What Do Your Expectations Communicate to Your Children? (Part 3)

Rob Sutherland

Posted on September 24 2015

Following from our last blog and Jim Taylor Ph.D in Psychology Today,we saw that parents need to send messages that encourage children to focus on the process, to demonstrate their competence and achieve the outcome goals.

Effort Expectations  

If you want your children to develop that essential sense of competence, you should communicate messages about effort expectations, over which they have control and that actually encourage them to do what it takes to achieve the outcomes you want. These expectations are also within your children’s control. If your children feel that they have the tools to feel competent, they are much more likely to embrace and pursue their goals. Think about what your children need to do to gain competence and create effort expectations that will lead to that competence: commitment, positive attitude, hard work, discipline, patience, focus, persistence, perseverance. “Our family expects you to give your best effort” or “Our family expects you to make your studies a priority.”.

Notice that I use "our family" instead of "we your parents." This subtle change in language communicates several important messages. It removes the source of the message being the parent, focuses it on the children, and establishes the message as a collaboration between you and them. This cooperative messaging ensures that your children, as a member of the family, have ownership of the expectations rather than feeling that you have forced the expectations on them.

If your children meet your effort expectations, they will, in all likelihood, gain competence and experience the intrinsic rewards garnered from their efforts. If your children don’t meet the effort expectations, they won't experience that sense of competence and will also be disappointed (they should be). But rather than being crushed by the failure, they will know that they have the power to fulfil the expectations and gain competence in the future.

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