10 Things Parents Expect From Their Kids That Are Totally Unreasonable and Cause Undue Strife

Updated on March 28, 2018
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I'm a credentialed teacher with a master's degree in special education. I spent many years teaching preschool and kindergarten.

Let Kids Be Kids!

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, and other 20th century pioneers in developmental psychology for revolutionizing the way we look at childhood. Because of their influence, kids are no longer seen as miniature adults like they were in Victorian times. During those days, poor youngsters got used as cheap labor on farms and in factories. Wealthy ones got dolled up in stiff, frilly, formal clothes that were unsuitable for play. Even today, however, we still go off the rails from time to time by expecting too much from children, given their immature mental and emotional state. Here are 10 ways we forget kids are kids.

Some moms and dads are horrified when their preschoolers don't share. Developmental psychologists, however, contend that children don't know how to truly share until they're 7 or 8.
Some moms and dads are horrified when their preschoolers don't share. Developmental psychologists, however, contend that children don't know how to truly share until they're 7 or 8. | Source

1. Forcing Them to Take Standardized Tests When They're Too Young

Politicians elbowed their way into the education arena with few credentials and pushed for more standardized testing. Today, even kindergartens and preschoolers get subjected to these exams that cost states $1.7 billion a year. Renowned development psychologists, teachers, and early childhood professionals criticize testing but are largely ignored. They continue to speak out, though, wanting the public to know that testing young kids is unreliable, a waste of class time, and a misuse of funds. Some have gone so far as calling it a form of child abuse.

Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Page, a senior advisor for Defending the Early Years (and the mother of actor, Matt Damon) leads the charge against standardized testing. She sums up its disastrous and far-reaching effects: “As we see testing increasingly edge out play and active learning in classrooms for young kids, we also see more and more children who don't like school, who feel way too much pressure, who don't want to go to this place that feels so uncomfortable and out of sync with who they are and what they need.”

More Teachers and Developmental Psychologists Are Speaking Out About the Dangers of Standardized Testing

2. Perceiving Their Inability to Share as a Character Flaw of Epic Proportions

While playing in a sandbox, one kid inevitably snatches a sand toy from another. His mom takes him by the hand—mortified by his transgression—and leads him away, scolding him as they go. She keeps her eyes fixed on the ground as she takes the parental walk of shame. She feels like a failure, convinced her son's inability to share shows a lack of character, compassion, and morality.

Developmental psychologists, however, would tell this mom to stop beating herself up and cut her boy some slack. Kids, they say, don't know how to truly share until ages 7 or 8. Dr. Bill Sears, the noted pediatrician and author of more than 30 parenting books, believes moms and dads should encourage sharing but not demand it. He says preschoolers are naturally egocentric with a “what's in it for me” attitude that prevents them from thinking of others. When they enter elementary school, though, he says they'll become more socially aware, adopting a “what's in it for us” stance.

3. Labeling Any “Mean” Behavior as Bullying

Bullying is the big buzz word among parents today. Politically correct moms and dads devour books on the subject and proudly hail their zero-tolerance stance. They don't hesitate for a second to call any sort of negative behavior bullying even when it occurs in preschool and kindergarten.

These parents, however, are doing a disservice to young children by labeling them indiscriminately. Youngsters at this age have just transitioned from parallel play (being side-by-side but not interacting) to socializing with peers. They need adults to guide and teach them as they build friendships, not label them.

If they're acting out in a violent way, these kids need help and compassion. Betsy Evans, a conflict resolution specialist, says: “When adults frequently observe a child engaging in hurtful actions toward others, the child must not be seen as 'mean' or 'bad' but as experiencing emotional, physical, or social challenges that are overwhelming. Those behaviors will become a pattern if there is no intervention by teachers or parents.”

If a child is being mean, he needs guidance and understanding. Labeling him a "bully" only hurts him more.
If a child is being mean, he needs guidance and understanding. Labeling him a "bully" only hurts him more. | Source

4. Sending Them Off to Clean Their Rooms by Themselves

When a mom tells a child to clean his room, she has a clear idea of what needs to get done: toys picked up off the floor, bed made, dirty clothes put in the hamper, and books returned to the shelf. However, little kids don't have such a lucid vision. Cleaning a room to them is an overwhelming task. They need guidance to break it down into small doable steps.

Sara Bean, a school counselor and mom, says: “It’s very important that kids know exactly what your expectations are. Many times we think they know how to do certain tasks, but they honestly don’t—they need to be shown the ropes first before they really get it.” Parents need to realize little kids aren't being lazy, stupid, or obstinate. They just need our help.

5. Believing They're Hyperactive if They Can't Sit Still for Long Periods of Time

Today, even preschool and kindergarten teachers demand academic rigor from their students. Little kids must sit still longer, listen more attentively, and do more advanced work. Kindergarten teachers are under pressure to get all students reading, even though not all 5-year-olds are developmentally ready to do so. Such unreasonable expectations force educators to do things that aren't in the best interest of children. These include assigning too much seat-work, giving too many paper-pencil tasks, having children sit quietly for too long during teacher-directed lessons, and minimizing play.

When a youngster can't sit quietly for long periods of time, he gets labeled immature or hyperactive. But, in truth, he's just normal. A kindergarten's attention span is about 20 minutes. Therefore, teachers need to let kids learn actively by moving, exploring, and doing. Just because the curriculum has changed— becoming more academically rigorous—does not mean the needs of little kids have changed.

