By Viki de Lieme
People often talk about lowering expectations, and while that's a noble goal, I want to speak to you about (wait for it!) actually dropping your expectations. I know, it sounds radical, but hear me out.
Expectations are energy. Disappointment is energy. And they walk together, hand in hand.
I know this from my personal life as a parent, Mindfulness practitioner, and parenting counselor. I'm expected not to raise my voice. My children are expected to be on their very best behaviors at all times. And when life happens, we receive all the stares.
You don't need to be a professional of any sort to experience the expectation-disappointment chain. Being a parent makes you more than qualified.
The Role of Social Structures
We live in a society that views children as their parents' extensions, a society in which a child's behavior immediately reflects on their parents and how "well" they are parenting their children.
And since we are a part of this society, we too, subconsciously believe that if our children are misbehaving, then we did something wrong. So, stemming from this belief, we take action from a place of guilt. We try to "fix" our children to feel better about ourselves and our role as parents. And we do all of this only because someone looked at us with judgment in their eyes.
There's a straightforward reason why this parenting paradigm doesn't work.
Here's what it looks like from the parent's perspective:
- Child "misbehaves" -> I'm to blame -> Fixing the behavior will restore my self-esteem/respect/dignity/authority.
And here's what it looks like from the child's perspective:
- I can't control my feelings -> My parents are angry with me -> I feel out of control.
When we take action from guilt or shame, we perpetuate the same behaviors we wish to change.
Breaking the Cycle
Now, I would like you to imagine a different world where every individual is an individual in and of himself. Each individual is responsible for their own feelings, and their actions are their own.
In this world, people take action that feels good to them without expecting anything in return.
In this world, people take action because it feels proper and comfortable; everything they do, they do wholeheartedly.
A Brand New Reality
Imagine yourself separating yourself from your child's behavior. Imagine the freedom of being responsible for your behavior and yours only.
Here's what it would look like from your perspective:
- Child experiencing challenging feelings -> You take action that feels good (empathy/physical touch/validation) -> You build trust and connection.
And here's what it would like from your child's perspective:
- I can't control myself -> Mom helps me feel seen and heard; she gives words that offer me clarity -> I can breathe and think again.
Dropping your expectations empowers your child to seek positive change from within themselves because no one likes feeling uncomfortable.
10 Magical Outcomes to Dropping Your Expectations
I remember the day I dropped my expectations, and I swear - it happened in a day! Here are the ten things I immediately noticed:
- There was no sense of disappointment.
- There was a genuine celebration of life.
- There was no seeking of external validation.
- There was wholehearted action that felt good.
- There was no fear of judgment.
- There was no judgment.
- There was freedom to show up authentically.
- There was freedom to feel deeply.
- There was freedom to influence profoundly.
- There was freedom to connect.
If this list is not yet enough to inspire you to drop your expectations, please reread it from your children's point of view as they will be part of your journey.
What do you say? Will you join me in this brand-new world, brand-new parenting paradigm?
** Viki de Lieme is a life and parenting coach, specializing in Nonviolent Communication and Mindfulness. Combining these two practices, Viki brings the worlds of words and actions together and teaches how to live and parent with intention and clarity.