As a new parent, I didn’t really know any better. But looking back now, I see that I made a rookie parenting mistake: my expectations of myself and my child were unrealistic.
I thought motherhood would always blissful and joyful. I thought my daughter would be a compliant rule-follower like me and that she would always obey. I thought she’d be potty-trained in just a week, as a friend had told me her child had done.
I expected too much and felt frustrated by the deficit. Have you ever been there?
I’ve heard it put this way: Expectations – reality = disappointment
As parents, I also think we can assume: Expectations – reality = frustration
As we often do, we learn a lot of lessons through parenting. One of the biggest that I’ve learned is to adjust my expectations, both of myself and my children. I’ve accepted that while I love being a parent, it is hard work. I’m learning to try and remember that my children are children and will behave as such. They interrupt me when I’m working. They make messes and don’t pick them up. They fight with each other constantly. They make bad choices sometimes. They’re kids after all!
When we find ourselves expecting our kids to be more mature than they are, we need to adjust our expectations. Here are a few self-reflection questions that we can ask ourselves when we find ourselves struggling with parenting expectations:
- Are my expectations of my child age appropriate? Are they realistic?
- How can I adjust my expectations to free my child from the pressure of being perfect and myself from unnecessary frustration?
- What strategic steps can I take when I feel disappointed or frustrated at my child’s behavior?
- How can I have more realistic expectations of myself as a parent?
- Do I give myself grace to be human and have my own needs? If not, how can I improve in this area?
A former pastor of mine once said the best way to improve relationships is to not have any expectations. I don’t know if that’s entirely realistic because we’re human, but I believe we can work toward adjusting our expectations to meet reality.
Here are some realistic expectations we can accept:
- We’re not going to be perfect parents because there’s no such thing.
- Our kids are going to act like kids.
- They have their own unique personalities, they won’t be just like us.
- They’ll make our houses messier, but our lives richer.