Many Adults Think Children Need to Sit Still and Listen to Listen, But Children Learn Best by Doing

6. Expecting Them to Learn How to Read at the Same Time

While kindergarten was once a joyful, stress-free year of playing, painting, and making friends, it's now an anxiety-producing time for many kids and parents. Ignoring what developmental psychologists say, schools now expect all students to learn how to read in kindergarten with no recognition of individual differences. Teachers must put their knowledge of child development on the shelf along with their common sense.

Kindergarten teachers today even place students in homogeneous groups during reading time—top, middle, and bottom. Thus, at the tender age of 5, children are getting told they're smart, dumb, or average. Parents fret needlessly when their youngster gets placed in the lowest group as if it signifies a troubling academic future.

What parents need to know, however, is this simple fact: No research documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten. A child who learns to read at 5 does not become a better reader than one who learns at 6 or 7. In Finland, one of the world's most literate societies, formal reading instruction does not start until age 7.

7. Over-reacting When They Lie

We all tell lies—both big and small—so over-reacting when a kid tells an untruth is nonproductive and hypocritical. In fact, lying is a cognitive milestone of normal development. The inability to lie is one indicator of autism.

According to child development experts, young children don't have a clear notion of where truth begins and ends. Dr. Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids with Character, says it's common for children 4 and younger to regularly confuse reality, daydreams, wishes, fantasies, and fears. Parents needn't freak out when their child lies. They should, however, make it clear they're not buying the lie and explain how lying breaks trust and hurts the relationship.

Dr. Elizabeth Berger's Book Helped Me Establish Reasonable Expectations for My Kids

Raising Kids with Character: Developing Trust and Personal Integrity in Children
Raising Kids with Character: Developing Trust and Personal Integrity in Children

After giving birth to my first child, I realized I didn't want to parent him as my parents had parented me. I knew what I didn't want to do, but I needed help in what to do. This book was extremely useful in setting my course of action. I definitely became a better mother because of it.


8. Bragging When They're Potty-Trained at an Early Age

Nothing is more tedious than parents bragging about their toddler, who got potty-trained at an early age. They act as if it's a remarkable feat, indicating great intelligence and willpower—perhaps, worthy of early acceptance at MIT. But Dr. Steve Hodges, a pediatric urologist, argues that early potty-training is not an achievement to boast about and can even cause health problems.

Dr. Hodges says getting youngsters out of diapers before age 3 is potentially dangerous. Because the bladder continues to grow until it reaches standard size at age 3, children need to let it fill and empty uninhibited so it gets stronger. Early potty-training interrupts this natural process and can lead to accidents. It can also lead to constipation, kidney damage, and urinary tract infections.

9. Giving Them an Exorbitant Amount of Screen Time

Just as moms and dads in the 1950's thought television had potential as an innovative educational tool, foolish parents today see technology as wholly positive. While their kids sit at the dinner table punching away at their Smartphones and iPads, they think how marvelous that this generation is on their way to successful high-tech futures. But, in reality, experts in child development believe the harmful effects of technology use at an early age far outweigh the benefits.

Children spend an average of 7 hours per day with their screens: phones, computers, and televisions. If schools continue to increase classroom technology use, kids will suffer serious consequences. Excessive screen time is linked to greater rates of obesity, decreased ability to think creatively, independently, and deeply, and weaker communication skills.

Diane Levin, a senior advisor for Defending the Early Years, writes: “As young children are controlled more and more by media and technology—what I call 'Remote Controlled-Childhood'—they have a hard time constructing knowledge...But instead of giving children what they need, today’s education policy makers are responding by mandating remote-controlled approaches to teaching and learning—rote teaching of easily testable isolated facts. What remote-controlled young children really need is help becoming deeply engaged in the creative learning process...so they become life-long learners and problem solvers.”

Too much praise makes a youngster insecure and needy.
Too much praise makes a youngster insecure and needy. | Source

10. Extolling Their Good Looks Over Good Character

In our superficial Keeping Up With the Kardashians world, adults emphasize the superficial—good looks, wealth, popularity—over the substantive—compassion, intelligence, and hard work. When preschoolers enter their classrooms, teachers and parents fawn over their appearance—their clothes, hair, and accessories. They make comments such as: “You look so cute today...I love your new dress...Your hair looks so pretty with those bows in it.” Kids— especially girls—get the message at a young age that good looks is what garners attention and accolades.

However, child development experts say that too many kudos create praise junkies — a term used to describe youngsters who are overly dependent on the feedback of others. Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, says excessive compliments create a child who is less self-assured—a kid who “begins to need, crave, and even depend on praise for their motivation..a person who needs consistent affirmation from others to feel confident in his or her own ability or choices.”

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 McKenna Meyers


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      • profile image

        Kathleen Cochran 

        23 months ago

        If new parents will read this hub, they will be so much more prepared for parenthood than I was.

        Skip so much of the screen time and read to them.

        A teacher told me children who read at 4 end up at the same level by 3rd grade as children who don't read until Kindergarten. They are early-readers not necessarily more intelligent.

        Boredom actually forces a child to use his/her imagination. In moderation, it is a good thing.

        I've learned with my grandchildren to praise them for their hard work when they bring home good grades instead of praising them for being smart. The difference is a generation that is ready for the adult work force and one that is not.


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