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4 Signs You Need to Lower Your Expectations

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It was easier to connect with my son when he was little. While we were playing with LEGOs or coloring, the conversation was easy. A few questions about his day didn’t annoy him and we had more opportunities to be together. Now as a self-driving 17-year-old who’s almost finished with high school, we don’t get the same amount or type of one-on-one interaction. The truth is that even when we do have a minute to chat, the topics of conversation usually weigh heavily in the “numbers” column, also known as the “How successful have you been today?” column.

My questions tend to sound like this: What’s your GPA right now? How many points did you score in your game? How many community service hours do you have left? Every question I ask seems to revolve around a number and an expectation. It was only when my son started to display a certain pattern of behaviors that I realized he thought I only cared about his achievements. So, if your child does these 4 things, it could mean he or she is thinking, “My parents expect too much from me.”

1. Lies About Grades

These days, with parent portals and auto-send emails, keeping a bad grade a secret is nearly impossible for kids. The old “turn a big red capital D into a B” trick doesn’t work anymore. So if you ask about grades and the answer you get from your kid is different from the notification, then your child might be lying in order to save him or herself from consequences.

Not all kids who lie about grades are saying that “my parents expect too much from me.” However, children who consistently make up imaginary good grades may be feeling scared that they just can’t measure up to the expectations you have for them.

2. Gets Defensive Easily and Avoids You

Do you frequently hear any of these tell-tale exclamatory phrases from your child? “It’s fine, Mom!” (followed by a door slam), “I don’t know, Mom! My teacher hasn’t graded the tests yet. I’m just going to my room to do homework,” or “I told you! I already finished that. Can I just go to Tyler’s house for dinner?”

While these phrases in isolation don’t mean your parental expectations are too high, when paired with a lie or two about a bad grade, it could mean your child is getting stressed out by the types of questions you’re routinely asking. Questions that revolve around how your kids are performing instead of who or how they are eventually evoke defensive and avoidant reactions.

Questions that revolve around how your kids are performing instead of who or how they are eventually evoke defensive and avoidant reactions. Click To Tweet

3. Gives up Before Even Trying

Kids who give up before even giving something a try could be asking themselves, “Why should I try at all if my full effort in third place won’t be good enough?” “My parents expect too much from me, so why should I try at all?”

Always notice and incentivize your child’s efforts first instead of just rewarding the final outcome. Rewarding only the outcome that you desire as a parent can feel judgmental and shallow to kids who are trying their best but still aren’t able to finish near the top.

4. Doesn’t Sleep Well

While there are many reasons a child doesn’t sleep well, sleeplessness combined with any of these other behaviors might be a sign he or she is feeling the pressure. If your child can’t fall asleep even when exhausted from physical activity, he or she may have a mind racing with to-do lists. As parents, almost all of us can empathize with this type of insomnia. However, it shouldn’t be happening to your child on a regular basis.

While the stakes are high and competition is fierce in many realms of our kids’ worlds these days, their homes should not be one of those environments. Home should be your child’s shelter, relief, and safety from the world’s cutthroat expectations, not a place where kids have to prove themselves in order to gain approval.

What else do you think kids do when their parents have put too much pressure on grades, test scores, or performance?


Instead of letters and numbers, what more fun grading scale could a teacher use?

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