When I was in grad school, I wrote a paper about expectations. I was working as a Technical Supervisor at a production plant. I took over a crew of about 16 guys. Before I even started working with them, I was given the “low down” on my boys – one of them was quite lazy, one of them was always willing to work overtime, another was slow but efficient, etc. In fact, the first day I walked into my shop, there were drawings on the beams the guys had made, as a way to pick on each other I guess, that highlighted what I was told – here was R. sleeping (lazy), here was S. working like a madman (overtime), here was B. with a turtle shell (slow). My guys were equal opportunity artists – there was a representation of everyone, and although meant to be funny, to them, there was truth behind it.
My first order of business was to make them erase every drawing on every surface. Not because they were lewd and I was offended (believe me, I ain’t that kind of girl!), but because I wanted to erase these labels and expectations. It was a small move, but I will tell you that in just a few weeks, every single person’s performance and attitude improved and we almost doubled our production rate. I would also like to think the guys were a little more confident as well, because they sure acted like it!
The point is, whether dealing with an adult or a child, they will always live up to your expectations. If you set them low, they will rarely exceed, but always meet those low expectations. Some people say, yes, but if you set them too high, you are setting yourself and your child up for disappointment. I have to highly disagree. You can set yourself up for disappointment if your expectation meets the following criteria:
- Make sure it has nothing to do with the child or his interests.
- Do not, under any circumstance, give the child the tools or opportunity to meet the expectation.
A classic example is the parent who thinks Johnny will grow up to be a great doctor but when Johnny announces that he wants to be an artist, the parents will either protest, or they will accept it but still be secretly disappointed. Perhaps if the parent noticed that Johnny had great creative skill, they would have changed their expectation and started cheering for Johnny’s accomplishments as a budding artist. Then instead of being disappointed parents, they would be the proudest parents.
Or say Johnny did have an interest in science and medicine. But maybe school was a little difficult for him, and as much as he would have loved to go to med school, he either didn’t have the grades or he hated school so much he decided it wasn’t worth going to school for 5-10 more years. The parents don’t understand, and again, disappointment raises its ugly head.
As parents, we have a responsiblity for teaching and guiding our children. It is only natural for parents to have high expectations for their children – that is how we move forward as a society, you expect your children to be greater than you. I admit, I love to watch Moose and try to picture him as an adult. What I see is a smiling, handsome man, but the details of what he is doing changes from day to day. He loves cars and puzzles – maybe he will be an inventor? He loves painting and colors – maybe he will be a great artist? The possibilities are endless. For now, I will keep my eyes wide open and teach him all about the world.