Watching the Olympic athletes cry, after they haven’t succeeded in their quest to win gold, made me stop and take stock of my expectations. Was there too much pressure on each athlete to succeed? Was it the end of the road for them if they didn’t win gold? How much family disappointment (and, in some cases, national disappointment) did they have to deal with? Is this fair?
We all want the best for our children. We want them to achieve and to succeed and to win gold all the time. But is it possible for everyone to be the best? Are our expectations fair and realistic? Are we setting our children up for failure by expecting unrealistic results from them? Are our expectations personal or guided by what society deems to be “great.”
Of course, we should encourage them to reach for the stars, to do their best and to challenge themselves. Sometimes, against all odds, they succeed – just like David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den or the Macabees. When they do succeed, their self-esteem soars and all is good.
However, if we expect them only to achieve at a very high standard every time, we are setting them up for failure. They feel they have disappointed those around them, their self-esteem wanes and all is not good. Is it fair for us to have unrealistic expectations of our children?
It is easy to brag about their achievements when they excel but what about the child who normally struggles with math and brings home a “B.” In a world with reasonable expectations, that is an accomplishment, something to be celebrated. That child should know that we are proud of her hard work, effort and accomplishments and those parents should not feel embarrassed to share this accomplishment.
It is true that all our children are accomplished in one way or another, so let’s be realistic about our expectations and cherish their accomplishments, building self-esteem and confidence along the way. No matter what the rest of society deems to be success. ✿
Sue Penn is a mother of three, Education Director at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.