If we want to see growth, we have to set expectations that can be achieved.
If you ask me to build a house, I will perhaps make a minor effort but I know it impossible for me without assistance or resources. So I won’t continue to try and it will likely damage our relationship.
It will damage our relationship because I cannot do what you want so I feel like a failure. It will damage our relationship because I believe you can’t see me and my reality. It will damage our relationship because you want more from me (even if it is for me) than I can give. It will damage our relationship because you believe I failed. It will damage our relationship because you believe you see me not trying hard enough.
But the problem is the expectation
Expectations must be individual and we cannot set them without truly knowing and understanding another. Expectations cannot be set on chronological age or on education or on appearance or even on past performance
My kids have different body types and both shock teammates and opponents by their strength. Another person may look capable but lives in chronic pain or has an old injury that limits mobility. My child that always cleans up after himself won’t during finals week and the one who did his own laundry won’t during rugby season.
We have to consider current situation and stressors. We have to consider past trauma. We have to consider physical health and pain and allergies. We have to consider how well they’ve been sleeping, blood sugar, and even hydration. We have to consider sensory needs and what sensory input their brain is trying to decipher, avoid, or seek. We have to consider how an individual’s brain works and how that may be impacted by trauma or Autism or ADHD.
Not everyone is ready to take on the next step. Not every kid is ready for the executive function, academic, and social demands of the next grade. Not every adult functions well living on their own. Not every child is ready to move out at 18 or 24 or 30. Not everyone wants the promotion. Not every 16 year old is ready to drive. Not everyone who wants change is comfortable with that change.
We fail our children when we expect them to keep up with peers. We fail our kids when we expect them to perform like we did at their age. We fail our kids when we keep them out past their bedtime and expect their typical behavior. We fail our kids when we don’t take their history, struggles, and current stressors into account. We fail our kids when we expect them to be regulated when we are not. We fail our kids when we ask them for independence they aren’t yet ready for.
We fail our clients when we encourage them to make the decisions we would make. We fail our clients when we give homework without checking in if it feels doable. We fail our clients when we forget that they have to live their lives all day every day. We fail our clients when policies trump compassion. We fail our clients when we talk about resistance rather than concerned parts. We fail our clients when we excuse ourselves from responsibility for their quiet quitting, telling ourselves that they weren’t ready.
We fail ourselves when we demand typical performance despite lack of sleep, low blood sugar, or dehydration. We fail ourselves when we forget to play and do things we enjoy. We fail ourselves when we don’t advocate for environmental changes that would make us more comfortable. We fail ourselves when we compare our lives to others’ highlight reels without taking into account our struggles and their privilege. We fail ourselves when we expect to have a clean house, home cooked dinner, completed to do list, and inbox zero. We fail ourselves when we expect to be able to meet all of our kids needs. We fail ourselves when we expect anything without truly understanding all it entails and what it will cost us.