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Our Expectations of Our Children

My oldest daughter started high school this week.  Let me just take a minute to absorb the enormity of that statement - my oldest daughter started high school this week.  She’s on the pep squad, an honor student, and she takes and takes dance classes.  I think she’s a great kid - and I think I stress her out with all of my expectations.  I can’t believe she’s only four years away from college - and we have so much to do.  She needs to be academically prepared for college, and socially ready to interact with a dynamic personality in a competitive job market. But what I am also learning is she needs to be happy, less stressed, and enjoying her high school experience.

As parents, we load our kids up with our expectations.  Our expectations for academic excellence on the road to university success, for extracurricular achievements toward a stellar resume, and for social/moral superiority in the face of overwhelming peer and societal pressures.  We read about American kids’ lack of achievement when compared with Chinese, Korean, and other immigrant groups and we push harder on homework time.  We hear about teenage pregnancies and dropouts and we insist on tracking our kids via cell phone GPS.  Our expectations for their perfection are high.  

At the same time, I find myself doing more and more of the housework, and wondering where the kids’ help went.  I attended "back to school night" and met teachers and their personalities and expectations. By the end of the night, I could understand why my daughter seemed stressed and was having a harder time getting her chores done at home.  As I drive the kids from event to event, I ask for just a little conversation about their day, and receive silence from the tops of their heads as they stare at their phones.  And wold it be too much to ask for an actual pile of clothes in the hamper, rather than strewn on the floor?  

So - which is it?  Do we expect too much, or too little?  Are our expectations of our kids too high, or too low?  Maybe it’s about putting the effort where it’ll do the most good.  For some, perhaps that focus should be on school, versus chores.  For others, maybe it’s sibling harmony and personal responsibility.  Some parents might choose athletic performance and external successes.  With my clients, I encourage balance, and selecting one’s battles.  

Every high school student is not built the same. Some are not academically driven, while others thrive. Universities are becoming more and more demanding in their requirements for admission. Understanding your child's strengths and weaknesses, helping them grow into adulthood and being true to themselves seems to be the obvious goal. Asking the high school student what their expectations are for themselves might be a great place to start. How do you see it?

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