It seems like everyone I am close to and talk to pretty frequently is having struggles in their marriage or with their kids, including me and my spouse. I have mentioned in previous posts that we grew apart and now we are trying to rebuild and reconnect and it is easier said than done. There are a LOT of conversations about our situation and why we are where we are, how to improve and what is bugging us right now. As I have been thinking a lot about myself, my relationship with my spouse, my kids, and my friends I have realized that there is a recurring theme over and over again in my thoughts and that is, what do I expect from them and from myself in those relationships.
My husband is a great guy and very helpful . . . on things he thinks needs to be done. For example, one day there were literally about 8 baskets of washed laundry that needed to be folded and put away and it was obvious that I was pretty stressed out and trying to get a lot done and when my husband woke up that day instead of saying, "Hey I can see you have been working hard all day so let me fold this laundry for you" he went outside and spent an hour cleaning up the backyard, taking care of the dogs, and sweeping the pool that we are no longer able to swim in because it is too cold. He then had to rush to get ready for work and eat dinner and then left for work leaving me with those 8 baskets of laundry, plus the dishes from dinner, plus the responsibility of making dinner, and taking care of our four children and well you get the idea. The main problem was not so much that he left the laundry unfolded, it was that I expected him to help around the house but didn't vocalize that expectation and therefore he was unable to meet that expectation.
Let's apply this to kids. How often do you expect your children to behave well at the store only to get there and have them try escaping you, scream when they don't get what they want, knock things off the shelf, etc. Or do you expect them to come home from a long day of school and immediately sit down at the table and work on another hour of homework only to have them come home and fight you every step of the way.
The problem is not the behavior of the people in our lives the problem is our expectations and the way we are expressing them. Sometimes we expect too much from people, other times we expect too little. So how do you set the right expectation? The main thing is to look at the individual and their own special circumstances. Is it reasonable to expect a two year old to share his toys with other two year olds? NO, two year olds do not share! You can help them to share, you can involve yourself in their play to ensure they share with others but to expect them to immediately be o.k. with sharing with another kid is setting yourself up for disappointment. If you are aware of the fact that two year old don't share, or that a fourteen year old believes they know everything about life and you know nothing, then when they behave in that manner you aren't disappointed or frustrated (well maybe a little frustrated) but instead you can focus on ways to help them be the best two yr old or fourteen yr old or even 50 yr old they can be. Now this is going to go against what I just said, BUT, it is important to set expectations high so people can stretch and grow to reach that expectation, but you also have to find what you are o.k. with until they reach your expectation. For example, I expect my children to grow up to become well behaved, smart, respectful adults and therefore I am going to teach them how to become that but am not going to become upset or disappointed when my child behaves like a normal 6 yr old, 5 yr old or 2 yr old. Does that make sense?
The other thing you do not want to do is set your expectations too low - because wherever you set your expectations people will meet them (as long as they are reasonable and they know what those expectations are). If you expect your child to disobey you then they will. If you expect your children to be lazy then they will be. If you expect your husband to act like your father then he will. If you expect your friends to take advantage of you then they will. Whatever you expectations you set people will meet them!
I encourage you to really think about and write down what you expect from the people in your life, especially from those who seem to be disappointing you the most. Are your expectations reasonable? Are they attainable for the person you expect it from? Have you expressed these expectations to those people and discussed them with each other? If not, do it! There are so many more things I can post about expectations so keep an eye out for more on this subject!