GPS: Expectations

LadderOver the past few weeks I have been working on a series called Greatest Parenting Struggles (GPS). For links to all of the posts in this series go HERE. This series is based on comments from some of my Facebook friends when I asked them to tell me about the greatest struggles they face in raising their kids. Here is today’s post struggles:

Shellie wrote: “Also not putting on extra expectations.”

As a parent it is important to set expectations for our children. However, it can be difficult to know HOW to set these expectations. I mean how do we ensure that the expectations we set are not to great. How do we ensure that they are not too low. How do we keep from reliving our own lives and dreams through out children. How do we keep from pushing our kids to live the lives WE WISH we had lived. These types of expectations are not only unrealistic, but also unfair. It is not for our children to UNDO the things that we regret about our lives or to DO the things we feel like we missed.

Setting these types of expectations could end up causing our kids great pain. It could effect their sense of self-worth as they seek to please us and live up to the expectations that we set for them.

Demand Excellence. I know that it can be hard to know how high to set our expectations. We don’t want to push them too hard, but we want them to do well. Many believe that we should let kids move and grow at their own pace. While there may be some truth to this, we still need to demand excellence. The Bible tells us to do EVERYTHING we do as if we are doing it for Jesus, not for man (1). Clearly this is a call to excellence. I am not suggesting that we push our kids beyond their capabilities, but I am saying that we encourage them to do the best they can in all they do.

Let them be them. My son played in the band in 5th grade. He played saxophone, just like me. When he moved on to middle school, his mother pushed him to join the middle school band. He didn’t want to. My wife pushed and pushed. You see she and I met in band camp and together we had some great memories from our experiences in the band. Her hope was that he might have the opportunity to have some similar fond memories.In the end she let him chose his own electives. Band was something that she and I enjoyed very much, but our son IS NOT US.

Let them dream, THEIR OWN DREAMS. I love football. If I’m honest, this is probably what led me to sign my son up for flag football as soon as he reached the right age. This is probably what caused me to push him to work hard and be great at it. As I look back, I often wished that had played football as a kid. I feel certainly that I would have been better at that then I was at baseball. I often wish that I had played football in high school. But, these are MY REGRETS, not HIS DREAMS. It is important that we encourage our kids to dream. We can even use our experiences to help your kids to develop or achieve their dreams. But, we must be careful that they are indeed THEIR dreams, NOT OURS.

Examine your motives. As I have stated above, it can be real easy for us to push our kids to do things that either we enjoyed or as a kid or that we wish we could have done when we were younger. Set high expectations, push your kids to work hard and to excel, but as you do so take time to examine the reasons that you are pushing them. Such personal examination is not always easy or natural for most of us, but it is important. You owe it to your kids to do this.

Examine their motives. Sometimes the expectations we place on our kids are not even intentional. Sometimes we may find that our kids are doing things simply to please us, not because it is what they want to do. My first career choice was as a registered nurse. I still work as a nurse as I wait for God to show me where my next ministry position will be. Later I found myself seeking a life in full-time pastoral ministry. The fact that my mother is a nurse and my father a pastor is not lost on me. There have been times when I had to ask myself if I became a nurse and later made the move to ministry because that is what my parents did. Had I sought out these fields simply so that my parents might be proud of me? As parents we need to take time to consider why our kids might be doing the things they do. We need to make sure they know that we love them and are proud of them NO MATTER WHAT.

This certainly is not an exhaustive list of considerations when it comes to setting expectations for our kids. The point is to take time to think about what your doing when it comes to setting expectations for your kids. Don’t be afraid to set them, but take the time to do it well, your kids deserve it.

Footnotes:
1.) Colossians 3:23

Matt Norman

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