The Power in Being Mindful of Expectations

“Why does my child act out at home and not other places?”

Since you and your home are likely your child’s safe space, it is not uncommon for behaviors and emotional dysregulation to arise that are not displayed in other settings. This is not uncommon and it does not mean you are doing something wrong.

Think about it from your child’s perspective: Having to be in an environment (e.g. school, an after-school activity, church, etc.) where you feel the pressure to perform your best, present in a way that is acceptable or preferred by those around you (which may feel like wearing a mask), all the while being concerned that you may be judged or get in trouble by slipping up and letting some of those emotions or behaviors out.

That is a big task to carry, day in and day out. When your child finally gets home, they can take off that mask, take a breath, and release what they have been holding in all day. It doesn’t make it easy for you as parents or caregivers, but your child knows you will love them and accept them.

One concept that I lean into a lot when working with families and caregivers is the idea of measuring the abilities of your child compared to the expectations you, as parents, have of them. The greater the gap between the two, the more frustration you and your child are likely to experience. Are you setting them up to fail and setting yourself up for disappointment? If so, we can work at readjusting your expectations.

Behind every behavior and conflict is an unmet need. Unfortunately, even as adults, it is not always easy recognizing our own needs – let alone communicating them! While working with children in therapy, I provide them with the skills to help them practice increasing their awareness of their experiences, feelings, and needs, and support them in building their ability to self-regulate, advocate for themselves, and communicate regarding emotional content more effectively. As parents or caregivers, your child may need you to be present, ask questions that lead them to reflect, offer support, and sometimes, just listen.

As adults, we can also prioritize modeling the positive behavior we want to see in our children. This can include taking a deep breath and sharing that we feel overwhelmed, saying aloud that we are going to take a walk or lie down for a few minutes, or apologize for losing our temper. Helping children label their emotions and knowing that it is okay to feel them, helps them to increase their awareness and have better regulation skills.

With consistency, structure, predictability, and realistic expectations, parents and caregivers can see long-term positive changes.