Great Expectations

1. A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
2. A belief that someone will or should achieve something.

No, this will not be a review on the book, nor the movie.

Rather, it is about a nagging thought that has been at the back of my mind since the weekend.

Last Sunday, C was scheduled to perform at a concert. Prior to the performance, the teacher had arranged for a quick rehearsal on the piano in a practice room. There was another mother-daughter pair waiting for their turn when we arrived.

This post was triggered by something that I overheard when it was the daughter’s turn to play at the piano. Just before she went up, her mother said this to her: “You’d better play well, do not disappoint me and your daddy.”

My immediate response was to look at her daughter’s reaction, then at C. The little girl (I guess she should be about seven or eight years old?) froze for a moment, and the smile on her face was replaced with a look of concentration. I guess C heard it too, because she went quiet and serious. The mother’s words had the desired effect – the little girl played beautifully.

So why did this incident leave such an impact on me? Because I could easily have been the one that said it! When it was C’s turn to go up to the piano, I held my tongue, and simply gave her a smile and a little pat.


I’ll admit that I have high expectations of my children. I do not expect them to be the best, but I always expect them to give their best at whatever they do. As they grow older, my expectations increase accordingly, and sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that they are still children.

I’ve always found communication of expectations a tough area to navigate. When expectations are set too low, there is no motivation for the child to drive herself harder. When expectations are too high, I risk damaging the child’s self-confidence. If the expectations are misunderstood, it leads to frustrations from both parties.

So how do I know where to set the bar? Parenting guides advise us to set it realistically, based on how well we know our child. In theory, it sounds perfect. In reality? I’m doing it based on trial and error. Am I doing it correctly? I don’t know. I always have the fear that my expectations will be too much for my children and myself to handle.

Great expectations = successful children? What do you think?


8 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Zee

    Great post. It got me thinking about this topic. I think it’s good to set higher expectations, and when I mean higher, I do mean by reference to the child’s ability, not by the parent’s standards. This is because everyone is different, and sometimes just because it is something that comes easy for me (for example, if hypothetically I’m musically inclined), my child may not be. And if I learnt to play a piece by 5 years old, it doesn’t mean that she can.

    After setting the expectation, I feel that this expectation should be explained to the child. To the child, it shouldn’t be some random benchmark that the parent had set. If the child is able to appreciate how that expectation is derived, I feel that they will be more motivated to work towards it. For this reason, I foresee myself having a discussion with the child to “set” the expectation, and in the discussion I will encourage the child to aim a bit higher. Does this make sense?

    At the end of the day, the child has to feel like it is something worth working towards. He/she should be motivated by the desire to want to reach or exceed expectations, not out of fear.

    Sorry this is a bit long but this post has really started me thinking. Thanks for that!

    1. mummyshymz Post author

      Hi Zee, I absolutely agree with what you said. I try to discuss expectations with C, but sometimes, it’s difficult to explain long term goals to an almost 6-year old who keeps asking “Why?” Perhaps when she is slightly older it would get better.
      Thanks for the great advice 🙂

      1. Zee

        Lol I’m not there yet so I’m definitely not in a position to be dishing out advice. Well, I guess having the right mindset is a good starting point! :p

  2. motherhoodisanart

    Interesting! This is something I’ve never really given a lot of thought to. I always encourage my children and praise them. I have told them to do things over when I know that they rushed through something and know they can do better. Oh boy, now you’ve given me something else to think about!

  3. Katy@TheOpenDoor

    I think about this, too. And since I’m a teacher, I also think about these things from an educators perspectives. I read a great book I’d recommend: Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s meant for teachers, but is really just as applicable for parents, and I couldn’t help but think more of my parenting than anything else as I was reading it. Basically, it argues that adults to praise effort over achievement, which helps kids value the process of improvement. I’m not doing a good job explaining it, but it’s a really worthwhile read in my opinion!


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