American author, Tony Robbins wrote, “Knowing you have failed to live up to your own standards is the ultimate pain, knowing that you have fulfilled your highest vision is the ultimate pleasure.”
To simplify the complex subject of standards and expectations, there are four categories:
- Authoritative – Healthy parenting sets appropriate age-level standards where children understand the rationale for high standards and reasonable expectations.
- Authoritarian – Extremely controlling parenting where aggressively high standards and unreasonable expectations suffocate children’s development.
- Permissive – Extremely tolerant parenting where lax standards and expectations provide children with too much freedom.
- Uninvolved – Neglectful parenting harms a child’s well-being and causes severe developmental problems.
The key to success is the authoritative style, avoiding the far less effective extremes. Obedience is far more common for children whose parents convey their reasoning for certain standards and expectations. By setting healthy limits, children become independent, socially accepted, and successful—academically, personally, and eventually, professionally. Children of authoritative parents are also less likely to engage in antisocial behaviors and are less susceptible to the dangers of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Humans tend to live up to (or down to) the standards we set (or tolerate) for ourselves. One example is dinner time; every household is different. In some families, the expectation is to come together, put away electronic devices, say grace, and discuss life. In some families, and for many reasons, there is less structure. Perhaps a history of lackadaisical screen time management makes a standard against phones at the table difficult to implement. As fathers, we set the standards in our homes; if dad monitors his phone during dinner, what message does this send to his children? A father sets the standard in his home; if we monitor our phone during dinner, what message does this send to our children?
We model and introduce standards to many areas of life, including diet, exercise, prayer, and reading, just to name a few. Paternal leadership sets the tone as a thermostat, not a thermometer.
Don’t Set Excessive Standards
Before considering standards for our children, we must first understand their abilities and potential. While outcomes are important, effort matters most. If standards are too high, we risk discouragement, loss of confidence, and poor self-esteem. Standards should be attainable (or just within reach if we stretch ourselves), but not so high that failure is inevitable. Feelings of inadequacy can lead to learned helplessness.
Don’t Set Low Standards
Just as having unreasonable standards can be detrimental, low standards can be even worse, limiting and even preventing children from achieving their full potential. Fathers who set a low bar risk condemning their children to lives of underachievement.
Raise Expectations Gradually
Success breeds confidence; give children tasks within their abilities. Then, gradually, make things more difficult. As children demonstrate mastery, continue to raise the bar. This “stretching” will help them build upon their successes and fuel improved skills and self-confidence.
Standards & Expectations for Reading
If we want our children to read fluently, allow this habit to unfold naturally in everyday life. Children should see reading AS everyday life, not something IMPOSED ON everyday life. Get together with the kids, agree on a plan, and stick to it. Engage their thoughts as the reading plan for the family comes together. Facilitate buy-in by giving them a say in setting the guidelines. Whatever the plan, with intentionality and consistency, our children can and should develop the reading habits we aspire for them.
Whatever the normal bedtime, consider allowing children to stay up for an extra twenty minutes if they’d like to cuddle up with a book (not an electronic device). Adding this option to their bedtime routine can instill a love of reading while calming the body and mind before they fall asleep. Children who habitually read in bed before sleep tend to associate reading with positive, warm feelings of comfort and security. By cultivating reading habits in childhood, children are more likely to become lifelong readers.
American businessman, Richard M. DeVos, wrote, “Life. It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” The standards we set and the expectations we hold within our households influence the trajectory of our children’s entire future. By avoiding outliers of either too much or not enough, nurturing fathers set standards that offer a healthy balance, helping children meet expectations not only during childhood but for the rest of their lives.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” —Romans 12:2 KJV
If you drop just one soda can out the window, it’s no big deal… right? But what if everybody did that? What if everybody broke the rules…and spoke during story time, didn’t wash up, or splashed too much at the pool? Then the world would be a mess. What if everybody obeyed the rules so the world becomes a better place?
When parents respond with kindness and patience, children gain first-hand experience the nurturing that helps build a kinder, more compassionate future. Raising Good Humans shows how to change “autopilot reactions” to create a lasting positive impact, not just for your children, but for generations to come.
Legendary trainer Tim Grover has taken the greats—Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and hundreds of relentless competitors in sports, business, and every walk of life—and helped them become greater. Relentless reveals what it takes to achieve total mental and physical dominance, showing you how to be relentless and achieve whatever you desire.
This book teaches children to train their busy brains and think outside the box. Get lost for hours exploring puzzling questions that have stumped thinkers for years. More importantly, discover your truth by reading about a diverse range of thinkers. Drawing on influences from ancient Greeks right up to modern-day American writers, philosophy is re-imagined in this book.
In today’s fast-paced world, we are encouraged to skip steps—to chase what’s hot, flashy, and sexy and ignore the basics. But the basics work. They always have. They always will.
With anecdotes about ordinary people, helpful suggestions about changing everyday behavior, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families shows how and why to have family meetings, the importance of keeping promises, and how to balance individual and family needs… all guiding the family from dependence to interdependence.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.