Growth and Development: Setting Reasonable Child Rearing Expectations

Your expectations of your child play a large role in encouraging proper emotional growth and development.  If you push too hard, there is a chance that your child will become frustrated and push back. On the other hand, if your expectations are too low, you run the risk of stunting emotional growth and development. It’s tricky to know exactly how to set reasonable expectations and strike a balance between pushing too hard and not pushing enough.


Expectations regarding child rearing begin long before your child is little more than a vague idea. Even as a child yourself, you develop ideas about how things will be when you’re a parent. As you grow older, you start to readjust those expectations a bit, but they never fully go away. When your child is born, you remind yourself of those expectations and try to raise your child in a way that meets them. Often, though, the reality of child rearing forces you to throw many of those expectations out the window and start over. Learning how to come up with realistic expectations is vital to successful your child’s emotional growth and development, not to mention your own sanity!

Tips for Promoting Proper Emotional Growth and Development through Reasonable Expectations

Recognize Your Child’s Individuality
To help ensure proper emotional growth and development, expectations need to be based on your child alone. Text books, parenting manuals and experts can give you advice, but they don’t know your child the way you do. Too often, parents read stories about children who accomplish great feats- like potty training as an infant- and wonder “why can’t my child do that too?” Setting expectations based on what another child can do sets both you and your child up for disappointment. First of all, stories are just that- stories- and they can be altered or misreported. Second, children should not be compared to other children. Everyone is a unique sum of their experiences, environment and upbringing. Take into account factors such as your child’s temperament, special needs, interests and level of maturity.

Allow for Flexibility
Just as your child is constantly growing and changing, so should your expectations. Appropriate expectations for a toddler may be too simplistic for a preschooler. It’s too easy to get stuck in the pattern of doing everything for your child, only to turn around and find that your 8-year-old is still asking you to dress him in the morning. Believe me, I know all about this!  On the other hand, if your expectations are age-appropriate and your child is dealing with a physical, mental or emotional limitation that makes them difficult to meet, consider dialing it back a bit and allow some breathing room. If you are having a hard time determining age-appropriate expectations based on your child’s growth and development stage, consider talking to an expert. Child psychologists and pediatricians are great resources. Just remember rule number one: you know your child best!
Hold Your Ground When It Really Matters
Your expectations about child rearing help guide your child’s moral growth and development upbringing as well as their educational and emotional rearing. When it comes to those types of expectations, hold your ground. Value-based expectations such as not stealing and showing compassion for others are important qualities for leading a successful, happy life. If your child falls short of your expectations in these areas, stand strong and seek ways to correct the problem.

Model Good Behavior
If you want your child to live up to your expectations, you need to live up to them yourself. Telling your child that stealing is bad and then sneaking an extra bagel at the grocery store when they’re looking sends a poor message. Of course, you shouldn’t do it even if they’re not looking! Strive to be the person you want your child to be. Give them an example of how they are expected to act and show them the respect you want shown to you. Children often want to meet their parents’ reasonable expectations, they just need guidance to get there.

Setting reasonable expectations not only helps ensure proper emotional growth and development for your child, it really sets the groundwork for a good relationship. It’s also important to let your child know that if he fails to meet your expectations, you will still love him just as much. Children aren’t always going to behave as we expect them too. Challenging authority is part of growing up, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We want our kids to ask questions. If your child does ask why you have certain rules, be prepared to answer honestly. Remember, part of proper growth and development is knowing how to follow rules while also being able to speak up when a rule seems unjust.

Photo Credit: Rich Etolen


16 thoughts on “Growth and Development: Setting Reasonable Child Rearing Expectations”

  1. As a mother to five kids, this sentence really resonated with me: “To help ensure proper emotional growth and development, expectations need to be based on your child alone.” SO true!! No text book or other parent or even your previous experiences with older kids are an adequate source for all parenting solutions.

  2. These are great tips! It’s so hard to find the right balance and help your child thrive but these will really help me in a few areas that I struggle – i.e. pushing too hard – LOL!

  3. This is a great post. People forget even when kids are babies that children develop at different rates and in different ways. So important to let them be individuals!

  4. Such great tips, especially the one about modeling behavior. Kids might not listen to you, but they do see what you do and they tend to emulate their parents, even if they don’t realize it. Being good role models is so important.

  5. I agree that allowing for flexibility is incredibly important! That’s the biggest one that I’ve struggled with.

  6. Great tips, I always have to remind myself that every child is different. What one of my chlldren did at a certain age one of my other children may do it differently or at an earlier or later age is OK too.

  7. These are great tips. I have a daughter who is developmentally delayed. So I have to be more lenient on a lot of things. But the moral issues, we stand strong. There is no room for leniency there. And we work with her to understand that hitting is not ok. It doesn’t matter that she is delayed. That doesn’t make hitting ok. She is coming around…slowly.

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