Ask anyone what they expect from their relationship—whether that be with their teen, their spouse or their boss—and they will usually give you a list of what they believe the other person should be doing.
It’s highly unlikely anyone will say, “Aah, yes, here’s what I expect from myself in this relationship.”
I’ve lost track of the number of times parents have asked me, “But shouldn’t I have expectations?” Of course you should. Absolutely. You should expect only the best, and you should have only the highest standards—for your behaviour.
“What will the neighbours think?!”
We tend to worry about how our teen’s behaviour will reflect on us—what it will say about us as parents. “What will my parents say? How will the school see me? What will the neighbours think?”
What others think about you will be, for the most part, a reflection of what you think about yourself. If you think well of yourself and are confident and self-assured, most people will view you that way. But if you’re apologetic and defensive of your teen’s behaviour, that will also be reflected in how others see you.
You are not your teen, and your teen is not you.
While at the mall, my daughter’s friend wanted to do something that my daughter didn’t, so the friend said, “If you don’t do it, I’ll embarrass you!” To which my daughter replied, “Go ahead and make a fool of yourself, and I’ll laugh at you, because that’s your behaviour, not mine!”
We’re not entitled to anything from anyone: not love, not respect, not clear communication, not help, not support, not good behaviour, not money—not anything.
How can this be? Haven’t we been focusing on co-operation? Yes, but entitlement and obligation have no part in that. In a co-operative situation, all these things are given freely. I give to you, not because I feel I owe it to you, but because it’s in my own best interests. It’s what’s best for both of us.
Keep these in mind:
a) Everything we do, we do for ourselves.
b) Everything we do for the relationship, we do for ourselves.
c) No one does anything unless there’s something in it for them.
If I do for you because that’s what’s best for the relationship, it benefits me, too. Or maybe I choose to do it because that’s the kind of person I choose to be. But if there’s nothing in it for me, I’m not going to do it.
And so, given that everything we do, we do for ourselves, no one owes us anything.
“I only want the best for them—and I know what’s best for them.”
Consider success. What exactly do you mean by success? When I asked parents this the other night, everyone talked about accomplishments; no one talked about character.
One mother admitted that she’s “guiding” her teen in a particular direction because she believes her worth as a parent will be determined by his success or failure. “I’m afraid people will look at me years from now and say, ‘You weren’t a very good mom. Your son’s a failure—and so are you!”
This is a variation on “What will the neighbours think?”
It is NOT your teen’s job to make you look good or to make your life worthwhile. It is YOUR job to make you look good and to create meaning and value in your life.
Expect only the best
By all means have great expectations —for yourself:
1. Live a principled life, and hold yourself to the highest possible standard. Behave well regardless of how those around you are behaving.
2. Make a list of qualities you admire in others.
3. Work on incorporating those into your own life. Give thought to who you want to be, and work on living up to that.
The more you become the person you want to be, the better you’ll feel about yourself, the more you’ll respect yourself—and the less the opinion of others will matter.
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