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Expectations for our Teens

I have heard many teens speak of their parents’ over-inflated expectations cast upon them. Be better than average. Make straight “A”s. Don’t just be on the football team, be the team captain and quarterback. Don’t settle for being just another cheerleader, be the squad leader. Shoot for the stars, and don’t miss. The list goes on and on.

For most parents, they are doing it out of concern for their child. They aren’t trying to set the child up for failure, but attempting to give them greatness. Often, however, this backfires. Instead of working harder and being happy, the teen becomes a bitter nervous wreck. This is not what we want for our children, is it? As mothers we of want them to be successful, of course, but we also want them to be happy.

I personally have dealt with not meeting a person’s expectations and it hurts deeply. I have recently come to realize that does not make me a failure in any sense of the word. It means someone wanted me to be someone I wasn’t. It wasn’t my problem, but his.

“Don’t expect too much from me – you will be deeply disappointed. I will let you down and I will resent you. Don’t expect too little of me – you will get what you expect and I will never grow, learn, or reach higher. Expect me to be myself, to do my best, even when that is mediocre, and expect me to find my own happiness even if it isn’t what you would plan for me, and you have a friend for life.” ~Tina Toler-Keel

If I had the guts to say that to this particular person, I would. All my life, I have either been expected to be a failure from some or expected to change my whole being for others. I have never been allowed to be me, nor have I ever been able to express myself. My thoughts, feelings, needs, desires, and dreams have remained locked away so deeply I often can’t find them. But, I am working hard to change that. I am finding my own voice and speaking out for myself. It is a soft voice and more often than not, I am the only one hearing it, but it’s a start.

So Moms, let’s all start today and change our expectations of our children. If your child isn’t great at math, don’t expect straight “A”s. If they work hard and do their best, sometimes a “C” is something to celebrate. If they hate yard work but love cleaning house, don’t expect the hedges to be trimmed to perfection and all the edging done. On the other end of the spectrum, if they are awesome pianists, expect them to perform gracefully. If they are grammar perfectionist, expect “A” papers. But most importantly, just expect them to be themselves.

My ex-husband wanted our son to grow up to be a doctor. He has no desire to do that. He hates blood and gore and would be miserable. He does, however, love doing hair and theater, two things his father doesn’t understand. Through several talks and understanding, his dad has accepted Eric for who he is and is encouraging a career in something he loves. This is the epitome of acceptance, encouragement, and appropriate expectations.

If we expect our children to be perfect prodigies and be someone they aren’t, we all miss out. Our teens will resent us and either push us from our lives or go along with our expectations and be miserable. None of us want either to happen. We will be miserable because we will be sorely disappointed and feel like a failure. We will wonder what we did wrong, how our child ended up so far off the path, and blame ourselves for their failures, even though their lives may be rich and full. It’s a no-win situation.

Expect your child to do their best and to be happy. That’s what it’s all about after all – getting through life doing what we love, with those we love by our side.