When we don’t expect enough of our children, they become lazy and sloppy and undisciplined. When we expect too much of them, there are other problems that develop. When children are expected to do more than they can produce, they may rebel, give up hope or think they are inferior and unpleasing to others.
Only time spent with children and the love we have for them can help us know what they are capable of doing. It is not easy to balance the expectations we have of children with their ability. We all have high hopes for our children, but when we force them to become something they are not, it is sad to see them hurt because they cannot please us.
Much of the rebelliousness we see in children is a result of frustration on their part. “Nobody loves me” is a common feeling that many children express. When a child does something well, and gets praised for it, then the “blues” seem to instantly go away.
Imagine how we would feel if someone sat us at the controls of a spaceship and told us we had to fly to the moon. Of course, we would rebel. We know we can’t do that, so why try? Children have a similar feeling when they are put in a situation that is beyond their ability. Where is the logic in thinking a child will succeed in third grade work when that child cannot do first and second grade work? Many children who are promoted in school, before they have mastered the requirements of their current grade, have the same feeling we would have when we are told we must do a job that we cannot handle. As the child continues to be promoted on into high school, quite often that child simply gives up trying and starts acting out in rebellious ways often dropping out of school.
Have you ever heard a child say, “What’s the use?” That is a clue that the child is feeling hopelessness. It is a terrible thing to be without hope. It may even lead to suicide. When our expectations are beyond the reach of our children, they see no point in trying because they know they cannot accomplish what we want of them. When they can’t feel acceptance by their parents, they really feel badly. Often they give up trying to please their parents in even small ways because they feel the parents will not be pleased no matter what they do.
Children must feel a sense of accomplishment in order to feel a sense of worth. Not living up to expectations of others results in a feeling of failure that is hard to overcome. On the other hand, when children feel that they have done a job well, their morale is bolstered, they regain hope, and they feel their efforts are worthwhile.
It is so very important to expect of a child what we are sure can be accomplished, and then to require that child to perform. Nothing succeeds like success. Children build on successes, not failures. All of us want to repeat those things we have done well; none of us want to tackle those things where we have failed before. To expect more than a child can achieve is to set that child up to fail. The child is likely to give up hope of ever being able to do that thing in the future.