Personal growth: How to identify an unreasonable expectation as a parent

Establishing healthy expectations can be one of the trickiest parts of becoming a balanced individual and an effective parent. Healthy expectations lead to accomplishment and contentment, while unreasonable expectations can disrupt relationships and inhibit personal growth. However, it can be difficult to know whether an expectation is unreasonably high, too low, or just right. These four factors can help you identify and adjust an unreasonable expectation.


An unreasonable expectation leaves no room for forgiveness. It demands perfect compliance at all times, regardless of circumstances. Those with unreasonable expectations only respect success when it occurs on the first attempt, and they often discontinue their efforts after a failure.

People with reasonable expectations do not condone error, but they recognize that errors do happen. They work to resolve mistakes and make plans to avoid errors in the future. They also do not discount accomplishments because the success is preceded by failures. In fact, those with healthy expectations value success all the more if it comes after persistent effort.


Unreasonable expectations often come in multiples. A person with unreasonable expectations might simultaneously set goals to spend meaningful time with family, maintain a successful career, keep the home environment clean and organized, and promote physical health in himself and others. Too many goals can overwhelm and discourage overzealous seekers of improvement.

Reasonable expectations ask for only one change at a time. While people with reasonable expectations desire excellence in many aspects of their lives, they will focus on one area and allow time for good habits to solidify before moving on to another area. They also understand that there are times and seasons to focus on various areas of their lives, and they do not expect themselves (or others) to be excellent in every area all the time.


Worthwhile goals take time, effort, and sometimes multiple attempts before at success. People with healthy expectations realize this, and they allow themselves and others to be beginners at first. This means accepting imperfect but improving results. They focus on the direction of progress rather than the level of competence achieved. The beauty of this view is there is no cap on success—one can keep improving indefinitely.


Individuals with unreasonable expectations do not prioritize the demands they place on others and themselves. They fail to recognize that some tasks are not as important as others, and they ignore the limitations of their resources when setting goals.

Individuals with reasonable expectations know that, while there are many worthwhile goals, some goals are more important, and some are less important. They order their goals so they do not waste finite resources like time, money, and energy on tasks that matter little to them.

Having reasonable expectations is essential. Those with reasonable expectations are able to reach their potential without overreaching or burning out. Leaders especially need to evaluate their expectations to inspire optimal performance in those under their stewardship. A leader with unreasonable expectations will lose followers; a leader with reasonable expectations will have a successful team, company, or family.

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