I hope by now that you’re seeing not only the pattern I’m laying out, but the connections—how each of these subjects build upon the previous one.
But what’s special about this point in our parenting adventure, is the clarifying experience of watching how our WHY affects our child. That in the moments of being challenged, being ignored, or on the flip side—being listened to and respected (hey, it happens for many of us), we develop expectations.
As time passes, you begin to truly see the capabilities of your child and though you’ve always wanted the best for them—you start to gain a clear picture of what that looks like.
A Proper Relationship
Growing up, I never thought it was strange that my father, a great man, expected me to respond to him differently that I saw my friends do with their parents.
While I heard ‘yeah’, and ‘what’ come out of the mouthes of other youth, my father would correct me—insisting on my response of “yes, sir,” or “no, sir”. For my mother, the proper response was, “Yes, mother,” or “mom”, and “No, mother / mom”.
As I got older, I have to admit that there were times that I felt irritated. Yet I can also say that the only time I ever remember being slapped (literally across the face) by my father, was when I was disrespectful to my mother, snapping “WHAT!?” To her from across the room.
“You will not speak to your mother that way. Ever,” my father scolded me. “She gave birth to you, she cares for you, feeds you, loves you, protects you…and I require you to speak to her with the respect she has both earned and deserves! Do you understand me?”
This is still important to me in two ways.
My mother was and is as close to a ‘saint’ that I could recognize. If you ever met my mother, she loved you—and you knew it. Felt it in her interactions. And everyone liked her.
If you didn’t, well—you’re downright evil.
The other reason it’s important to me, is that the last time I saw my mother, we fought. I was unkind in some of the opinions I should have kept to myself, and walked out in anger, just before she left on a vacation with my little sister out of state.
I kicked myself and knew I was in the wrong—so I made plans on how I would apologize to her when I saw her next.
She died on the way back.
That was 18 years ago, and I still haven’t been able to let it go.
My mother deserved more from me.
I bring this up, because this is the same thing I have done in my own family since my first child was born. I’ve taken after my good parents and taught my children respect in how they address their mother and father, but also in respecting anyone they talk to.
My wife also assist me in this. Just this morning, as I called to Ruby, who is only two years old, she called back, “Yeah?”
To which Kathi corrected her by saying, “Yes, sir.”
Ruby looked up at me from playing with her doll set and smiled, “Yes, sir.”
…and I return the smile.
This loving encouragement transforms the way we communicate, and also establishes who I am in Ruby’s mind.
I am her father.
Her father has expectations of her.
This carries over into so many aspects of life, helping me raise my children in a clear, understandable, and consistent fashion.
- I expect my children to speak respectfully to their parents, and ANY adult.
- I except my children to say ‘please,’ and ‘thank you’.
- I expect my children to remain at the table to eat their meals and not wander about the house with food.
- I expect my children to remain in their rooms after bedtime, unless they have an emergency (which we slowly define over time) or need to use the bathroom.
I’m a bit sarcastic about this part of parenting, because in my mind it makes such perfect sense. It confuses me when other parents just don’t get it.
So let me say this in as clearly as I know how.
If you expect ‘nothing’ from your children, that’s exactly what you’ll get from the children…nothing.
Remember, expectation means: ‘a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future’.
Unless you guide your child and show them, explain to them WHY you are doing what you are doing, your chances of realizing your expectations is close to nil.
On the other hand—and I believe this to be worse—is that if you have no expectations of your child, you’re setting them up for failure in their own life. You have set the bar so low, and without direction in their lives, it’s no wonder there’s a generation out there blaming everything on their parents.
It’s what they were taught to do.
…by not being taught.
Think about what you’d like to see your child become.
Their personality traits, their habits, their accomplishments.
That’s what you focus on.
Manners, courage, intelligence, skills, applied talents, communication skills—the list is limitless—and then you look at the capacity of your child and make a plan.
Every child is different.
You know them best.
Ponder, consider, make a plan.
The saddest and most frustrated children I have every witnessed, are the ones where their parents had no expectations.
People who hear their baby swear and think it’s so funny and and cute, and they never correct it.
It’s not funny. It’s sad.
And I’ll tell you what—those parents regret it when the kid gets older. I know, I have extended family who did just that. They didn’t find it funny when the child swore back at them as a teen.
I’m also not saying you should be someone who plans out your child’s life and take over with your expectations. We’ve seen folks like this—the over-achievers.
Again, not judging here, I’m only saying think this through and strive for a healthy, well-adjusted medium where you imbue your child with tools and character traits that will benefit them and give them advantages in the world they will be compelled to live in.
You’re their parent.
What To Do Next
Go over your expectations for your child.
Think about the character traits they should have, and please take this as I mean it (with love and encouragement), so people don’t hate them.
Once you have a list or idea of your expectations, form a plan to consistently teach your children in positive, encouraging ways.
You’ve got this!
“If you expect nothing from your children, don’t be surprised or criticize them when that’s exactly what you get.