By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
One of the best ways to learn is from others' mistakes and missteps; today, I am going to get real with you in an area where I have made errors...setting expectations with my children for the school year. The interesting thing is I had no idea I was making a misstep and thought I was doing a great job. The pitfall I discovered was a simple missing step in the process, and I want to shed light on it so you can avoid it yourself.
Let’s get clear on what I am talking about in regards to expectations. In the Oxford dictionary expectation is defined as “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future”. Expectations that you hold for yourself can be a positive force in your life when you are working towards a goal or trying to put yourself in a positive mindset; I’m referring to the concept of what you think about, you bring about. As we have discussed in the past, though, thinking about what you want in life is not the same as taking the actions required to get them, right, DreamChaser?
The other side of expectations is when you hold expectations for others, like, for instance, your children. Expectations in this instance can be very positive, guiding your children towards achievements and accomplishments. But, beware of the pitfall that I fell into! Lack of communication! That’s right, DreamChaser, the place we fall short in setting expectations is actually communicating them to the person we have them for! We fall into assuming that the other person knows what we expect, why we expect it, and how to get there; and, it is the why and the how pieces that are often overlooked and are the difference makers in successfully achieving those expectations.
This is exactly where I realize I have made my missteps. My husband and I have communicated with our children that we expect them to give their best effort in school. We talk a lot about it being okay and expected to fail in their attempts, especially when it is a new topic, and that failure is the best way to improve their skills. We have actually gone so far in this piece to focus on what they have failed at in a day at school versus what they have succeeded at. We have outlined expectations for reading a certain amount of time daily and finishing any required schoolwork before they get the coveted screen time. We celebrated wins from teachers and discussed how to readjust the sails to continue to excel. We were rocking it, right? Since we encourage celebrating wins, these were definitely good things in the parenting department!
But, then, why did they complain about and resist doing the things we expected them to do? Didn’t they understand that those were the pieces to get them to achieve what we expected??
The simple answer is no, no they did not understand because we did not talk about that part of our expectations. Many of the pieces were in place with the glaring exceptions of the why and the how! The why behind expectations supports the importance of the expectation while the how shows the path to make the expectations become reality. We are all about sports in this house, so sports analogies serve us well. The boys understand that to be a better pitcher or batter in baseball requires putting in the repetitions by practicing. When it came to the expectations we held for them in regards to school performance, we told them what we expected of them but forgot to explain why and how!
As we head into perhaps the craziest school year any of us parents, past or present, have ever experienced, setting clear expectations for your children is more important than ever. Here are 5 tips to help you in the process:
Make Expectations Clear to Yourself First
You can't explain what your expectations are to others if you aren't sure of them yourself! Take a moment to get clarity of what your expectations are and why they are important to you and your child's future success.
Keep the Individual in Mind
Since every person is individual, the expectations for each child in your family may have slight variations based on individual interests, preferences, and abilities. To set your child up for school success, and keep from beating your head against the wall of frustration, individualizing your expectations is important rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Brainstorm Session With Your Child
Here is the crucial step to avoid the common pitfall of miscommunication! Explain your expectations including why you feel they are important and why you have them for that child. Then, work with your child to figure out how to reach them. Having your child be part of the process may help with buy in and commitment.
Write Them Down with the Plan
Once you have the expectations defined with a plan, have your child write this down. Useful tools here might be a schedule, checklists, or progress tracker.
Reassess and Readjust
At the end of each week, take time to check progress. Are assignments completed? How is your child progressing? Check in with your child's teachers to see if there are any concerns or to seek further clarification on assignments or expectations. This is the time to adjust your expectations based on how things are going. You may need to reinforce, rediscuss, or redesign the process with your student to continue moving in a positive direction.
I know…I know...this sounds like it will take effort. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, DreamChaser; one of our goals at SoulShine is to give you guidance while keeping it real. With some exceptions, many of us parents are not teachers. This virtual school was not part of the plan but here we are. Setting expectations with your children will take effort and time. But, like many things, the effort you put into this will pay off in spades and make this virtual school year go more smoothly. You might just find it's a process worth continuing.
You got this, Dreamchaser! Shine on!
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.