How to deal with children with behavioural problems (Part 2) – Put down your expectations on your child


We tend to give the best of everything to our children. As long as it is within our control, we accept nothing less than BEST.

Our children get the best toys. Organic foods. Top notch pre-school. We send our children to enrichment classes hoping they are masters of all trades. We go all out to secure the best Primary school by ALL legal means through hundred hours of parent volunteering, religion, moving house, joining alumni, be a member of a clan and even serve as a grassroots leader. When our child doesn’t do so well in school (the context of the words “doesn’t do so well” varies a wide spectrum, can be from 0 to 99.5 marks), we send him to the best tuition class our country has. Whatever we could do, we did them all. But there is one thing we CANNOT do. We cannot sit for their examinations.

When our child comes back with his exam papers with less than good results in PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations), our world becomes crushed in a matter of a heartbeat. Suddenly we realize that all our efforts on our child from womb to now are all wasted and all we can feel is anger. For a child who has gone through a nation exam paper for the first time and probably doesn’t know what the big deal it is all about, except that all his 6 years and more of life after pre-school are study, study and study. He feels that life has ended at the moment he looks at the disappointment and anger in his parents’ eyes.

We feel angry and disappointed with our children’s academic performance because we have EXPECTATIONS on them. Once they fall off these expectations, we get worried and unhappy. If we don’t have expectations on our children, we will be able to accept our children as they are. We will be able to see their strengths in a clearer view and not masked by the pursuit of academic excellence.

After all, what is the use of academic excellence if they grow up to be successful in their career at the expense of more meaningful growing up memories with their parents. Who wants to have our days as children be remembered only for books and stress? With expectations, our children grow up only to please their parents and the only way to do that is to get good results. It becomes a pleasing the parents game because of parents’ EXPECTATIONS.

It’s terrible that we are all caught up in this paper chase. Everyone is doing it. If we do not, we are falling behind the herd. Often, I ask myself if I am really prepared to let my children go to average schools and just be an average student with average results. Isn’t getting good results an esteem booster? Don’t we all enjoy the oohs and aahs that come with being in top class in the school? Me and the hub had enjoyed such honour and isn’t it a pity our children do not take after us? Can we be neutral and not feel a tinge of jeolousy when all those parents around us boast about their children in top schools?

When our child does not hit our expectations, we get angry, we get disappointed, we get very sad.

In no time, we see our child behaving as if we are his greatest enemy. He doesn’t listen to us. He thinks we disagree with everything he does. He shuts out each word from his mouth. He doesn’t even look at us the same way he looks at an outsider. He probably treats an outsider more politely than us. All because he feels he cannot meet our expectations and our “frequency” is no longer in sync.

Behavioural problems come next.

Maybe, we should stop expecting from our children.

What should we do if they come back with less than good results?

Be cool as a cucumber. Detach emotions as much as possible. Don’t forget to breathe.

We should try to find out why and not show our disappointment at first reaction. Be curious. Focus on why (reasons behind). Don’t focus on the results.

If we know our child has tried his best, the first thing we should do is to ask him how he feels about it. Most children will feel sad, and we should then pat him on his back and say,” I know you have tried your best. I will be with you.”

If our child is careless or does not understand a topic, the first thing to do is also to ask him how he feels about it. He probably understands why he has such bad results, and most likely wish to change things around. Here is when we need to tell him we will be with him and help him.

All human beings want to be accompanied through ups and downs. The power of letting them know we love them and want to be with them through whatever feelings they may have is formidable. It helps to soothe their feelings. It helps them feel loved. A child who knows that his parents understand him, will naturally allow them to reach out to him emotionally. Only when he feels love and feels secured, he will then have a good relationship with his parents and eventually walks on the right path.

This post first appeared on Kids R Simple and is the 2nd post on “How to deal with children with behavioural problems” series and is what I gained from Lee Chong Jian’s talk. If you have missed the first post on Reach out to your child’s innermost emotions, catch it here. Stay tune for Part 3 – Let Go – Don’t teach.

