5 things you should stop expecting from your kids (and what to do instead)

We all expect certain things from our children, whether it's for them to listen to everything we ask or to always be on their best behavior in public. But sometimes the things we expect can do more harm than good—and aren't exactly reasonable.

Here are five things to simply stop expecting from them and what you can do instead.

1. For them to be good all the time

If you think about it, expecting our children to “be good" doesn't make any sense. No one is good all of the time. Everyone has lousy days. Everyone has days they're just not up to doing the things they should. Everyone has days when they need to be sad or mad or frustrated. Expecting our little ones to “be good" fails to teach them what is actually expected of them as it focuses on what they're doing wrong.

What you can do instead:

  • Be specific about what being “good" means: “I want you to share your toys with your sister." Instead of saying “You're such a good boy," say “Thanks for reading to your brother," or “Thanks for putting your toys away by yourself."
  • No one is good all of the time, so give your children some grace. Overlooking some of the “bad things" when they're non-priorities and do no harm to your child or others will make your parenting journey smoother.

2. To act older than they are

Kids are many things. They can be angels one minute and drive you up the wall the next. They're sometimes curious, sometimes quiet, and sometimes sneaky. For the most part, kids act their age but they do need to explore, try out new things and be silly. Let them enjoy their childhood a bit more, even if that means playing baby when they're a toddler. 😉

What you can do instead:

  • Know that kids will be kids and encourage them to explain how they're feeling or why they're acting a bit younger.
  • Be attentive to those kids who act older than they are. Just because your child acts older than she is doesn't make her an adult.

3. To behave like other kids

It's normal to notice that your son is more outspoken and your daughter is more reserved, or that your daughter is the shortest or tallest kid in her class. While we all compare our kids to other kids, consciously or unconsciously, when comparisons are verbalized, it can do harm.

Evidence suggests that unfavorably comparing siblings can have far-reaching negative consequences on the sibling judged to be “less competent." When we compare our children unfavorably to others, we send them the message that they're not good enough. We tell them they should aspire to be like someone else.

Likewise, when we compare our kids favorably to others, we teach them that they have to be better than others instead of being their best selves. When your son puts in little effort and you accept his mediocre results because he's at the same level as his friends, you send him the message that minimum effort is acceptable.

What you can do instead:

  • Teach your child that you expect his best, and that his best is always enough.
  • Focus on your child's strengths and weaknesses, not on how well or poorly her pals are doing.
  • Set realistic expectations. There is evidence that children thrive when we set “great" expectations.

4. To conform to the 'norm'

Have you noticed that you sometimes react differently to your child's behavior depending on whether you're in the company of others or by yourselves? We all do it, mama. In fact, many of our parenting habits are dictated by our environment. We may not necessarily agree with social norms or even some family norms and values, but we nonetheless attempt to impose those norms on our children—voluntarily or involuntarily.

What you can do instead

  • Trust that you are a good enough parent and be ready to stand by your parenting choices. Remember that your children learn much from watching you. When you stand by your beliefs, you teach them that their beliefs are valid.
  • Accept that your child is an individual in her own right.
  • Identify your own parenting priorities and values.

5. To be unlike you

Children, especially when they're young, are often an extension of their parents. When our children see us save regularly, they're more likely to become savers themselves. When we have a negative perception of much that happens in our lives, they're also bound to develop a pessimistic view of things. When they hear us yell because we're angry, they learn that yelling is an acceptable way to express one's emotions.

What you can do instead

  • Don't tell your child how he should act; show him through your own behavior. As James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."

You might also like:

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Talking to kids can come so easily. They have thoughts about everything and stories for miles. They see the world in a completely different light, and could ask enough questions to fill an afternoon.

But sometimes finding the right words for talking to kids can be really, really challenging. When choosing how to respond to the marker on the wall, or the seemingly unending why-can't-I battle, or in simply keeping healthy communication open with kids who don't want to talk, the words don't seem to come so easily.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play