Bethan O'Riordan

Reset your unrealistic parenting expectations

Each week I answer one of your parenting and personal development questions. This week I answer “How can I set realistic expectations? I get lost and frustrated when unrealistic expectations aren’t met.” I hope you find the response helpful.

The word expectations is so layered, isn’t it? There are so many expectations for parents and children, which come from everywhere and everyone, including society, religion, family, friends and, of course, ourselves.

Modern life has many benefits, but I often think our ability to have too much information is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, a parent can be confused about what to do in a particular situation and read, research online or ask peers for their advice. However, too much information causes us to move away from what feels right and get stuck in the logic of others.

Within this logic loop, the expectations would try to run the show, and parents get pulled away from their sense of what feels right. And because every child and family is different, it’s helpful to tune into your own set of values, which then formulate your expectations.

Something I ask parents to do is to write a list of the traits in their household. What are the things that you and your children thrive at doing? We want to work out who you all are and what makes you all unique. Take a column for each person. Then do the same for the things with which you each struggle. Think about the times you all get overwhelmed; is it technology use, listening, or following instructions?

For me, it’s tidying. I am terrible at tidying. I am excellent at planning, cooking, and the emotional stuff with myself and the children but tidying is a big headache. So I’ve got a plan that supports me, stops me from getting overcome and helps me be the parent I’d like to be. Once you know this information, you can create realistic expectations based on your children’s and your strengths. You can tune into each child’s needs and be flexible without being upset.

Of course, this takes enormous energy and effort. It seems that you know that your expectations don’t fit your family, so perhaps you are parenting from your inner default mode rather than being the parent you’d like to be.

I know myself, and from supporting other parents, this is a kind of limbo. Yet it’s also an exciting opportunity for your family to create change and reset your values and expectations to work for you all. You’ve also given another great clue in your question to help you move towards being the parent you’d like to be. Feeling adrift can be quite a child-like sensation, so when these situations happen, likely, you’re not parenting from your adult self. In those moments of feeling lost or frustrated, you may have gone into your inner child. We all carry this part of us, and the inner child emerges when our unmet needs rise to the surface.

The transformative power of therapy supports people to respond to life from their wise adult self, who makes choices rather than reacts. Transformation is your inner child healing, allowing us to respond from the scar, not the wound.

If anything in this blog resonates with you and you’d like support to create change, you’re welcome to book a free call with Bethan here to explore your support options. Make sure you download your free 5 Steps to Calmer Parenting. If you’re looking for immediate parenting support, you can start your free 7 day trial in the Calm Parenting Club where you’ll find the answers to your parenting problems and be supported to become the parent and person’ you’d like to be..

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