What Are Reasonable Expectations of a Child?

To have reasonable expectations of our children is an important aspect of wise parenting. Reasonable expectations leave room for a child to be a child but understand they are on the road to learning to be a mature adult. Often I see parents who try to hold their children to a much higher standard than the child is able to accomplish or just the opposite, ask almost nothing from the child. Many parents who were forced to work hard as a child, either because of financial reasons or over-strict parents have vowed that their children will be allowed to just be "kids" and enjoy life. May I tell you that there is a happy medium?

EVERY ONE IN FAMILY SHOULD HELP

All members of the family should be expected to contribute to the upkeep of the home and to making life run as smoothly as possible. That said, you cannot expect a 4 year old child to make dinner or an infant to quit crying just because you told him too. You can avoid discouragement by setting realistic and clear goals and expectations.

Don't expect the beds to have military corners, the dishes to be spotless or puzzle pieces never to be lost. We are all human beings and make mistakes. This is a learning ground and as such we all need to be free to learn and change on a daily basis.

LEARN ABOUT CHILD DEVELOPMENT

I have always wondered why child development was not considered a core competency for high school students. If it were done, I think that the next generation of parents would have some ideas of what each age and stage of childhood is about.

Please check out a book at the library or pick one up at a yard sale on the natural stages of child development. It will give you an insight into what most children at each age are able to accomplish physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. That doesn't mean that your child won't be a little behind or a little ahead of the statistics. However, you will be more aware of what he or she is capable of and not be so frustrated.

BE CAREFUL HOW EXPECTATIONS ARE PHRASED

We think in pictures and your child must be able to visualize what you are asking for. When you say to your daughter, "Please be good today when we are visiting Grandma who is very sick." This leaves the words open to the child's interpretation. After all what does "good" mean? Didn't she just have a "good" time playing in the sink or outside with the dog. It is very confusing. If, instead you say "While we are at Grandmas I expect you to play with your toys quietly and ask permission before you touch anything that doesn't belong to you. Do you have any questions?" you will be painting a much clearer picture in her mind.

ALL CHILDREN ARE UNIQUE

Most parents expect their children to grow steadily in a diagonal line that constantly goes in an onward and upward motion. They want improvement on a steady basis with no backsliding or "I forgot!" The problem is that children don't grow that way, either physically or in skill building. They grow and develop in spurts and surges. I have heard child rearing described as the ocean tide, where the family moves forward, retreats, move forward again, retreats again, etc. You would tend to get discouraged if you didn't realize that every time the tide comes in, it comes in a little ahead of where it was before.

Good luck and God Bless. You do the most important work in the world.

© Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator, www.ArtichokePress.com

This article was written by Judy Wright, parent educator and author. Feel free to use it in your newsletter or publication, but please give full credit to the author and mention the contact information of [email protected], 406-549-9813.

You will find a full listing of books, tapes, newsletters and workshops available on finding the heart of the story in the journey of life by going to www.ArtichokePress.com

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