Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

2 teensRita, like so many daughters, came to therapy because of a tense relationship with her parents. Rita feels her parents’ expectations are too high and she can never measure up.

Expectations, when too high or out of line with a child’s true desires and goals, can cause anxiety and unnecessary pressure. I often see this in daughters who have eating disorders. Either they believe they must be perfect in all they do or they have received that message from their families. These girls are highly anxious, constantly worried that they may fail and never measure up to the self-imposed or family imposed standards of perfection. Expectations are unrealistic.

As children become more independent and autonomous with their parents, some discover that the push for autonomy is not always welcomed. Their desires may be met with resistance. In fact, children may act out or become disobedience in order to test their emerging confidence and autonomy.

As children look to parents to confirm their sense of self and growing independence, they expect to be reinforced in their efforts. When moms and dads don’t do this, children may try to please their parents by living out their dreams in order to receive approval. In the long run, this creates resentment and restlessness.

Parents have to be so careful not to force their dreams on their children in small, subtle ways. There is such a fine line between motivating a child to new things and pushing the parents’ expectations.

So parents, reassess your expectations. Are you asking your children to live up to your dreams and ideals? Or are you helping them sort out their own desire’s and fulfill their dreams?

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