All kids can grow up to be confident, competent, and caring IF they
1) have caring relationships that convey positive expectations, and
2) are given opportunities for meaningful participation.
Expectations that are too high set parents up for disappointment and set kids up for discouragement and failure. Kids think, “I’m inadequate; something’s wrong with me.” This is one of the reasons perfectionism is so harmful.
Expectations that are too low tell our children that we do not believe in them. Children learn not to believe in themselves. They feel discouraged and probably won’t even try to achieve. I remember hearing many times as a young girl, “You can’t play baseball; you’re just a girl.” I was so disheartened that I gave up sports completely.
Expectations that are “just right” show kids that their parents believe in them. Positive, encouraging words inspire kids to “do the right thing” and help them succeed. Positive expectations can, in fact, be like an insurance policy against the “bad stuff” and serve to bring out the best in our kids. “Just right” expectations are those that are appropriate for our children’s ages and abilities.
A teacher at my church told me about growing up in a large, poor family with his wonderful grandmother. When he was about eight years old, his grandma looked him in the eyes, put her hands on his shoulders, and said, “You’re going to be somebody!” That statement put him on the path to becoming a devoted teacher for inner-city high school youth.
When we believe in kids and want good things for them, our words can uplift and inspire them.
I know this to be true because it happened in my family. I always believed that my three children were wonderful. Once in awhile I’d say, “Someday you’ll grow up to be a wonderful woman/man.” Decades later, I’m amazed and thrilled that they, indeed, are wonderful adults living good and satisfying lives. And I am grateful.
Maintain high yet attainable expectations for yourself and your children, and cheer each other on. Always remember to celebrate your successes. The long-term benefits will astound you!
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Louise Hart is a community educator, and author of two books. The Winning Family and On the Wings of Self-Esteem have been translated into half a dozen languages. A professional speaker, she currently teaches Positive Psychology as it applies to parenting. Dr. Hart has a Doctorate of Education in Community Psychology, which deals with the relationships of the individual to family, communities and the wider society.
Copyright 2010 Dr. Louise Hart is a Community Psychologist, author, and Grandmother.