Great Expectations

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Do u have expectations of your child? Expectations to meet certain levels of development, or expectations of certain set behavior?

I think it is always good to boost your child’s confidence by telling them that you believe that they will be able to attain certain goals. Setting too low expectations may not be a good thing either, as we will find that our kids give up easily when the going gets tough.

Nonetheless, we often need to reflect if these goals are even attainable at their age or developmental levels.

Recently, at a mall’s craft area with Kyle, I overheard this conversation a mom had with her son.


Mom of boy : Why don’t you take this and try to make it?

Boy : It looks like it is for bigger boys.

Mom of boy : Let’s get it and you can try to make it while mummy go shopping

Boy : Mummy, it looks very difficult to make

Mom of boy : U can just look at the instructions to make it. 你可以的。

Boy : 真的不可以,很难. Mummy I really cannot do it, I am not so smart, you know.

Mom of boy : You can do it, 可以的. Mummy believe in you.

Then the mom took off and left the boy alone at the craft corner.


First impressions; the mom seemed like a supportive parent, encouraging her son to try making the craft. Then when I took a quick glance at what was on the table, I realised that he had one of those china-made styrofoam model planes with unlabeled parts. The boy look like he was barely 6 years old, and the activity that he was attempting did not seem to be developmentally appropriate for a 6 year old boy.

For the next 5 minutes, the boy sounded rather frustrated and repeated, “Cannot leh, not the right one….Auntie (the lady manning the craft corner), how to do, I don’t know how to put this…how like that…” While the lady at manning the craft corner kept telling him that she didn’t know how to fix it either and there was no sample for him to follow.

Kyle then completed his craft, walked up and passed it to the lady to pop the craft into the toaster for a quick dry. He stood near the table where the boy was seated, the boy looked at his craft and said, “Wow, robot. How do you do it, I want to do also.” Then he looked at the parts of styrofoam of the aeroplane on his table and told Kyle, “Ok, I compete with you to make this aeroplane, you dare or you don’t dare to compete with me!”

Kyle was rather taken back to have heard this response from the boy but he answered meekly,”Ok lah.”


Few conclusions after these observations;

  • The boy’s mom could have taken the time to explore the item with her son, instead of thinking that this craft corner will be a good child-minding place. She might have discovered that the model aeroplane kit was not developmentally appropriate for her child, and would have encountered his frustrated attempts to fix it together. Maybe she overlooked the level of difficulty in making the model aeroplane and then assume that if she can do it, her son will be able to as well.

  • His response to Kyle could likely give an indication that by daring him to compete, could reflect a sense of how difficult the activity that he was working on.

  • On a totally unrelated note, I don’t agree with leaving a 6 year old child in a craft area in the mall all by himself. Call me paranoid, after the recent hype about alleged kidnap attempts at our local malls, I can picture this baddie coming along with chloroform in a cloth to sedate the child, and then carry the child away without a struggle.

As parents, we need to careful not to set unrealistic expectations for our kids. Children need a level of achievement to strive for, so when success is attained, self esteem increases. However when the reverse happens, the child’s confidence might be undermined. Read this about self esteem in children.

All parents have hopes for their children. Hopes for our children to fulfill our expectations of success. Maybe even hopes that our child will be that first in the family to obtain a scholarship, be that first doctor, lawyer or national sportsman/woman.

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So do I agree with this quote? Not fully, as like most asian parents, I believe that communicating high expectations to children is one way we can encourage our children to have more confidence in their abilities, self-esteem, and set higher standards for themselves.

Nonetheless, having observe that from another mom and child, I am reminded that I tend to overlook my expectations of my child at times. There needs to be a balance; too much expectations can be a baggage, in some cases, even negative, as children may get the message that they are always not good enough.

Expectations should be a reflection of my child’s interest and abilities, and not of my own interests. It should never consist of the hopes that my child will be able to live out the dreams that I may have missed along the way.

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For more random thoughts on ‘Observation in Social Psychology’, refer to these posts; Playground Police Lessons from the playground


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  1. Although we set expectations, be it homework or sports, we want them to challenge themselves. End of the day, we are happy as long as the kids try their best :)

    Work hard, play hard.
    SengkangBabies´s last blog post ..Family photo at Gardens Bay East

  2. totally love the quotes you put up about expectations… very true indeed. and i totally cannot understand also how parents treat these activities as a nanny service then they make big hoo haa when their child is hurt or worse kidnapped. just like how some parents just put their kids to read at bookshops while they shop.

    back to expectations.. i guess we all harbor some form over expectations for our children… and most times over expectations… but it’s a matter of us coming to terms with them rather than blaming the child for not meeting them.

    Rachel Reply:

    Yes, too many take the safety in Singapore for granted. But somehow I just feel that things are not the same anymore, we are not a safe country anymore, in fact, no where is.

    Indeed, it is a case of setting realistic expectations for our kids to meet. Not having any is also wrong, as it does not motivate the child to give it their best effort.