Expectations. I’ve been mulling over this word for the past couple of weeks. It is so multi-faceted and loaded with meaning depending on your own perspective. Personally, I have a positive association with the word that is not heavy with that built-in polarity that some seem to always associate with expectations (fulfilled or unfulfilled; high or low; etc). When I say that I expect my daughter to do something (i.e., put her toys away), I am saying:

I trust my daughter to put her toys away. I believe my daughter is capable of putting her toys away. I have no reason to doubt that my daughter will put her toys away.

But for some, they hear:

I take for granted that my daughter will put her toys away. I will be disappointed if my daughter does not put her toys away.


I initially looked at the second connotation as a wild departure from my personal interpretation of expectations; the word has been imbued with not just entitlement, but this predetermined disappointment. The second statement is not actually an expectation of my daughter — it is actually a lack of appreciation and an assumption that she might fail.

However, even with positive expectations there is the possibility of too much. Because I truly expect the best in and from my daughter, I can be guilty of being a bit thrown off when she isn’t living up to that expectation in a specific moment. In those moments I have slowly come to realize that my daughter cannot be expected to do anything when something is missing, and it is my challenge as a parent to help her find or fill that missing need so that she can restore an equilibrium.

A little while back, she had displayed a few instances of what I would consider poor behaviour/choices, but when I reflected and looked at what she was struggling with I saw that her emotional tank was not full. In that moment, she needed more positive affirmation and connection to feel “right.” Instead of focusing on which expectations were not being fulfilled, I focused on giving her what she needed in order to fulfill them. I also had to recognize that she has an expectation of me to help show her how to right herself when things feel slightly off.

For me, bringing a different meaning to “expectation” and seeing my part in my daughter’s ability to achieve (in everything from setting up a prepared environment to keeping emotionally connected) has removed the concept of disappointment. Rather than going to the finality of disappointment when my daughter does not initially achieve an expectation, I am moved instead to look for what is missing so that she can achieve that expectation; I show my trust in her even when she is not displaying that trust in herself (or “earning” mine). I do not want to understate how hard that can be at times, but it gains even more power when it is hard and when I am filled with emotions and thoughts about my daughter’s choices.

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  1. Very good points! I have been noticing that it is so easy to expect my children to do something even if they can’t just because I think they should when in reality they want to, they just need some guidance.

    1. I was having a huge conversation about this on FB the other day; I really think that kids want to fulfill on our (and their) expectations, they just sometimes need a bit of help sometimes.

  2. I love how you mention filling her “emotional tank”. I notice that with my daughter too. Some days she needs a little more from me, and that’s okay.

    1. Right? Sometimes I get thrown because we’ll have had several really independent days in a row, and then all of a sudden, we need Mom NOW! … and resistance is futile πŸ˜‰

  3. I love this blog post because it really “hits the nail on the head” for me. I have so much to learn as a parent and in learning… I am seeing a deeper part of myself. This is a great question to ask myself as a parent, “What are my expectations of my child? and “Are my expectations realistic?” Pinned!

    1. Thanks, Vanessa! I think so much of parenting needs to be slower, and more conscious. I’ve found recently that the more hectic life gets and I don’t stop and focus on my parenting, I find the day-to-day harder.

  4. I love how thoughtfully you handle your expectations. Having identical twins has really taught me how individualized our parenting needs to be. One of my daughters finds it easy to pick up after herself. The other finds it hard. My expectations are the same for both, but how they are achieved looks a little different.

    Thanks for linking up at HDYDI.

  5. You make so many great points here. It’s a challenge knowing where to draw the line between wanting your kids to do the right thing and not over-burdening them with expectations.

  6. This is such a great reminder. It’s hard to not be disappointed or make their failures to do certain things a big deal. I like your comment about their buckets probably not being full as to why they aren’t doing what they should. Thanks for sharing with HDYDI link up.

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