Do you have many expectations on your child? Are you prepared to accept a less than good results from your child? Do you dare to put down your expectations?
Tell me about it. I look forward to your take on this! 🙂

24 thoughts on “How to deal with children with behavioural problems (Part 2) – Put down your expectations on your child

  1. I absolutely loved this. I loved your heartfelt honesty about your own experiences and wanting your children to succeed as you did. It is so very hard to find that line between encouragement/understanding and really holding a standard that you think the child should be able to attain.
    I know that I have really had to slow down with my stepson and see things through his eyes. School overwhelms him so much that he seems unable (or unwilling) to follow the most simple directions. it is a constant learning process for me and him to feel out his boundaries and edges as to what is possible.
    Sometimes I have been successful, sometimes not so much. 🙂
    I really like these postings, by the way.

    • I am learning as I go along. Every stage of parenting has its own set of challenges and each of my 3 children has different temperament and different challenges by themselves. That really kind of permutates the challenge set. Your step son is certainly at a stage that needs lots of encouragement and love and yet need firm discipline. I know I will reach there soon. You get there earlier 🙂 I am constantly learning from other parents too. I know I will get to learn from you. The key is to understand our children. And we have to keep pace with ever changing behaviour. It keeps us young, doesn’t it? Lol!

  2. I am still learning how to step back, but early on I decided that I really wanted Mr. T to have a childhood, because I did miss out some on mine, and so while I tell him “oh, just take a regular class” he goes and signs up for the advanced class!
    Am I ready to accept less? No. Can I accept less? Yes, yes I can.
    But it took many years to get here! Lol

    • Now Mr T has even higher expectations on himself than you have on him! LOL! I can imagine it took you years to get there, which means I will probably inevitably have to take many many years too. I am trying not to expect, at least not so much on academic aspect. But attitude, yes, I have high expectations for them to have good attitude! 🙂

      • I do too, when it comes to attitude, but Mr. T and I recently went through a really bad patch – I was praying every single day – but it was part of his search for independence and fortunately, I think we’ve both had changes in our heart so we are past that – but I fully expect there will be more challenges still! 🙂

        At least we are prepared, right?

      • I hope you and Mr T work things out. I am sure with such an open minded and wise mum, he appreciates everything with you except that he needs to sort out his thoughts. Challenges will stick to us to the coffin lol!

  3. Lovely post! I’m going through the same feelings. We decided that childhood is important, but with the rat race in Singapore starting at P1 (or is it kindy?) sometimes we find ourselves pushing our son too hard. I have to detach myself from parents who enjoy being part of the rat race!

    • Agy, I am with you! I want to detach myself from the rat race too! Why join them? We should bring up our children by our own instinct and let happiness be the basic block of parenting. Reasonable academic performance will come naturally with good attitude. We can’t side track too much if our kids are brought up with good character and good attitude, right?

  4. The only expectation I truly have for my daughter is that she will be honest with me. To make that so, I am honest with her and always try to listen and respond when she tells me something. I’m not always able to do so, but I really try. I have many wishes for her, that she be happy, healthy, and have faith in God, but I know I can only help those along, not expect them. 🙂

    • Well said! I like your honesty with Z. You are right about wishes rather than expect them. We all have wishes for our children to do well in life. It’s true we can only help them along and not expect them to fulfill them just to please us. Great provoking thoughts 🙂

  5. I really only expect the kids to be themselves. I want them to be honest, kind, smart, and happy but that is just a mother’s hope not really an expectation. I want them to do their best and try their hardest but that is just what I want for them. They are each different and still figuring out who they really are so I can only help guide but it’s not my place to hold them to some high expectations to only learn that isn’t what they want for themselves.

    • You must be a good mother. We are really companions and mentors and not dictators or rulers to our children. We can only guide and provide advice as they grow up to be individuals with their own thinking. We want the best for them, but often times we overdo it. I hope I can remember that I will not step overboard when I wish them to do well 🙂

  6. Honestly, I think its easier said than done. As much as we don’t want to have an expectation, we expect a certain standard & aspire for that expectation to be achieved.
    Though my kids are not in primary school yet, I already felt the pressure for him to excel … The best he can… So that he can have a “brighter” future.
    But sub consciously I have to remind myself, whilst I want him to do his best ; I must accept he has his limitations and sometimes I have to stop & remind myself to see his success and not his failure. Praise his little success & not just fault his bigger mistakes.
    Hoping that this method will continue towards his schooling days.

