Surrendering Your Parenting Expectations
By Sarah Hamaker
What are your parenting expectations? Whether you’ve thought about this or not, we all have our own hopes for our child rearing and by extension, our kids. It might be that our children behave like little angels in public. Maybe it’s to have kids who express faith. Perhaps it’s to have children who do well in school or play well on a sports team or reach their full potential.
What most of us don’t realize is that those expectations are often not the right ones. Sure, it’s not wrong, per se, to want your child to graduate from high school, but here’s how our hopes and dreams for our kids can get off track.
- We focus too much on outcomes. For example, think about your child’s academic career. Expecting a child to do her best in school is a good expectation. Pushing said child with extra tutoring, marathon homework sessions and parental pressure to always get A’s on each and every assignment is taking that expectation too far.
- We put too much stock in success. Yes, we want our child to be on the winning soccer team and play well, but when we start talking about winning as the be-all, end-all, we’ve crossed the line. Better to encourage the kid to develop a love of sports and exercise than to over-emphasize winning-at-all-costs.
We ignore the sin in our children’s hearts. All too often, our expectations have more to do with outward conformity than the inward heart. I do expect my children to behavior themselves, but I also know that on any given day, they can do a truly despicable thing. This knowledge that they are sinners with a propensity to sin helps me keep my own expectations as to their outward behavior in check—and it also reminds me to help them to see what’s really in their hearts and guide them toward repentance.
- We forget that character is built, not born. We can easily fall into the trap of wanting the surface of our homes to be smooth, while not realizing that roiling bubbles are raging below. If we want honest kids, we must teach honesty—and practice it ourselves. If we want kindness to be the rule in our homes, we must help our children to be kind to one another. Kids don’t naturally know how to develop self-control, love, patience, goodness, and all the other fruits of the Spirit. We have to teach them, rather than simply expect them to “know better.”
- We want peace and order at all costs. Children are messy—and I’m not just talking about the LEGOs you step on in the middle of the floor. Their emotions, their thoughts, their words, their bodies all spill out over everything like molten lava. We often want them to be quiet and invisible all the time when in reality, kids were made to spill, sprawl, squawk and squeal as they learn and grow. We should have more patience and forbearing with the messier aspects of childhood.
- We need a parental vision for our children. This is the most crucial piece of surrendering our parental expectations. Do you know what you want your kids to be when they grow up? How do you see each of your children at age 30? Take a moment right now to answer those questions for each child. I almost guarantee that you didn’t put graduate from an Ivy League school, have a high-paying job, drive the latest model car and live in a fancy house. You put things like be an honest, hard-working man; a kind and nice citizen; a happy and content individual. All characteristics and attributes that are more intangible than concrete.
When we keep our eyes on the future, we surrender our parental expectations and embrace the calling to raise children who are thoughtful, honest, caring, hard-working, and good citizens. What’s your parental vision?
Sarah Hamaker Bio
As a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™, Sarah Hamaker guides parents in identifying, discussing and correcting bad parenting habits. She brings a varied background to parent coaching. Her parents took in more than 40 foster children during her teen and college years, and she experienced firsthand how traditional parenting worked with a myriad of children from different backgrounds. She has two girls and two boys between the ages of 7 and 13.
Sarah blogs about parenting on her website, www.parentcoachnova.com, and is a frequent writer on parenting issues for Crosswalk.com. Her articles on parenting have appeared in the Washington Post’s On Parenting blog and in the Local Living print edition. She’s also one of the featured parent coaches on www.parentguru.com. Her book Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City) is available now. Contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.