Great Expectations

At some point my husband and I began likening our children to little animals. They play in the mud and they jump on the furniture and they fight over food. In the past week one has peed on the floor, one has (innocently) taken a bite of her daddy’s finger, and one has broken the slat on a brand new bed. They are hardly house-trained and certainly not civilized.

We started calling them so. Little animals. It became a term we used often to cope with the exhaustive forces of parenting three children.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps they (the older ones, not the sweet baby) were acting more beastly the more we pointed out this aspect of their personalities. Or maybe we were noticing it more? No matter, I decided we should accept our children’s behavior for what it is. They are not miniature adults, they are wild and free and uninhibited. Perhaps I’m putting a damper on their childhood by admonishing them for having a scuffle in the museum or forbidding ice cream when they aren’t listening. Clearly I myself am imperfect seeing that I offer food bribes.

When I find myself repeatedly disappointed by their animal behavior, I wonder if I’m the one with the problem, not them. Are my expectations too high? What happened to my patience? Was I too harsh? Am I a terrible mother?

But James reminded me that it might be good to have high expectations for our children. We give them something to work for. We show faith in their ability to change. We force them into cleanliness in hopes that it becomes a habit. We teach them manners and norms and how society expects them to act.

(The rebel on my shoulder responds: who cares how society wants us to act?)

What do you think? Do we let kids be kids, or do we demand they clean their room before dinner and stay seated while they eat? How do we strike the right balance? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com with your thoughts on parenting. I love hearing from you!

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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11 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. If you don’t discipline them the whole world will think they are English children. Actually your job is to prepare them for the world. They need to practice their manners and clean habits at home. Children who are let to run wild become obnoxious narcissistic adults! My two cents. I am over compensating with my grandchildren in braising now.

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  2. I think about this a lot and really go back and forth with my parenting styles- lax and accepting to strict and firm… I do that because sometimes it just feels right to let her completely enjoy being confident and happy and carefree. But other times I remember her future will be full of challenges and I want to prepare her for those which can means rules and expectations.
    My own mother let me be free as a bird when I was little and slowly introduced responsibility through chores. Growing up I remember feeling hurt by her high expectations and felt like I wouldn’t ever measure up. Since then we’ve worked through that hurt together and I can see how fortunate I was/am to have a mom with such high expectations.
    The best parent is our creator and I think of the expectations He/She/It has for us to put us on this earth with limitless potential. BUT ALSO, with those expectations comes an unconditional love so no matter how often we fail we’re loved just as much and, frankly I believe, expected to become just as great.
    Love you Luce!!!

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    1. Oh, I love how you listen to your heart, Minta. I also love the mindfulness you bring to your relationship with your mom. You are a true inspiration. Thanks for sharing these bits of your experience with me. I enjoyed reading it. Love you always!

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  3. Hey, dont let your expectations drop. I sucks when no one expects you to reach anywhere in life or become a good person.

    Just dont overdo forcing your expectations on them.

    Dont underestimate the disciplining part. It matters a hell lot.

    Strike a balance between leniency & strictness 🙂

    Good luck!! 🙂

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  4. children thrive with consistency. You don’t want to be overbearing but they must always have manners, treat others they way they would want to be treated. example….one of my clients said she can’t stand it when a family takes children to dinner at a restaurant and the children are behaving unruly. When she was a child going out to eat was a privilege so they always tried to be on their best behavior. It shows respect for others around you too. Children may not show they appreciate correction at the time but later in life they may just say “thanks mom and dad”

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    1. Agreed!!! Well said. I actually wish we ate out less because it’s less of a treat for my kids. Gigi does love going to “a place” while Emile would prefer to stay at home. Jury is still out on the babe 😉

      We talk about respect a lot. Luckily they really don’t like being rude so it’s a bit of a magic word for them.

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