Expectations of kids: Do we set them too high or too low?

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Do we expect too much of our kids, or do we not give them enough credit? Find out here!

Do parents set the bar of expectations too high or too low? Do we overestimate our children, or are we underestimating them? This is a question that has long been burning in the minds of moms and dads everywhere. Today, we're going to get to the bottom of that question with the help of a recent publication in Psychology Today.

The answer--as it turns out-- isn't so black and white. In fact, the real answer may be far more convoluted and interesting than you may have imagined.

Before we go any further, we need to discuss two divisive factions on the concept: the traditionalists and the developmentalists.

Traditionalists ("doing to" parents), as author and public speaker Alfie Kohn claims, believe that because young children aren't yet able to reason or understand long-term consequences, we need to tell them what to do and employ rewards or punishments to make sure they're properly socialized. In effect, children's developmental limitations are invoked to justify a "doing to" prescription. But the irony here is that many developmental psychologists and educators with a keen understanding of how kids' capabilities change as they grow tend to reject that prescription.


Kohn claims that Developmentalists ("working-with" parents) believe in the notion that no child is too young to be treated with respect. A child's point of view should be taken seriously and his or her choices honored when possible. Sure, the immaturity of young children may require more patience from us. Yes, they may need more protection and monitoring, more structure and instruction. But none of this justifies a reliance on control and a predominant focus on eliciting mindless obedience. "Working-with" parenting and teaching of very young children may be challenging, but it's not unrealistic.

With those two concepts in mind, we can focus on the brass tacks...

To delve deeper into these concepts, we'll first be noting a pair of studies conducted by the University of Texas and New York University, respectively. What these studies confirmed was that parents who “attribute greater competence and responsibility to misbehaving children” are more likely to get upset with them, to condemn and punish them. These parents react angrily when kids act up, display bad behavior, or just downright act like kids their age should.

By contrast, parents who understand children’s developmental limitations tend to prefer “calm explanation and reasoning” in response to the same actions and behavior.

So, as Kohn proposes, are "doing to" parents more likely to overestimate or underestimate their children? As stated earlier, the answer isn't so black and white, and requires a deeper look...


Are we setting the bar too high, or not giving kids enough credit? Find out the facts by clicking next to read on!

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