Four Unrealistic Expectations You Might Be Putting On Your Kids


Our kids drive us nuts with their whining and complaining, they have zero impulse control, and have a seemingly callous disregard for consequences. And for goodness sake, can they please just do what we ask them the first time? Yet despite all of that, we really should start cutting the little guys some slack.

They’re just kids, after all, and they can’t always behave the way we would want them to. I definitely believe in enforcing consequences, but we need to cool it with getting so frustrated and angry (is that just me?) when our kids don’t live up to our expectations. They may make us want to pull our hair out with how inconsiderate and clueless they can be, but there are a few things we need to stop expecting from them.

Stop expecting early development.

My toddler just barely turned two. He’s large for his age, so he looks a lot older than he is, but he’s still very young. He also has a speech delay which makes his behavior seem much younger than his appearance. He gets frustrated when he can’t communicate what he wants (or doesn’t get what he wants) and throws a big flailing, hitting, throwing, kicking fit. I tell him not to hit and expect him to obey, but he doesn’t. He hits anyway. Every time.

When this happens I feel like my kid is a failure at acting appropriately in public and like I’m a failure at teaching my child to behave. Especially because he looks like he’s older than all the other toddlers on the playground. Recently though, I read that kids don’t develop impulse control until they are three or four. If that’s true, then my massive, fit-throwing toddler is totally normal. He’s not a bad kid, and I’m not a bad mom. I will still keep trying to get him not to hit until it finally sinks in,but there’s no reason for me to get all upset when he doesn’t get it. He’ll get there eventually. He’s not being defiant, he’s just being two.

Stop expecting them to have a childhood like ours.

We harp endlessly about what a shame it is that our kids are constantly on their devices. We bemoan the fact that they refuse to play outside all day like we did when we were kids. But our childhoods were not as perfect as we think they were. We may have had some good times, but if you were anything like me, you spent most of your summers watching Gilligan’s Island reruns and foraging for snacks. I didn’t play outside all day until the street lights came on like we always say we did. I have no clue where my mom was while I was watching so much T.V. and eating so much spray cheese, but she certainly wasn’t insisting that I go outside for some fresh air and exercise.

Besides, times have changed. We don’t really want our kids roaming around unsupervised anyway. There’s the danger of being abducted, the danger of other parents calling CPS on you for neglecting your children, and the danger that your child is causing who knows what kind of mayhem in the neighborhood. We shouldn’t imagine that our childhoods were idyllic, nor should we expect that our kids should be living the way things may (or may not) have been way back in the 20th century.

Stop expecting them to act like adults.

I get so furious when I’m at the beach and my kid unceremoniously drops the chip bag in the sand, shakes out a towel upwind of me, or runs across the blanket with wet, sandy feet (because we all know the worst part of the beach is all that freaking sand). I lament the fact that my child simply does not think.

How could they not realize the consequences of their actions? Don’t they see the sand flying everywhere? Don’t they hate being sandy just as much as I do? The answer is no, they don’t.

First of all, they don’t seem to mind being coated in a thick layer of sand all day as is evidenced by the fact that they roll around in it for hours. Second, I’m an adult. I’ve had 30-some-odd years to figure out the nuances of life and the behavior of sand in the wind. If my nine (or even 15)-year-old doesn’t get it yet, it’s understandable. We can’t expect them to act like they’re adults. Someday they will be (thank goodness for that) but right now they aren’t. So we’ll just keep reminding them (over and over and over again) to roll up the chip bag, shake out their towel downwind of all the adults, and walk around the dang blanket.

Stop expecting perfection.

If our kids are on their phones all day we freak out that they are becoming brain-dead zombies. If they run around playing loudly we yell at them for causing so much chaos. We want our kids to play outside all day like we (supposedly) did when we were kids, but we don’t want them to actually do anything out there that might be annoying or dangerous. We tell them to be creative, responsible and independent; but don’t want them to make the wrong choices so we end up micromanaging everything. We are never satisfied. No matter what our kids do we want them to be the supreme balance of well-rounded perfection. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten there yet ourselves, so we can’t expect our kids to have done it yet either.

We need to quit having unrealistic expectations of our kids. I’m all for having rules, teaching them proper behavior, and enforcing consequences; but we need to stop expecting that they will get all of this down the first (or even second or third or tenth) time. We should relax a little and not feel so upset about our kids being kids. Because if we as adults are still learning, why would we expect anything different from them?



Hi, I’m Crystal Hill and I’ve been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development (yes, that’s a real degree) from BYU. I’m particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I’m not too fat. I’m also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.You can find me at Simplify MommyhoodFacebookPinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. See all of Crystal’s posts here. 


  1. Sometimes as an adult we become all knowing. Whether it be in our relationships,life in general and yes, our children. I have learned some things along the way mostly by trial and error. When it comes to little ones, I find I have mastered nothing. Everything you brought up in your article I have been guilty of. To this day, going at again as a grandparent, I still want to reach in my cure all bag and make my grandsons into something I think they should be. It’s easy to forget that they are their own individuals and they have to be allowed to grow and grow at their own pace. Your article was informative and I will try and keep your advice in my thoughts and actions with my grandsons. Regards J M Kopp

  2. Thanks so much for the reminder. I feel like we have been particularly hard on our 5 year old lately because of lack of impluse and not listening to a single word we say… he’s 5… a kid.. right! 🙂

  3. Yes. Yes. And more yes!!! I need to lay off my girls!!! They are far more perfect than I was at that age (bias opinion) so I think I can give them lots of slack!!!! Thank you for posting!

  4. My brother and I were non stop playing sports and then outside playing. We had the option to watch TV eventually but by that time we had good habits of staying active & still was outside constantly. To this day I limit TV for one hr a day on weekends, being on my phone only even I don’t have the kids if I want & only after the kids are asleep. We enjoy each others company, split up and work on our own projects or use our creativity to entertain ourselves. Hopefully they will know the true important things in life & realize you don’t need to fall into being the “consumer” generation to live or get by.

  5. I couldn’t agree with all of these more! When I’m out in public, I get so sad for kids who are being screamed at and yet are supposed to be more composed than the parent even though they have a far less developed brain. HA! And I love the point about them not having a childhood like ours. We need to band together to help parents let kids be kids 🙂


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