How to set your expectations of your kids at the right level.

David Willans
2 min readApr 3, 2021

I did another podcast interview this week. With Matt. In it we discussed how we set our expectations for our children. We agreed we didn’t want to set the bar too low, doing things for them they can do themselves and robbing them of the ability to look after themselves. Nor did we want to set the bar too high, so they constantly feel they’re never worthy or capable.

That decision we agreed comes down to understanding and what you’ve taught them.

Take weaning. Do you give them purees and slowly build up to solids so there’s a lower risk of choking, or just give them solids and keep a close eye?

If you’re not careful, you can get lost in the research, trying to decide which is the right way to go. Trying to read everything and finally making a decision with half a heart because you can see both sides of the argument. It’s exhausting.

It can be easier to make decisions based on the fundamentals, an understanding of human and child development — and of what your child is able to do and cope with given their age, experience and temperament.

Take time out. It works for older kids who know you love them, even when you are cross. You send them away to calm down, it sends a strong signal and creates the conditions for them to reflect and learn, if you’ve taught them how to do that. It works because of they are able to cope with it and because of the relational work you have put in before that point.

Time out doesn’t work for little ones because it leaves a child, who often is developmentally incapable of working through the issue by themselves, to try and figure it out by themselves. And little ones regulate their emotions best in the relationship, not on their own.

Their age and stage of development, and what you’ve taught them to do, is what determines the decision of what you should expect of them. I can’t think of a better way to determine whether my expectations are too high or too low. Can you?

Now onto some worthwhile things. Not lots this time, because I have only found this choice few and I don’t want to waste your time or mine.

David Willans

Working out how to be the best dad I can be at | @Being_Dads.