    Kids these days must do more than schoolwork; they need to manage their parents’ expectations! 😁😁😁😁

  7. I really think we need a greater emphasis on second chances.

    Expectations themselves are tricky. No, you don’t want to be unreasonably high, but I’m not sure having low/no expectations is a good thing, either. Having expectations can help make the child feel worthy of expectations, for a start. Also, expectations are powerful and can be used for good ends (I don’t want to get too magical thinking “just will it into existence” on you but it’s amazing how people will be friendly if you expect them to be friendly and vice versa and so on).

    But there’s a balance because it needs to be at the right *level* to get them reaching without feeling overwhelmed and also of the right *type of thing*, so they’re not just living your life or one that you’ve chosen for them, but one that is actually a good fit for them.

    We struggle with this, too.

    But second chances. There is still a lot of this thinking that if you don’t get your education right the first time then it’s over. I think we need more support for continued education and for the idea that we may hit our academic stride later – perhaps much later – and not only catch up to our peers but in some cases surpass them. The idea that you peg a child at four and that’s fixed and you can only go downhill on the spectrum from there is crazy.

    • You have good insights in this! I love your views. Expectations are good if used correctly. Like expecting good attitude and behaviour. But used in academic, that’s where many parents go overboard.

      I agree with you on second chances. It’s like a doom when kids don’t do well at PSLE and kind of banish them to hell forever. Life is much more than that. However I seriously wish my kids will go to a good school in Secondary simply because of the potentially healthier influence in good schools. Peer influence is crucial in how the kid grows up eventually. Of course family culture and parents influence greatly first. But I am not comfortable and not confident that entering the so called neighbourhood schools will let my kids come out “unscathed” so to speak. I will then have a harder time bringing up my teens.

      • Yes – not to deny that it can be easier to do it right first time! But all throughout adulthood there are chances to make up for past mistakes and disadvantages.

        I’d like to see people believe a little harder in the potential of future efforts and in just continually trying to press forward, even if the rate of progress may go through a slump for a few years. This is something for me as a parent but it would help if the message was coming from the whole of society and if there was more practical support for this view.

  8. I always tell my 2 boys: “Marks do not mean anything! As long as you’ve tried your best, we are proud of you no matter what marks you get.” I’m one who doesn’t believe that paper qualifications guarantee a bright future. I have relatives who are PhDs but living miserable lives, and those who are from ITE but living happy and fulfilling lives. I think perseverance, hard work, and having a good attitude are more important than achieving good grades. Having said that, I know too that being in SG education system, it is hard not to be caught in the rat race. It’s like swimming against the tides and I find it suffocating and stressful. That is something about our education system that I dislike…

    • This, coming from an educator speaks volumes 🙂 I can tell your son probably is more concerned about marks more than you. Then you have an easier time to just focud on coaching him on other aspects like character and attitude. But I know it comes with challenges too so “easy” is not an appropriate word after all. I agree totally with PhDs not doing as well as ordinary folks. Seen so many of them around me. This is exactly why I think academic should not be all there is to life. And boy it takes up 16 years of life or more. We should really take out some of this time to enjoy life apart from pursuing academic excellence.

  9. I always tell myself to not expect anything from the kids. I’m still trying, LOL. Its really understanding and knowing the concept VS really doing it is difficult. I can’t imagine the day my kids go for formal education. Can I fight the rat race?

    • We are all trying and trying to be the best mum, best teacher, best friend to our kids. Hopefully our kids grow up happily and know what they want eventually. There are so many things in life that are important and I think grades are certainly ranked much behind most of them. I hope I can leave the rat race :p

  10. It really easier to say. We all know how was it like as we have gone through education ourselves and when it comes to our children’s turn, we want to prepare them well. Its difficult for us not to be part of rat race because of existing education system as well as mindset we had throughout the years. This trend is prevalent in most Asia like Malaysia, China, Taiwan, japan. Nevertheless, this is a great article to do self check on ourselves as parents.

    • Yeah! Not easy to do it I agree. I think it’s an Asian mindset. Wherever there are Chinese, there is bound to have fierce competition. Like what you said, do a check on ourselves from time to time. After all, happiness is the main reason we strive for in whatever we do.

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