19 Sep

Setting Realistic Expectations

Biggest parenting challenges

The other day, when my colleague and I carried some work home from office. We were busy pouring through files and data when her ten-year-old son walked into the kitchen. He wanted his evening snack. My colleague told him exactly where it was kept and how, after eating, he should clean up after him. She also told him how she trusted him to clean up after him. She reiterated that because he was known to be adoringly lazy. She spoke to him lovingly and respectfully.
And a child whom I myself on many occasions had observed exhibiting sloppy or lazy behavior, had his snack and cleaned the table afterward, put away his plate and spoon and even rinsed them clean.Setting clear expectations helps everyone involved. Not telling your kids what you want them to do and then expecting them to understand and learn on their own can be foolhardy.
“Stop that!” “Don’t do that.” “Don’t eat cheese.” “Eat this, or else..” “Don’t fight with your brother!” “I told you to stop doing this…”
Are these common dialogues with your kids? Such vague, sometimes rude, instructions don’t help kids. Kids, in fact go on to do exactly the opposite of all this. It could just could be disobedience. Or they are probably receiving unclear and inconsistent expectations.
Kids do really well when their parents and teachers have clear, realistic expectations out of them. It is important to do that. It helps your kids understand and learn. So here’s a guide to setting realistic, clear expectations with your kids:

  1. Understand your child’s personality: Know their strengths and weaknesses. No need to discuss them, but find out. Kids are evolving and learning constantly so these things keep changing. Therefore, you need to know your child well at all times.
  2. Foster open communication: Talking openly and listening intently will truly help you set realistic expectations.
  3. Don’t aim for the moon and the stars: Help your kids grow, one step at a time. If they scored a 50% in one exam, helping them get a 70% the next time makes sense. Expecting them to jump straight to 90% could lead to undue pressure and disappointments.
  4. Help them learn healthy habits: Waking up early, folding their blanket, eating right, getting some physical exercise, such habits go a long way in shaping a strong personality. Help your kids form such habits. These could be expectations where there is no compromise.
  5. Give them room to fail and learn: Set expectations but give them room to fail and learn.
  6. Set mutually acceptable expectations: Talk to them and understand if they agree with you on your expectations.
  7. Discuss about your kids reaching their highest potential: Tell them how success is not about impressing others but a self journey of reaching one’s highest potential.
  8. Be a friend: Don’t impose rules and regulations. Help them. Be their friend. Encourage them.
  9. Set milestones: Conquering them will boost your child’s morale.
  10. Teach them how to keep a commitment: Model it for them. Through your actions, your kids learn all the time.
  11. Encourage them to be honest, no matter what: That’s why when you don’t impose rules but set mutually acceptable expectations, there is no pressure. No fear. And no need for kids to lie to you.
  12. Be consistent in your behaviour: Yes, before expecting anything out of kids, we adults need to be consistent in our expectations from them. What is okay today, cannot suddenly become unacceptable tomorrow. Once we show consistency, they will learn in a jiffy.

Setting realistic expectations is an art. Being able to live up to them is a fine leadership trait. Understand the subtle nuances of this art better in this video by Naren, from our online parenting program.

Parenting Coach/Expert @ WOW Parenting Naren is a dreamer and a people lover. An unshakable optimist, he strives towards building a better world where everyone has a beautiful story to tell. He strongly believes that incredible parenting can change every human being’s life journey to something phenomenal. And that is his “Why” for building Wow Parenting.


  1. Indrani
    September 19, 2017

    In today’s world I think point #7 about how success is not about impressing others is very crucial to understand. Often, very often you will realize what you are expecting or doing with you kids is because your neighbor or best friend is doing something similar and you are under peer pressure. So next time perform according to your tune and then you will see automatically your kid will do the same.

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