10/21/2014 05:29 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

Can You Trust Your Child?

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Trust your child. Really, just try it.

Trust that he or she is doing the very best they possibly can under the circumstances. They are calling none of the shots. They have few rights and zero power. Not to mention their still-developing brains and emotional instability.

We need to cut ourselves, and our kids, some slack. This will seem like bad advice in our overachiever culture, but here goes: lower your standards.

Please do not misunderstand me; I don't mean "stop caring," "don't guide or teach your kids," or "be a permissive, boundary-less parent." Not that. Just chill out a little and reflect on your expectations.

Your expectations are probably off, anyway. If you're going by your own memory of things, the likelihood of accuracy is low. You're sure you learned how to be a good loser when you were 4 and your sister won eight games of Trouble in a row. But that was the time you ended up under the kitchen table crying. You think you were 5 when you learned to swim, but you were really just walking on your hands in the kiddie pool. You know you were able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and really empathize in fourth grade, but you didn't actually get that lesson 100% until -- wait, did you ever fully get that one?

Alan Kazdin confirms that our expectations are way too high in his 2008 Slate article: "Why Can't Johnny Jump Tall Buildings?" I love this particular quote:

When we enforce unreasonable expectations, and especially when we punish according to them, we put stress on kids, who respond by avoiding, escaping, and becoming irritable. Ironically, that puts them off whatever activity, skill, or virtue we're trying to inculcate, making it aversive rather than attractive.

See what we do? Self-fulfilling prophecy!

How about a self-fulfilling prophesy of another sort? One that trusts in the inherent goodness of children? Let's assume that our child is doing their best with the tools and brainpower they've got. Let's aim to inspire situational awareness instead of blind obedience. How about an I-know-you-can-do-it type prophecy? Or an I-trust-you-to-remember-on-your-own prophecy? Wait one minute before you nag or prompt. Does it really matter if they say "please" EVERY time? Be patient! They will say it, they will learn.

Be patient -- that's what we are always telling them.

Trust your child. Ease your expectations. Relax.

She is a good kid. He will do the right thing. Mistakes are how humans learn. Get out of the way.

Assume the best and trust your child.

This post originally appeared on You can find Sarah on Facebook and Twitter.