Mother and son having a cute little fight with something about books

We all expect certain things from our children, but sometimes the things we expect do more harm than good. Here are five things to simply stop expecting from them:

1 | Stop expecting your kids to be good

If you think about it, expecting our children to “be good” doesn’t make any sense. No one is good all of the time. Everyone has lousy days. Everyone has days they’re just not up to doing the things they should. Everyone has days when they snap.

Expecting kids to “be good” also fails to teach them what is actually expected of them.

What you can do instead

Be specific about what being “good” means: “I want you to share your toys with your sister.” Instead of saying “You’re such a good boy,” say “Thanks for reading to your brother,” or “Thanks for putting your toys away by yourself.”
No one is good all of the time, so cut your kids some slack. Overlooking some of the “bad things” when they’re non-priorities and do no harm to your child or others will make your parenting journey smoother.

2 | Stop expecting your kids to act older than they are

Kids are many things. They can be angels one minute and drive you up the wall the next. They’re sometimes curious, sometimes quiet, and sometimes sneaky.

Mostly, kids act their age. Kids need to explore, try out stuff, be silly. Let them.

What you can do instead

Know that kids will be kids.
Be attentive to those kids who act older than they are. Just because your child acts older than she is doesn’t make her an adult.

3 | Stop expecting your kids to behave like other kids

It’s normal to notice that your son is more outspoken and your daughter more reserved, or that your daughter is the shortest or tallest kid in her class. We all compare our kids to other kids, consciously or unconsciously. While this is normal, how comparisons are verbalized can do much harm.

Evidence suggests that unfavorably comparing siblings can have far-reaching negative consequences on the sibling judged to be “less competent.” When we compare our children unfavorably to others, we send them the message that they’re not good enough. We tell them they should aspire to be like someone else.

Likewise, when we compare our kids favorably to others, we teach them that they have to be better than others instead of being their best selves. When your son puts in little effort and you accept his mediocre results because he’s at the same level as his friends, you send him the message that minimum effort is acceptable.

What you can do instead

Teach your child that you expect his best, and that his best is enough.
Focus on your child’s strengths and weaknesses, not on how well or poorly her pals are doing.
Set realistic expectations. There is evidence that children thrive when we set “great” expectations.

4 | Stop expecting your kids to conform

Have you noticed that you sometimes react differently to your child’s behavior depending on whether you’re in the company of others or by yourselves?

Many of our parenting habits are dictated by our environment. We may not necessarily agree with social norms or even some family norms and values, but we nonetheless attempt to impose those norms on our children – voluntarily or involuntarily.

What you can do instead

Trust that you are a good enough parent and be ready to stand by your parenting choices. Remember that your children learn much from watching you. When you stand by your beliefs, you teach them that their beliefs are valid.
Accept that your child is an individual in her own right.
Identify your own parenting priorities and values.

5 | Stop expecting your kids to be unlike you

Children, especially when they’re young, are often an extension of their parents.

When our children see us save regularly, they’re more likely to become savers themselves. When we have a negative perception of much that happens in our lives, they’re also bound to develop a pessimistic view of things. When they hear us yell because we’re angry, they learn that yelling is an acceptable way to express one’s emotions.

What you can do instead

Don’t tell your child how he should act; show him through your own behavior. As James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

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