mother and baby elephant walking on a tightrope

What Do You Expect?

It’s fair to say many parents, no matter where they are in the world, often ask themselves the following: Am I too soft? Or am I too strict?

In Japan, there is a word 'amae', which describes a concept of relationship, and is shown in the behaviour of both parents and children. For children, 'amae' is shown by behaviour that expresses a desire to be very close to their parents (e.g., hugging and clinging tightly to a parent – or to their legs when they want to leave!). For Japanese parents, some are said to have the tendency to indulge young children, which is sometimes considered to be 'amae' behaviour.

The concept of 'amae' is considered by most to be both good and bad, to a certain degree: it’s a way parents and children bond with each other, but it can also be part of parents being criticised for being ‘too soft’.

Just like in any country, the values, skills, attitudes, etc., parents want to encourage in their children are not only shaped by their cultural backgrounds, but also by the culture of the family they grew up in. So even though Japan is considered a fairly monocultural society, many Japanese people have different opinions about the concept of 'amae'.

It’s not just in Japan that parents worry about others’ expectations and want to get everything about parenting exactly right. They may worry about whether they’re too soft, or too harsh, on their children. Is what they’re doing as parents reasonable?

While reading a blog can’t give you all the answers to these questions, there are two questions you can consider as a start:

ARE YOU TOO DEMANDING...OR NOT CHALLENGING YOUR CHILD ENOUGH?

One of the things for parents to think about is whether or not their expectations are realistic. What is your child capable of doing right now at their age and/or development stage? Every child is different. They learn different skills at a different pace. For example, some babies start walking faster than others. Some children quickly learn how to express themselves using words, and others learn such skills more slowly. Taking some time to observe your child now and then can help you to have reasonable expectations about your child – not too high, and not too low.

It’s also helpful to ask someone you can trust about your expectations of your child. Talking about your parenting to others can be a little daunting at first. I’ve met a few parents who said to me, “It’s hard to talk about what I do (or think) because the other person might think I’m not doing a good job”.

But often what you find instead is most parents have similar concerns and they can sometimes give you helpful tips as fellow mums and dads. I’ve met other parents who have said to me, “I texted a friend after I got frustrated with my child, and it was a relief to me that she went through similar things with her children”. If you’re not comfortable talking about your expectations with people around you, you can also talk to professionals.

HOW DO YOU FEEL TOWARDS YOURSELF?

Sometimes your beliefs and/or expectations about yourself can affect how you interact with your child. For example, if you think negatively about yourself (“I’m not a good parent”), it can be difficult for you to be assertive with your child when you need to be. If you expect yourself to do everything perfectly – caring for your child, housework, work, organising your family’s social schedule – you can get overwhelmed with all the tasks you think you have to do.

This in turn can make you easily frustrated and irritable, and your frustration could make it difficult for you to stay calm and patient with your child. It is important for parents to have a realistic view of themselves and remember everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS

As you think more about these questions, you can start to think about whether or not your expectations are too high or too low. One of the five key principles of positive parenting that people learn when they do Triple P is to have realistic expectations, not only of your children but also of yourself and others around you.

Of course having reasonable expectations alone may not solve all the problems you face as a parent, but it makes parenting less stressful, and helps you feel more relaxed around your children.

So as the year comes to a close, take some time to think about your expectations…maybe you’re doing a pretty good job of keeping everything balanced!

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