We Get What We Expect

Last week I took my youngest daughter–my baby–on a college tour to her university of choice. We were both overwhelmed. Randi tried to imagine a new life on an unfamiliar campus with so many strangers. I tried to remember kindergarten screening…because wasn’t that just yesterday?

As the student ambassador (Kelli) led us from building to building , I wondered how Randi would navigate campus, how she would get to her classes on time, how she would know she even had class without me there to tell her, “Go here on this day at this time.”

Yes, I confess, I’m the mom who struggles with control. But in my defense, Randi’s a little ADD, and you’ve seen her bedroom, right? (If not, click that link…if you dare!) She needs me! So I tend to be a safety net, a fault which I’ve been working on for the past year, because I can count…and the days until Randi leaves for college are getting fewer and fewer. If I don’t back off, she will never learn how to “get there on that day at that time” on her own.

So today, when she wanted to activate her student account on the college website, and when she looked at the directions like they were written in Mandarin, I gritted my teeth, resisting the urge to grab the laptop and enter all the right information in all the right places so everything would be done right. Instead, I played dumb. “Read the directions again,” I said. “Figure it out.” 

She did. And then she set up her college email account, completed her housing contract, and selected her roommate preferences. She wrote down all her passwords and PIN numbers and put everything in a big envelope to keep her important documents all in one place. Wow. That sounds like something her mother would do. But I didn’t. She did. 

And I could tell she felt a little more grown up, and I felt a little less necessary. That’s a good thing.

But that safety net, the one I had placed securely beneath her most of her life, the one she started resisting her junior year, came from good intentions. Like all you good moms, I only want the best for my child. Right?

Wrong.

When I want the best for my child, I fail to expect the best from my child.

You see, when we give our child a safety net–because we want the best for her–we send the wrong message:

“I’m not sure you can do this. This is a difficult task. I’m here to help, so you don’t fail.” 

But listen how the message changes when we don’t provide a safety net–because we expect the best from our child:

“You can do this. I know it’s difficult but try. You might fail, but that’s okay. Sometimes failing is how you learn.”

Let’s make it even simpler. 

Stepping back because we expect the best from our child says, “I believe in you.”

Interfering by providing a safety net says, “I don’t believe in you.”

Wow.

Isn’t it ironic that wanting the best for our children can actually keep them from being their best?

But what if they DO fail? 

They might. Actually, at some point, they probably will.

But if we don’t expect the best from our children, then we are the ones who have failed.

Are you like me, guilty of providing a safety net? What happened when you took it away? What do you see as the difference between wanting the best for and wanting the best from our children? Please share your comments.

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Blessings!

9 Comments

  1. Renee says:

    This is me in 18 years! I better start now and maybe I’ll be better by then.

  2. aline says:

    What an important lesson! I know I don’t know the half of it, but I’ve learned and see the other half.

  3. Kim says:

    You always make so much sense!

  4. Mickey says:

    Thanks for making me cry. Lol. Mrs. Bransetter had to guilt Tommy into letting me go on his college tour.

  5. Barb says:

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful words of wisdom! Parenting isn’t just setting up rules and enforcing them. Allowing children to learn accountability and responsibility does mean watching them fail sometimes. I think that is a very important lesson. Children learn , as we do, by making mistakes. Successful, satisfying parenting is that look of accomplishment on their face when they reach that goal on their own! Awesomeness!!!

  6. Laurin says:

    This one may be life changing for me. Just sayin’. 🙂 ❤️

  7. Thea says:

    Great words of wisdom! Being that safety net feels so right and good but you have forced me to re-think my actions with those I care for and love. Thank you.

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