The Importance of Expectations

 

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.

 

As parents we create the world our child grows up in. The environment that we create has an important influence on how our children see the world and how they see themselves. I believe that if a parent chooses to perceive their child as the immature person they currently are that the child accepts immaturity as their fate in life. On the other hand, if the parent chooses to perceive their child as a great person in embryo that the childís vision of themselves becomes one of hope and he or she tends to see themselves as someone with great potential. If the parent expects the child to become everything they desire to become the child can then expect the same.

All individuals have potential. Children have great potential. As a result, it is essential that parents look past the current level the child is functioning at now. A parentís task is to see their child as he or she can become. The parent must expect greatness. This is not easy to do. The following are some suggestions that may be of help.

View your child's misbehavior as a bad choice, ignorance, or exploration. When your child hits another child help him/her to realize that there are other ways to address conflict. But, more important than what you do to help your child is the view you take of the child's behavior. If, in your mind, you are thinking, "How can he be so naughty?" you child will sense that you feel they are "bad." If they sense this from you they begin to think of themselves as a "bad" person. If on the other hand you say to yourself, "Won't it be interesting to look back on the current time period in my child's life when they have become a kind and loving adult." When you think this way you child will sense that where they are right now is not where they will always stay. They see themselves as "becoming" not as "here to stay."

Another way to do the same thing is to picture your child as a plant growing. See him or her as a stately oak. This oak cannot become a milk-weed; it is a mighty oak in the making. This oak tree is small now and in need of a wise gardener that intervenes to help the tree become all it can and is intended to be. Nothing can stop this great oak from becoming what it is destined to become. You have the privilege of assisting and assuring that nothing interferes with this process.

Encourage your child to set goals. When a person imagines or pretends that thy will someday be a missionary, a kind father or mother, a mechanic, a doctor, etc., they say to themselves, "How would a future adult who is a wise mother/father behave now?" They will then modify their behavior to be consistent with their future identity. Who or what a child is preparing to become is a very powerful influence on present behavior. If for some reason they do not meet the goals they have set for themselves it is ok. What they have become trying to meet their goals is more important.

Avoid statements like, "If I can do it so can you." Each of us is different. When a child feels like he/she should be like the parent they loose the sense of who they are. Expectation like this also sets the stage for the old trap that we all get into. It goes something like this. "Since you can do it and I can't, I must be inferior to you."

Make statements like, "It will be interesting to see how you meet this challenge." This kind of statement, by the parent, implies that the child will succeed in their own way, no matter what the obstacles. It implies that the parent is playing the role of "cheerleader and guide" not "judge and jury". When the child feels the parent has faith in their ability to meet challenges they are less likely to get caught in the trap of feeling inferior. They are free to be creative and to find their own way of "skinning the cat."

Enjoy you child. Even a belligerent teenager can be enjoyed if we can look beyond their current immature behavior. Seeing your child as the future President of the United States who is right now doing stupid things in your home, helps the parent maintain the right perspective. Try to see your child's life as a video tape that you have the pleasure of watching. Sit back and watch the rough parts at the beginning of the tape play themselves out. Be there to encourage, cheer, cry, but most of all love the star. Anticipate the end of the video where the star has figured it all out and has made themselves into the beautiful person they always had the potential to be.

Expecting your child to become what they have the potential to become may seem a difficult thing to do. But even though it is difficult, one of the greatest gifts any parent can give a child is unwavering faith in their child's ability to reach their potential.