There comes a point in life, or many, when we question if we set the bar too high. Speaking from experience, I have reached for Pluto when the moon was more realistic. Once I realized my expectations might have been too high, I simply adjusted them to satisfy my ego. After many trials and errors, I have become more aware of my potential and the damage caused by lowering goals and expectations. As an adult, I would say I have developed enough logical reasoning to recover from the setbacks of not hitting my goals. But my question is, what happens when we lower expectations for our children after they didn’t meet their goal?
Think about a child’s mind and their development of reasoning. When a parent’s expectation is kept too high or lowered due to a lack of confidence in their child, what effect does that have on the child’s self-image as well as their confidence in reaching higher heights? Think about how the child processes their parent’s disappointment.
So, what happens when your expectations are not met? Do you change them, force them on your kid, or just give up and let whatever happens happen?
My advice: keep your expectations right where they are, but add some supports and accommodations to help your child get there.
What are those supports and accommodations? You have many options.
Before we develop an expectation for our child, a key question to ask is “Is this expectation appropriate?” For example, assuming your child who loves to draw, paint, and craft will naturally excel at and focus on math, computers, and programming might leave you disappointed and your budding Picasso hating math forever.
A more appropriate expectation might be for your child to create a drawing or craft by using shapes or programs like Adobe Animate, Adobe Illustrator CC, Photoshop, etc., which allows them to use their creative mind while incorporating mathematical and logical reasoning. This is a great way to provide unconventional options, or support, that promotes interest in non-preferred topics, rather than pushing subject matter they might not have much interest in.
If you have younger children who are not quite ready for computer programs, a great alternative to teaching math with brute force is to incorporate colorful paper, drawing numbers instead of only being shown them, or have them come up their own mathematical challenges to solve.
In cases of difficulty with reading or lack of interest in independent reading, rather than accepting the reality that your child will never read without being forced to, make reading a fun new norm, and family expectation. For example, part of daily family time now includes every member of your household reading a book of their choosing independently for 10 minutes. By developing an all-inclusive expectation, your child will feel a part of a team and might be more inclined to start reading on their own instead of treating it as another chore.
If that accommodation is not feasible, consider having your child read a book a level or two below their independent reading level. After they successfully read through three or four books, slowly increase the book difficulty. This gradual approach to independent reading provides your challenged reader with early successes in order to build their confidence and self-esteem.
You might ask “What if my child has a disability?” Whether it’s autism/Asperger’s syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Down syndrome, etc. there are several options for setting expectations for people with disabilities to achieve and become contributing members in their community.
Now, it may not be appropriate to expect your child with a disability to compete with and accomplish the academic goals of their typically developing peers. However, it is appropriate to help them get as close as you desire. For instance, one of our students with a disability avoids eye contact, is not as fluid in conversation, and occasionally yells in frustration.
However, after providing him with sentence starters, replacement behaviors, and allowing him to gradually increase eye contact during conversations, we are observing him grow more and more mature. He is more considerate towards his little brother and has even started initiating and maintaining brief, cordial conversations with friends and family.
You might be asking yourself, “what is appropriate?” and that’s a valid question. Personally, “appropriate” is subjective. Honestly, we never know what is truly “appropriate” until we give a child the opportunity to perform.
Our recommendation is to give your child the opportunity to perform. Provide an open and non-judgmental space for them to show what they can and cannot do. Frustration might result, but it does not have to persist. Push the limits, then back off and assist or accomodate where you can. If all else fails, consult with an academic, behavior, or social interventionist.
What are some expectations you have set for your children?
Let us know in the comment section below!
Jasmine Habeeb is a certified special education teacher who graduated from The University of Texas - Austin with a degree in special education. She enjoys sharing her opinions, recommendations, and current events on all things education.