How Your Parental Expectations May Sabotage Your Relationship With Your Child

GoodTherapy | How Your Parental Expectations May Sabotage Your Relationship With Your ChildClose your eyes and think back to the day your child was born. Remember the moment your eyes locked with one another and the feeling of holding one of God’s greatest gifts for the first time. Did you imagine looking in the innocent eyes of your child and envisioning the rest of their lives: Montessori preschooling, soccer and dance lessons, all A’s from Kindergarten to 12th grade, piano lessons, fluent in French or Mandarin, having nice friends from nice families that look just like our family, attend our college Alma Mater or at the very least an Ivy League School, no screw-ups in college, and then off to graduate school to be mommy or daddy’s next protégé.

Now open your eyes and fast forward to today and ask yourself, “Am I struggling with the fact my child hasn’t received all A’s since first grade and he’s now a C student in 9th grade?” “Or my rising senior just told me she wants to take a gap year and find herself?” “Or my 5-year-old refuses to play the sport I love and cries at every match he plays in.” Then your vision and expectations could very well sabotage your relationship with your child.

Parental Expectations vs. Child’s Needs

We as parents struggle the most when we become stuck in the mental utopia of visions and expectations of our children that have no room or space for imperfection. And oftentimes, this struggle is compounded when we define our children by who they are versus who we want them to be. We suffer the greatest as parents when we pursue a life for our children that doesn’t belong to them. When expectations are not met, pain ensues, and we often place blame on our children who did not live up to our expectations – even if our expectations are unreasonable. Most often, expectations come from what we’re used to, our family growing up, or our own personalities.

We’re taught to imitate something and want something, that we project onto our children, that doesn’t belong to us or our children, which ultimately causes suffering. If you grew up in a family in which everyone went to college and graduate school to pursue a career in law, most often you will expect, at the very minimum, for your child to go to college. But what happens when he says he does not want to pursue higher education, but culinary school to become a chef? Or what happens when your adolescent chooses to quit the math and science clubs and pursue creative arts? The inability to release those expectations creates not only a barrier between the parent/child relationship that blocks effective communication but is harmful to a child’s sense of self.

Unrealistic Parental Expectations

Unrealistic expectations are the thief of happiness and rob you of the opportunity to have an authentic and wholehearted relationship with your child. When parents remain stuck in the space of expectations, most notably unrealistic expectations, we indirectly tell our children there is little tolerance for disappointment, which can rob them of their childhood and make them more susceptible to stress, anxiety, and depression. This lack of grace exemplifies to our children their imperfections are inadequacies. The foundation of a healthy parent-child relationship is emotional security in which your child can be who they are without the sense of fear, abandonment, and rejection. Children, above all else, want to be accepted, heard, and validated by their parents. Adjusting your expectations of your child to fit their individual path and lifestyle they have independently chosen not only allows your child to exist authentically and wholeheartedly, but you as their parent the kind of joyous, authentic parenting free of struggle.

We Have the Power to Change Our Expectations

As parents, we have the power to change our expectations as we need to remember that our children are individuals and if we have formed expectations that they cannot live up to, it’s not their fault. In parenting, we should love unconditionally and lean upon a higher understanding to gain insight and awareness, and above all, validation and acceptance of our children. When we do so, our expectations will never fail to be met.

© Copyright 2024 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.


* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.