5 Tips on Expectations

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What do you expect when it comes to your kids? I’ve often heard comments like these from grown sons and daughters:

“My brother was an all-state quarterback, but I played tennis, and I never quite measured up for my dad.”

“I made a B average in school, but Daddy was never happy with anything but A’s.”

Some dads communicate high expectations, and their children struggle to feel accepted and appreciated because nothing ever quite measures up.

These dads might inadvertently communicate that their love is conditional: “If you keep practicing, maybe next year you’ll win first place.” They may actually be proud of their children, but they can’t express it positively. Somehow, a simple compliment isn’t enough. They feel a need always to add a point of instruction. “That was great, son, but next time do this or that.” Their children learn that love has strings attached.

Still, expectations can motivate children to reach high achievements. Dad, here are five suggestions for using expectations in a positive way:

First, list the expectations you have for your children in areas like school, sports, behavior, and so on. As objectively as you can, look at each one and ask, “Is this expectation realistic? Is it too easy or too difficult?” Then ask this tough question: “Does my child feel like he has to excel to earn my love?”

Second, dad, communicate your expectations positively. Instead of relaying the message, “You must do this …,” give your child lots of “You can do this” messages.

Third, be aware of your children’s strengths, weaknesses, interests and dreams. One of the great dangers of fathering is molding your children into your own image instead of helping them discover who they have been created to be. But a healthy awareness of your children will help you avoid that common fathering mistake.

Fourth, be a reliable model. When you demonstrate the behavior that you expect from your children, the limits and expectations you place on them make more sense. They know that, when you lay out certain rules for them to follow, you also live by that standard.

Finally, love your child no matter what. A child who’s appreciated and accepted for who he is — regardless of his performance — won’t feel pressure, but freedom. He’ll have the self-esteem and confidence to excel.