Expectations are funny things aren’t they? Somewhat of a two-edged sword, a solid expectation can lead your team, company, or marriage to the next level. But a misguided or faulty expectation can just as easily make life very painful, leading to failed relationships and disillusioned family members.
A healthy individual is able to look at expectations placed on themselves and others to determine whether or not they’re realistic. But what happens when one’s expectations are so high in one area and completely miss the point in other areas?
Moving our thinking away from expectations and learning to centralize our relationships on principles can be a difficult first step in the healing process. As a therapist I often ask questions of my clients that will enable them to go deeper and clearly articulate what motivates them to have a certain expectation. For instance, if a father and mother expect their son to not get in trouble at school, I’ll probe as to why they feel that way. It may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at some of the answers I’ve gotten. Selfish motives or faulty rituals often lurk just below the surface of an extremely high expectation, especially when it comes to our children.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten angry at my children for blurting out something embarrassing in public. I carried an expectation for my children to be quiet and reserved. Not bad in and of itself, but why was I getting so angry? I dug deep and realized my expectation was selfish. I wanted them to behave so others would think I was a great father. Realizing my expectation of a toddler being reserved was founded on selfish motives allowed me to reevaluate my behavior. In turn, I approached the situation with a level head and doled out discipline in an appropriate fashion. It also opened up numerous avenues for me to attain my goal, giving me freedom instead of limiting me to one basic action or reaction.
The principles you choose to live by are something very personal to you and your family. When you sit down to consider what they are or what you want them to be, make sure to take the time and really consider your motives. Involve the rest of your immediate family as well, and let them be a part of creating the healthy dynamic that your family will hopefully pass down from one generation to the next.