Managing Your Parental Expectations

Parenting 101

Although I am free from everyone's expectations, I have made myself a servant to all of them to win more people. 1 Corin. 9:19


It makes me laugh when I hear people say that they "have no expectations". My first thought is how can that be considering we are born into expectations?

From our very DNA, we are expected to have a certain eye color, hair color, height, etc. Everything about who we are has been created out of expectations, and even Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Expectations are everywhere, and everyone has them. What we must learn how to do is properly manage them, and show our children that we can have positive expectations of them, expectations that will make them better NOT bitter.

"A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations." - Patricia Neal


In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the child Augustus Gloop expected to be free to eat and drink as much chocolate as he wants and in so doing, he falls into the river of chocolate, and the movie watcher expects that he will drown and die. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, all the children other than the very humble Charlie Bucket, seem to befall some horrible fate due to gluttony, selfishness and greed. The children in the both the book and movie, had parents who enabled them to, and had trained them to have self-serving expectations of the world and their environments. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; the character Mike Teevee had parents who taught him everyone was supposed to serve him, Veruca Salt had parents who enabled her to be prideful, Violet Beauregarde was taught to expect that money was the answer to everything, Augustus was expected to have no self restraint, and finally Willy Wonka's Charlie was expected to be humble and server to all (he ended up being the only one by the end who received the "coveted" prize).


Teaching children responsibility, is your responsibility. In our house we teach and - expect our children to understand - how to recognize when things are out-of-place, and we make life easy for them by making sure the space their things go are easy to understand. For instance, in the room where the boys toys go; all the cars go in the car bin,  the trains in the train bin, the legos in the lego bin. In my daughter's room her toys go in a trunk and books belong on the bookshelf etc.

Having a clean house, and expecting your children to notice when something is out-of-place, is a great expectation. Keeping things clean is as easy as taking the time to create places for things to go. When I see a child walk past a plate on the floor I simply ask, "Hey kids, is that where that plate is supposed to go?" Children need to be taught to expect that things are supposed to go back where they belong.

As a large family, each of our children have expected chores and responsibilities relative to their ages...


100 years ago, a 13-year old was considered an adult. Expecting your 13-year old to be "just a teenager", is an error of expectation. Jesus himself was teaching in the Synagogue by the time He was thirteen. Our 13 year old is expected to be "an adult in training". He is expected to have the understanding capabilities to behave like an adult- not just in attitude, but also in knowledge. We have high expectations of all of our children, and expect them to listen to us. We do our part however in not demanding that they listen, but explaining to them through stories and imagery... how things work. Show your children from as early as infancy how things operate, and you will have little to no problems with them as teenagers. When a person can understand the operations of a system - their tendency will be towards obeying the natural law of order. Example: teach a child why cars are dangerous... don't just tell them "not to go into the street".

Teenagers, are adults in training.


An 11-year old is nearly a teenager, but is still more child than teen. The 11-year old desires more responsibility, but still gets easily distracted and can be more often found climbing up trees than thinking about complex problems. Setting your expectations in order to embrace their youthfulness and natural exploratory tendencies is crucial to their long term success. In the right environment, inquisitive children become inquisitive adults. Curiosity is always good, as long as the foundation of their curiosity is based on the development in learning better how "God's Laws" work. Laws such as gravity, seedtime and harvest time, physics, etc. "God's Laws", are laws that never change, as opposed to man's laws which are only subject to change. Take your 11-year old and embrace their curiosity, teaching them that its ok to be curious and to ask lots of questions. 


Eight is GREAT! Having an eight-year-old really is something special. At eight years, a child can do just about everything you can. They can get their own cereal, wash dishes, make their beds, help their friends and even put themselves to bed at night. The thing that is trickiest about this age is that their stamina is not long at all. Even though they can "do" everything, they cannot do things for very long. Expect your child to be a BIG help, just don't expect to have their attention in any one task for too terribly long. When cleaning up or doing things together as a family, provide them with tasks that are not as necessarily easy as they are SHORT. I have seen and can expect, an eight-year old to paint an entire picture in about 3 minutes!


Accidents. Accidents are unavoidable, so expect them. Moving your valuables out of reach will make your life easier as a parent of toddlers. While I agree that things need to be "safe", I have never been one to OVER "childproof". Not all my cupboards are locked, my coffee table isn't bumpered, and there are no socket protectors in our outlets. Our children are taught how things work from a young age, and the best way for toddlers to be taught how to stay away from potential hazards is through the watchful and attentive eye of a parent and through discipline.

If a child sees cookies on the table, and is told not to eat them "because they are for company" (offer an explanation), and they still go for a cookie - this is grounds for disciplinary action. Discipline your child immediately, showing them that your "yes" means "yes" and your "no" means "NO". Why is this important in toddlers? Toddlers grow up to be ADULTS!


All in all, expect the BEST, from your children. Expect them to be able to pray, learn, love, laugh and enjoy being alive! Encourage them in their curiosity and creativity and learn how to foster innovation. Discipline in love is a discipline that works, and making your life easy as a parent can be as simple as learning how to positively manage your expectations. Recognize that you certainly HAVE expectations, and that when these expectations are intended to inspire greatness... GREAT kids can happen!

I certainly pray that this message has blessed you and encouraged you in making parenting easy by helping you to manage your expectations...

God bless you.


Jessica Heilman is the Founder of Wholehearted Ministries and is also mom to The Cookie Boys. Jessica has been a student of Psychology, Philosophy and Theology for nearly 25 years. Jessica founded WHM in 2008 while in Bible College. Jessica and her husband Jeff have been married 21 years. Jeff and Jessica live in the Silicon Valley with their seven children and their dog Kennedy. This article was originally published via Wholehearted Ministries  Jul 16,2011  

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