Or not-so-great, as it may be: "I expect I'll be home in an hour." "I expect you to eat everything on your plate." "I expect he'll forget to take out the trash." "I expect to get an A on my test."
Life is full of expectations -- the ones we set for ourselves and others, and the ones others set for us. They're powerful things, and have a greater influence on my behavior than I tend to realize.
As a child, expectations are thrown at us from day one. When we'll smile, walk, or cut that first tooth. Who we'll look like. How well we'll sleep. All these things are deeply rooted in a set of expectations handed to us by doctors, peers, the media, and our own experiences. If we fail to meet them, warning bells start to chime and the worry starts.
As children, our parents continually set our expectations for us. How we're to behave, learn, and grow. How do we decide what expectations to set for them? Chances are we draw from our own childhood, our sense of what 'should be' based on what we hear and see, and what we think will encourage our kids to grow without fear. Do we expect them to be like us? They sure try to be when they're young! They set many of their own expectations by watching and imitating us. Our expectations, verbal or not, are a tremendously strong force that shapes their actions and beliefs about what should be.
It can be difficult to weed out our own expectations and only give our kids (and anyone else) what's good for them. Do we expect model behavior because we want to be seen as perfect parents? Do we expect a second child to behave just like the first? Easy traps to fall into, and not healthy ones.
Expectations are individual. They should be tailored, with wisdom and love, to the person they're for, whether it's ourselves or someone else. Know what motivates and empowers the person you're setting an expectation for, and make sure you have the right to set it in the first place. To some, high expectations are immobilizing rather than an enjoyable challenge.
Expectations are malleable. Know when to give the bar you're setting a bend, raise it up a notch, or toss it aside completely. They're not contracts or promises, but more an expression of hope.
Expectations are empowering. They tell us what others believe we're capable of. They give us a goal to reach for.
Expectations are powerful. It takes clear communication and wisdom to set realistic expectations. The quickest way to disappoint yourself in a relationship or devastate a child is to hold them to an expectation you don't verbalize. If you can't verbalize it, you probably shouldn't have it in the first place. If I expect my husband to spend a quiet evening at home with me after the kids are in bed, I'd better spell it out in neon lights or I'm bound to be disappointed! Kids need the most specific spelling out of things, with concrete times and realistic goals.