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Having Realistic Expectations of Your Child and Yourself

Mother and child readingAn expectation is an idea or belief of what should happen.

Parents have many expectations of themselves and their children and what should happen to them in their future.

Having healthy, realistic expectations can help parents be successful in supporting their children’s development.

Our goals and expectations

As parents we want our children to thrive, learn as much as they can, become successful at everything they do, and become productive citizens who are able to positively impact our society. To help these things happen, we talk, play, read, and sing with our children to influence them to follow what we believe will be good for them.

Two problems to avoid—expecting too much or not enough

Our expectations of our children may sometimes be unrealistic, especially when we set goals that are too difficult.  For example, expecting a child to read well by age three or a baby to walk well at eight months of age is unrealistic for most children. Even though some children do achieve these things early in their development, most children do not.  When expectations are too high, both parents and their children may get frustrated.  This can be too much pressure for the child and result in low self-esteem.

On the other side, there may be problems when parents don’t expect enough of their children.  Often this results in parents not providing enough activities or experience to promote their children’s development.  A parent who waits for his child to enter school to learn how to count from 1 to 10 or how to identify the basic colors has low expectations of his child.

How do you know what is realistic?

Each child develops differently through the stages of development. Here are some tips to help you understand what to expect and how to promote healthy development:

  • Read books or articles about what is usual for children at different ages and stages of development (speech, reading, walking and moving, writing, etc.)
  • If you see that your child is unable to do something that other children her age can do, be patient and supportive and don’t give up. Seek help from your child’s doctor if you are concerned that she is behind other children.
  • Make sure you don’t create expectations for yourself or your child that are so high that they lead to frustration.
  • Encourage your child to try new things when you feel the time is right, such as using crayons or working a puzzle.
  • Talk, read and play with your child. These are activities that will greatly stimulate your child’s development.
  • Let your child see you doing the things you want him to learn.
  • When in doubt, just remember that you are the most influential person in your child’s life. Your joy and love for him provide a great start for his successful future!

    Dr. David Anglada-Figueroa is a clinical psychologist with a passion for families and children and a spokesperson for First 5 Sonoma County. First 5 encourages parents to Read, Talk, and Play every day with their babies. For more information, visit and