• Sounds crazy, I know! Yet many of us unintentionally set unrealistic goals for our children and try to avoid the topic of alternative options (otherwise known as: reality). What I’m talking about here is a little different from the issues discussed in “Over Parenting”. Imagine setting up a race that’s impossible to finish or setting standards of living that you yourself can’t live up to. Unfortunately that’s the mistake many of us make in hopes of being good parents. We want our children to work hard and have high goals but set expectations our children have little to no chance of meeting. When they, inevitably, cannot meet those expectations they assume that they are just not good enough. This results in low self esteem and/or eventually a lack of desire to even try. Why bother if success is impossible? And to take it even further, some kids will go in the opposite direction to defy you to let you know that your expectations are not realistic.

    When something is no longer taboo it becomes less intriguing – making it less likely to lead them toward a path of rebellion.

    In what areas do we commonly set our children up to disappoint and fail? Some examples are: religious inflexibility, getting perfect grades, choice of profession (you have to be a doctor, lawyer, etc), and excelling at certain sports. I’m not saying that we should make it a free for all or sell them short, but when you tell your child not to question new experiences or feelings; it counters their natural instincts, is unrealistic, and quite frankly messes with their heads. Curiosity and the desire to explore should be nurtured and encouraged!

    Of course we all want to set goals and high standards for our children but it is important to let them know about their options. If you lay out the options and possibilities in life with them and are open to discussions you will often avoid your children making decisions for the sole purpose of declaring independence from you. When something is no longer taboo it becomes less intriguing – making it less likely to lead them toward a path of rebellion. They can work through their choices and accompanying repercussions and become responsible in choosing the right option for them. This helps them become more analytical and responsible, acting on their own motivation, instead of yours, while at the same time allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Don’t just tell them what they can or cannot do! Help them explore their options as “out there” as they may seem. The alternative is a lifetime of trying to keep their hands away from the “fire,” which is tiring (and, let’s face it, futile). Instead, try allowing your children to make their own decisions, which will make them accountable for their own mistakes, responsible for their successes, and conscientious wise adults. There are many trails on this hike, so show them the map but let them explore!