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Managing Unmet Expectations

I recently watched 2 of my teenage girls walk through the club volleyball tryout journey.  Wow, you would have thought it was life and death! Uncertainty, comparison, frustration and so many other emotions run rampant.  Maybe you are in a similar situation.  The pressure placed on our kids to perform today is often times unhealthy, and many times unnecessary.  Then there is the anxiety we feel as mom and dad watching them process it all. Be careful not to miss the opportunity and let the negative emotion rob you of your role as parent! 

As a former DI Head Coach, I have learned that kids will put enough pressure on themselves.  I know from experience it’s easy to get frustrated when expectations aren’t met with our children.  We expect one thing, but when it doesn’t happen it’s frustrating.  Whether it’s in the classroom, on the court, or in everyday life managing disappointment and cultivating the right qualities during those times are super important for us as parents to understand.  It’s in these moments the greatest lessons are learned. 

I have the discovered there are 2 obstacles that make teaching and cultivating in those times more difficult than blaming and consoling. 

The first obstacle is PAIN.  No one wants to watch their child struggle; as a father of 4 myself, it’s just not fun.  However, it can often be necessary!  Many times, we have to take a step back and let it unfold.  Our intervention at these difficult crossroads may be what’s hindering their growth. 

The second obstacle is VALIDATION.   In the comparison world we live in we convince ourselves this momentary (it’s not final) setback is a reflection on us as a parent.  Take a deep breath, you are not responsible for every outcome, but you do have a chance to cultivate the right characteristic’s in these moments.  This is going to require us to be very intentional and willing to manage our own emotions as we teach our child to do the same.  I would suggest scripting your response beforehand.  Look at every outcome and determine how you will respond. 

Here are 3 reasons to manage your emotions in these seasons of difficulty.

1. Rescuing them now can rob them of the resiliency they will need later. 

As tempting as it is to try to create the path you had in mind for them many times it’s best to simply help them manage the path that is front of them.  I love what Generational Expert Dr. Tim Elmore say, “Don’t prepare the path for your child, prepare your child for the path”.   As difficult as this can be, I can assure you it will pay off later and both your child and those they interact with will thank you later. 

2. Our response is often how they perceive reality.  One of the most powerful things you can do when faced with moments of disappointment is not FREAK out.   Take a deep breath and realize that today disappointment doesn’t determine tomorrow.  There is story after story of young athletes who were not the star early who ended up at the top later.  Don’t worry so much about where they are but remain focused on where you want them to finish. 

3. Embrace the fact that in seasons of struggle “you” have the privilege of cultivating the ingredients for success

This moment that seems painful has a purpose when we use it the right way.  Many times, using it simply means to let it play out.  When a seed is planted you don’t move it from place to place, you simply water it and watch it grow. 

4. Focus on who they are becoming not on what they are doing or achieving.  One of the most paralyzing things we can do as parents and leaders is let outcomes drive our emotions.  My good friend, Greg Taylor, from Winning Edge who now has a 5’8” inch son playing in the NFL (yes, you read it correctly, 5’8”) said he had to shift his mindset when his kids were younger.  He began with telling them to be the best and then realized many times no matter how hard they worked they weren’t going to be the best.  He then started to challenge them to simply be their best. I would encourage you on this journey to raise your child to be their best and not get caught comparing them to everyone else.  In each season we will experience different outcomes, but in each season we must encourage them to become their very best.

This parenting journey is tough!  There is no exact road map, but we do know the goal is to help prepare our children for the world ahead of them.  That world is going to present all sorts of challenges so the small ones we let them face today prepare them for the more significant ones they will face later. 

Keep up the great work!  You are making a difference, and your role as a parent is the most important role in your child’s life.