Parental expectations go a long way in nurturing children into becoming people of value as they grow. With expectations, children understand what is important to the parent and strive to meet up to the standards. However, these expectations can be both beneficial and detrimental to the child’s growth and development.
There are two types of expectations that parents have of their children. One, is the ability expectation and the second is the outcome expectation.
Ability expectation is that expectation parents have of children based on their natural ability. Parents are quick to challenge their children in words such as “you are the best athlete, I expect you to win”. Statements like these although seem encouraging are not helpful to the children in setting good standards, for if they do win at such events, their success is attributed to their talent and when they fail, the same cause is applied which isn’t a healthy system to grow with. The problem with ability expectations is that children have no control over their ability. Children are born with a certain amount of ability and all they can do is maximize whatever ability they are given.
Owing to the fact that popular culture today places more emphasis on results, parents too have over time placed outcome expectations on their children. “We expect you to win the competition”, “there should be no failure of any sort from you, you are to always be at the top”, are examples of outcome expectations placed on children. The problem with the outcome expectation is that the child strives to bring the desired result with little emphasis on the process thereby not learning that success is in the little efforts that bring the big result.
This does not undermine the need for good outcome in performance of children in every regard of their lives. This just challenges how they are taught to achieve success and how they respond to the expectations placed on them. The fact still remains that results matter!
To achieve this, instead of setting outcome expectations of children, they should rather be given outcome goals. This will spur them on to not just achieve but know that the process in itself is a success. For instance, a child who is tasked to score a 90 in math as against the 75 score he always gets will if given this as an outcome goal understand that even he/she scores 85 in the end, it is still success. Placed against outcome expectations, a child who scores 85 instead of 90 will be considered to have failed. This is what differentiates an outcome expectation from an outcome goal – placing value in the process.
In addition, to encourage success in your children, you should establish effort expectations. With this expectation, they have control over what goes on and your expectation will serve as an encouragement to them to become achievers. If your children feel that they have the tools to achieve their goals, they will be more open to embrace and accept them. Furnish them with the things that they need to achieve their goals by teaching them commitment, focus, hard work, perseverance, patience, discipline etc. “Our family expects you to give your best effort” or “Our family expects you to make your studies a priority” are statements that establish an effort expectation on children.
These expectations are worthwhile whether someone is striving to be a scientist, teacher, professional athlete, writer, musician, spouse, or parent. Regardless of the abilities they inherited from you or with whom they might be compared, children have the capacity to use effort expectations and the tools associated with them to be the best they can be in whatever area they choose to pursue.