A Loving Family Can Sometimes Mean Pressure

Tam Nguyen, Staff Writer

Living in a loving family with caring parents makes me among the luckiest kids in the world. I am given a lot of love and care, and all that is really expected in return is that I exhibit a good personality, obtain good grades at school, and plan to obtain a good job in the future.

That doesn’t seem too extreme, right? However, the truth is, in certain moments, these expectations can become very stressful and overwhelming to me.
Parental expectations can provide a sense of motivation for kids in their studies, personal growth, and overall maturity. However, if these expectations become unrealistic, they can backfire. Unrealistic goals are very difficult for young people to handle; and for those who don’t meet these expectations, the results can be very negative. Setting unrealistic expectations for kids creates unnecessary stress, anxiety, and even academic failure. This is the complete opposite of the goal of these parental expectations. The truth is, when it comes to expectations, it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Parents should know their kids, and set expectations based on that understanding instead of on some unrealistic desire to feel successful themselves.

If kids don’t meet their parents’ expectations, parents feel disappointed and kids feel bad. Kids under stress often question their own worth or wonder if they have not done their best, while, in reality, maybe they have.

“[C]hildren may become fearful of making mistakes [when parents set unrealistically high expectations],” explains Ryan Hong in a press release of his study Developmental Trajectories of Maladaptive Perfectionism in Middle Childhood. Hong also notes that children in these situations “can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems.”

The manner in which parents convey expectations is very important. During a serious conversation concerning important issues such as this, both parents and children should remain composed and be responsible for their words and actions. There should be effective and honest communication between members of the family, where parents not only make their own expectations clear but also listen to what their kids think about them. Parents and their children should be able to agree upon a set of expectations that is realistic and provides motivation for the child. Doing this in a calm, open, and respectful manner is also necessary.

I believe that parents’ expectations mostly come from a place of love and kindness. They know what it is like to suffer through hardships. I imagine they do not want their children, young people whom they have spent years caring for, to go through difficult experiences if they feel they can prevent them. They want only the best for us and, as a result, only expect the best from us.

Our parents’ expectations are usually well-intentioned, reasonable, and motivating. They are partly the reason why we are at school, why we want to become artists, writers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, and many other professions. However, when those expectations become too much; when they suffocate us rather than inspire us, then they must be addressed. Children should not beat themselves up because they are not living up to expectations, especially if those expectations are unrealistic.