Each child is different, but if I have positive expectations for my kids, they will more than likely find a way to make it happen.
By Will Odom, Contributing Writer (and Erin’s hubby!)
As parents, we always want the best for our kids, but as a parent, I don’t always know how to make that happen. For me, this includes the expectations that I set for my kids.
Children need clear expectations and guiding principals in many areas such as discipline, respect, chores, and other parts of life.
On one hand, expectations can be a dangerous thing when misplaced, overextended, or inflated.
On the other hand, healthy expectations can challenge us and drive us to try new things and accept new adventures.
As a parent, I often find myself struggling to focus on the second of the two and not place faulty or extreme expectations on my children.
Yes, I have high expectations for them in certain areas, and while they are very capable in some areas and growing more independent by the day, at times I expect too much of their little bodies and minds.
While being in Costa Rica this summer, I have seen them blossom and grow. They have tried new things, sometimes willingly and sometimes with a little encouragement.
I have also seen them exhausted and overwhelmed with new surroundings, food, language, and culture.
Being introduced to a new culture when you can’t communicate is particularly difficult (especially for my social butterflies), and I have forgotten what it was like when I first came to Costa Rica.
I was reminded when my oldest had a very hard time with kids camp at first, but after a little while, she did fine.
My middle child did great at first, but hit a wall about halfway through. She had enough Spanish and was very frustrated with not being able to express herself.
After seeing their reactions, I remembered my own struggles with this and realized my expectations for them may be unrealistic.
While the lessons I have learned are specific to my children and our situation, I believe there are some general takeaways that can be applied to any circumstance. Here are 5 things that I have learned about my expectations for my kids:
1) I need to know their limits.
As our children grow and undertake new adventures, we should support and strengthen them. They will need our reassurance to bolster their confidence at times.
However, at some point, they will probably reach their limit. A point at which they may need to back down, regroup, and try again later.
If they are tired, we need to let them rest. They often may not have the stamina we do, so we cannot expect them to keep up with our pace.
To push them beyond what they can truly handle can do more damage than good. It may actually push them the opposite direction.
I am not referring to just letting them back down from everything difficult situation that comes their way, but as parents, we can often tell when they have reached the extent of their strength.
Sometimes we need to lend them some of our strength, and other times we need to allow them to retreat to try again another day. There is no shame or guilt in that.
2) They may not always be excited to try new things.
Trying new things is not always fun or exciting, especially when it comes to food or speaking a new language or anything they are not naturally good at doing.
We, as parents, need to consider their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses when we ask them to try new things.
They may not always like new foods. They may not always desire to make new friends. They may not always want to try a new activity.
Insecurity sets in, and fear creeps into their minds.
But we can try to encourage our kids to try new things one step at time.
If it’s a food, at least try one bite. If they don’t like it, that’s OK. We don’t all like the same things. They can decline politely and should be taught not say “yuck” or make strange faces (which I have to remind myself not to do as well).
If it’s a new game, play one round. They may like it, or they may not. They may need a little practice in order to improve.
If it’s making new friends, at least say hello and be polite. They won’t be best friends with everyone, but it’s important that they learn appropriate social interaction skills.
3) They may not like the same things that I do.
Our kids are not always going to like the same things that we do.
I love the Spanish language as well as Latino culture and food (most of it), but my kids may not.
They have been brave to try new things this trip, but they don’t like many of my favorite dishes.
To try and push them to like the same things that I do could dampen their own personal interests and hinder them from developing individually and independently.
Kids may not like the same music or play the same sports, so we need to let it go and stop trying to live vicariously through our children.
They need to become the person that God created them to be.
4) I should expect them to make mistakes.
Though I have met some parents who think their kids are perfect, none of our kids are.
They make mistakes, and they mess up.
They are going turn their nose up at something they don’t like.
They may act out if they are tired or over stimulated or out of their comfort zone.
Yes, we should have clear expectations for their behaviors, but they are not always going to meet those.
Yes, we have standards that we live by, but they will not always be able to live up to them.
We need to be prepared with how to handle those situations when they arise.
I often find it easier to think ahead about how will I deal with a certain circumstance it if does some up. Now, I don’t always do this and end up thinking on my feet a lot of times, but that’s often when I find myself expecting too much of them.
5) They can and will step up to a challenge.
Throughout the summer, my kids have surprised me time and time again.
When I thought they would have a hard time, they jumped right in and enjoyed themselves.
When I expected timidity, they showed courage and heart.
At times they may be shy or timid, and it may take them a few minutes to warm up. But I have found that if I gently encourage them instead of getting frustrated, it frees them up to step forward and try something new.
They have shown me that they are capable of great things when allowed to pursue things in their own manner and time.
Children are amazing blessings. Each one is different and will handle things in their own style, but if we expect positive outcomes from them, they will more than likely find a way to make it happen.
Our kids are not always up for the challenges that we present to them, and we cannot force them to take those challenges.
We can encourage them to try new things, but we also need to be there for support if they are not ready.
I’m not talking about babying them or never letting them fall and scrape their knees. They should to be challenged and need to fall sometimes in order to find their strength to get back up again.
But they also need to know that I am there to support them.
I can lead them, point them to the One who removes fear, but ultimately, they have to decide how they will handle it.
I have learned to let some of my expectations go and just watch my children bloom and blossom where they are, and it has been a truly unbelievable experience. At times, it has been a difficult one, but fascinating nonetheless.
I also pray that the Lord will use these experiences to broaden their worldview and give them a heart for the nations.