” I could never live up to her expectations.” How often have you heard this tragic statement in regard to someone talking about a parent? Sometimes a father, sometimes a mother, but equally heart-rending. Living with the feeling that you did not measure up is sometimes debilitating, but always hurtful. The offending parent may have never verbalized their attitude towards the child, but in this case actions do speak louder than words. Looks of disdain, ignoring a child’s presence or needs, just being too busy to listen all communicate lack of regard for a child.
Making fun of a child who makes a mistake, whether physical or verbal, is so hurtful. This can not only make a child feel inadequate, but can make a child feel like not trying something new for fear of failure. Parents must guard their speech to prevent hurtful words from wounding their child. Words spoken in frustration and impatience are especially scaring. One of the most harmful responses to a child is comparing that child to someone else in a negative way. “Why can’t you be like so and so…..?” “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
I have an older brother who was a high achiever in everything he did. He made excellent grades, was a good athlete, played the trombone, and NEVER got in trouble. My parents made it a point to not compare myself or my younger brother to our older sibling. They expressed pleasure in my feeble athletic pursuits, praised me for the grades I earned, and more importantly, supported my unique pursuits in artistic expression and theatre, things my brothers did not do. There was not a sense of competition in our home – but a realistic expectation that each of us would do our personal best. We are all different, and encouraging those differences is important. We tried to do the same with our four children, celebrating their differences and unique qualities. I can’t say that there was never competition between them, but it was self-inflicted, not from their father or me. The following Scripture is very meaningful to me –
Psalm 62:5 “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him. ”
It is natural for parents to have expectations for their children. We must make certain that our children know we love and accept them unconditionally. They must know that our love is not based on whether or not they meet our expectations. The second part of that verse holds the key – “my expectation is from Him”. We must allow God to form our children according to HIS good pleasure, not ours. I particularly like the verse Ephesians 3:20 in the Amplified version.
“Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–“
Now I can think of some pretty wonderful things to have happen for my children and grandchildren. Yet this verse states the fact that what God has planned for them is better then anything I can even think or dream!
So – the challenge for us as parents and grandparents is to let our expectations come from God.