible Adults
By Susan Heid of The Confident Mom
“As adults, we must ask more of our children than they know how to ask of themselves.” -Dawna Markova PhD., researcher, author
It has become clear to me as I am raising 3 – well…. now hopefully 4 adults, that high but realistic expectations are essential to raising successful adults. With one child about to graduate and move forward with life outside the home, I am so grateful that I listened to my gut and mothering intuition instead of those around me who perhaps were asking me if I was expecting too much.
Parents who set high expectations usually see their children rise to their level of expectation. So setting the standards at high but achievable levels will cause children to step up even further. I have always taken this approach and have encouraged my children to reach higher because I felt I knew what they were actually capable of accomplishing.
I saw this over and over again – by setting the bar higher it gave my children something to shoot for instead of just being “average.” (Although there is nothing wrong with average if your child is giving their best).
I am in complete agreement with the philosophy that when a parent’s expectations are low for a child, the child senses it and then behaves accordingly.
High expectations move children forward, even if they don’t always succeed
When we have high expectations of our children, we are essentially saying, ‘I trust you, I think you are a responsible person, I can count on you.’ When a child gets this message over and over again, chances are good they will live up to our expectations. Children tend to strive to reach those expectations.
This approach actually encourages future goal setting as your child gets older and needs to learn to self-manage. The process of setting goals (or expectations) and failing to meet them as well as succeeding is something I certainly want my children to experience in the loving environment of our home first, before they are cast into the outside world and bombarded with negativity.
When those small steps happen – celebrate them. When kids make progress toward those high expectations, let them know you are pleased. Give praise specifically – don’t just give a “good job”, let them know exactly what you saw in them that resulted in their success. “You truly put forth extra effort on study for that test, that must have taken some perseverance.” When you can specifically identify a character or choice your child made the praise is received and you are making a deposit into your child that will hopefully increase with interest!
Learn from setbacks
Have you ever had a failure? Were you able to learn something from that failure? We can teach our children the same lesson as we help them address the setbacks and the failures. Handling them in a positive light by seeing how we can learn from the mistake and not make it again will give them a critical skill to get through life.
Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Encourage your child to examine the situation and look for other actions or choices they could have made in order to make that particular situation a successes. Do not just tell them what they could have done; ask questions to encourage them in developing problem solving skills.
Children, especially our own, rarely learn from lectures. Notice how when you start talking to your child their eyes glaze over? You have great wisdom as a parent, but your child cannot see this. Instead of spewing out a lot of information about how you would have handled a situation, throw out a question to your child.
“What could have you done differently?” or “What are you going to do about that?”
The first time you ask this you may get an “I don’t know.” But the more you ask using a kind and concerned approach, the more willing your child will be to take a look at situations and examine them.
Even when your children are very small you can give high expectations. Do you expect good manners at the dinner table from your 3 year old? If not, when do you think you will start? By starting at an earlier age and giving high but realistic expectations for their age and development you will allow them to strive to reach those earlier.
If you do not have high expectations of them, thinking they cannot sit at the table on their bottom to eat their dinner or not throw their food, they certainly will pick up on that and fulfill your prophesy. Come at it from the other angle and work toward a higher goal.
I came across a wonderful resource to help parents determine areas where they could set higher expectations and encourage their child to learn to be more independent. It is called, “The Plan – Training Children to Be Independent” by Merrilee Boyack.
When you encourage independence in your child you ultimately create responsible adults.