Expectations are the Enemy of Parents.
I would say over 90% of the parenting dilemmas posed to me daily have one very simple answer; “you’re expecting too much of them”.
Our expectations of child behaviour are totally warped in society today. We just expect too much of kids (and no age or behaviour is immune). We expect them to sleep like adults. We expect them to control their impulses like adults, regulate their emotions like adults, manage their time like adults, observe social rules and niceties like adults and eat like adults (and as adults – our eating is totally screwed and unnatural, check out my ‘Gentle Eating Book’ for more). We expect them to consider the consequences of their actions like adults, communicate like adults and plan for the future like adults. If they can’t do these things we desperately try to ‘fix them’ and train and discipline them to do them (and frequently get frustrated when our efforts fail).
The thing is babies can’t do these things. Toddlers can’t do these things. School aged children can’t do these things. Teenagers can’t do these things – heck, even adults struggle to do these things a lot of the time! .
If you take just one piece of advice from me – please make it be to drop your expectations. Stop expecting mature adult behaviour from a child (and teens are still children!) who has a totally different brain structure to you. It’s a recipe for stress and disaster. You can’t teach a baby to drive a car. You wouldn’t even try……but that’s what happens when you try to teach or discipline children to do something that is beyond their development and age ability. Understanding and accepting normal, natural child development is the way forward. Reset those expectations and if you can, adapt life around them for a while. This is the key to calmer, happier family life.
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