06/11/2015 05:01 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2016

Is 'Expectations' a Bad Word in Parenting?

Goodshoot RF

The teenage years can be as confusing and daunting for teens as for parents -- sometimes more so for the parents. Parents are left at the receiving end of anything from cold shoulders to caustic innuendos.

Yes, during the teen years, the emotional part of the brain is growing at a faster pace than the logical and analytical, and therefore teens are on the precipice of an emotional waterfall.

When you give birth to your child, you paint a picture of how he or she will be your dream child. How he will walk and talk and sing and dance. A lot of times, the child is nowhere close to that picture you painted and fell in love with. You parent the child in the picture, not the one you have in front of you, the picture that is the sum total of all the expectations you have of your child. Unfortunately, as the teen years approach and your child begins to form a separate identity of his own -- independent of your shadow -- the difference hits you.

It is in this moment that you see him in his rebellious avatar and your expectations are shattered like glass hitting the pavement. Many parents feel cheated, as if this reality was not what they bargained for.

Expectations can play havoc in any relationship and more so when it comes from parents who are living their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Most literature is around high expectations however, recently while coaching many families where there has been a complete breakdown in communication the prime culprit has been LOW expectations. When parents face the reality of their 'actual child' their expectations hit rock bottom and they begin to see him as incapable of doing anything well.

Labels are hurled at their teen to somehow make it more palatable for them to justify his existence. Parents call their teens everything from careless, lazy, insolent, liar, rude, unmotivated, lethargic, to loser and some more. Some parents erroneously think that the quick way to motivate their teen is to apply reverse psychology, that if they lower the expectation and communicate their disappointment then their teen would use it as a springboard to success.

However, nothing can be farther away from the truth. In reality the teen feels disheartened, let down and demotivated to try to succeed at anything. There is a sense of loss of purpose or drive because his/her parents no longer believe in him or trust him to do better. Yes, teens are a difficult lot what with the hair growth, the voice change, the onset of puberty and so many physical and mental weirdness that they are drowning in their own whirlpool of change. For them to rise above that change whilst feeling unsupported and unloved within the family becomes almost impossible - the teen gets further and further sucked into the abyss of cold dismalness.

Many a times parents comprehend the fallacy of their actions only when there has been a complete breakdown of communication between their child and them. The teen has either turned a rebel or a cold caveman withdrawing hurt and anguished.


So the key to creating a balance might not necessarily lie in discarding expectations, on the contrary using expectations wisely towards motivating and inspiring your child to excel academically and personally.
If your child plays his drums passionately point that out to him and EXPECT him to pursue his passion.
If your child has had an intelligent conversation on politics with your best mate and done you proud, point that out to him and EXPECT him to become a world leader.
If your child pursues golf like a pro, EXPECT him to continue to stay focused on the game.
If your child is gentle and well mannered EXPECT him to continue to be kind to others.
If your child solves maths equations in his sleep, EXPECT him to be a mathematician.
If your child is empathetic towards elderly and sick people EXPECT him to grow up to be a doctor.

As long as you hold a vision just high enough for him to work towards, he will be motivated.
As long as you hold a vision that helps him to focus on his strengths, he will stay confident.
As long as you expect him to stretch himself because that's what he might want to work towards, he will know his life purpose.
As long as you expect him to stretch himself to beyond being your child and towards the young adult that he is destined to be, and taste fulfillment.

Expectations is not a bad word - its how you use it to create positive motivation and intention to help your child grow his wings and fly in the direction of his destiny.

Sunaina Vohra
Youth & Family Life Coach
Athena Life Coaching
FB: Athena Coaching Solutions