Today’s Blog is about how to get your child to consider expectations versus reality.  Today’s society confuses the two and in turn, confuses our kids.

Don’t believe the hype!  Life isn’t that good.  I used to believe the Leave It To Beaver and Andy Griffith reruns that I grew up on.  Not anymore.   Experience quickly taught me that life is not just black and white. As a tween, I was still confused because life was showing me more hardship, but TV kept showing me more great families like The Cosby’s and the Keatons from Family Ties.  Then, the show Rosanne premiered.  This was ground-breaking at the time because it represented a not-so-perfect TV sitcom family.   America loved it.   Rosanne was a highly rated show for a while, but it didn’t last.  Before I knew it, TV was back to either representing family life as sweet and perfect as the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire or MTV was showing me the craziest of people on the new fad of reality TV.  Needless to say, I learned to stop watching TV altogether.  My life expectations were confused! 

Today’s kids are in the same predicament!  Social media shows everyone happy. Expectations versus reality is crazy unrealistic!  Life is perfect in the pictures of Instagram and Facebook.  These picture-perfect moments are making our kids feel inadequate. Everyone else is having more fun in the Snapchat videos.  But this generation has it worse.   The TV shows of my day weren’t personal.  I was still several degrees away from knowing Michael J. Fox and Will Smith.  Today, photos and videos are personal.  They are posts of the kids at school. People they see walking in the halls.   Social media makes life look perfect and creates an unrealistic expectation for our children.  Life is not that great!  We only post the good parts. 

What do we do as parents?  How can we combat unrealistic expectations? Well, unfortunately, most parents make it worse by sheltering their kids too much and putting them on teams where everyone gets a trophy. As parents, we are to prepare our kids for the real world.  We want our kids to grow up, leave home, and be successful adults.  If you’re not preparing your kids for real-world expectations and skills for combating real-world issues, then you are not preparing your kids to be successful.  In fact, you are setting them up for failure.   Of course, we all want our kids safe and happy, but life isn’t that good.  We need to prepare our kids for the hard times too.   Let me tell you another story….

My son runs cross county and is a good athlete.  Having said that, he isn’t a runner.  He runs cross country for his team, but it’s not his primary sport, nor is his body the made-to-run tall and thinly built.  Last week, his small school competed against some big schools in the area, and my wonderful son ran across the finish line last.   Yep dead last.   As a parent, I had a few choices on how to react to this.  

  1. Get mad at the coach for setting him up for failure
  2. Cry with him and soothe him.  Tell him that he is a great runner, and the next time he will do better.
  3. Tell him the truth.   Remind him that running is not his primary sport. He did a great job.  Tell him that I was proud of him for never giving up and talk to him about the realities of coming in last.

Yes, I took path number 3.  Sometimes in life, we come in last.   Sometimes others deserve to win more.  As parents, it is important to teach humility, effort, and grace as much as it is to teach them grit and drive. Learning these lessons are never easy, but learning them at a young age is much better.  When children are young, they can rationalize better and process experiences better.  Learning hard lessons young gives them time to learn coping skills. The younger you can teach your kids to lose, and congratulate others who out-perform you,  the more drive they will have to win!  Better yet, winning will become more meaningful and something they can be proud of.   

So put your kids in sports, clubs, and competitions where they can win AND lose.  Don’t shelter them from loss.  Instead, take losing as an opportunity to teach them valuable lessons.  The short-term may be hard, but in the long run, you will be giving them a much more beneficial experience. 

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Expectations versus Reality.  What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave comments.