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An overlooked parenting quality

19 November
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Last week I met with my publisher in Sydney to discuss future book projects. I presented her with a number of ideas and I wasn’t sure which one to tackle first.

Out of the blue she asked a simple question. “Which parenting qualities haven’t you covered in any of your books, or not mentioned in one of your talks, but are vital to effective parenting.”

I thought about this for a long time. And then it struck me! Of course, it’s Expectations!

I’ve long been a believer that you get what you expect from life. Expect to have a bad day, and that’s inevitably what you’ll get. On the other hand, expect your day to work out well, and you tend to take the any curve balls in your stride.

Expectations are very powerful, but we don’t usually apply them to parenting. But we should!

Your expectations as a parent apply to children’s behaviour, their learning and to their contribution to family.

There are four rules to keep in mind to help you use expectations in a positive way in your parenting.
  1. Match what you say with how you treat kids. It’s no use saying you want to develop responsibility in kids yet, you spoil or overprotect them. One mum told me how her pre-school aged daughter routinely emptied the family dishwasher under supervision. When I asked her how she achieved that she gave me one of those you-just-asked-a-stupid question looks and said, “I asked her.” “Doh!”
  2. Get the pitch right. If your expectations of behaviour or learning are too high some kids give up. If they are too low they will inevitably meet them. Try to pitch them just a little ahead of where kids are at developmentally so some stretch occurs.
  3. No explanation or apology needed. Let your expectations work their magic and resist over talking or explaining why you expect a behaviour or a certain standard whether it’s setting the meal-table, talking to adult or coming home from a party on time.
  4. Don’t trip them with negative expectations. I remember asking one of my kids to bring me a drink and saying, “Don’t spill it!” That was some show of faith!!! Sometimes our negative expectations about performance come to the fore to trip kids up, or make them anxious and risk-averse.

Later on the day of my meeting with my publisher the power of expectations was reinforced.

I gave a talk at prominent Sydney secondary school and the principal revealed that academically her students punch way above the potential indicated by their socio-economic backgrounds. I asked her what’s the school’s secret.

She replied, “Expectations! Academically, we expect a lot from our students, and generally they don’t let us down.”

It was a great, real-life reminder of the potent force that expectations can be on the behaviour and learning of kids.
Tags:
  • behaviour
  • children
  • expectations
  • parenting
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