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Managing Expectations - A Guide for Parents

by: Dr. Ifat Matzner Herooti
Do you find yourself saying or thinking these things?
"I'm raising ungrateful children who appreciate nothing."
"I’m always doing things for this house and no one lifts a finger to help."
"I’m everyone’s maid, and I don’t even get a thank you."
"We’re raising a lazy and spoiled generation."
If you see yourself in any of the statements above - you are not alone. Many parents share the same expectations, waiting for their kids (and spouses) to appreciate all that they do for them.
Welcome to 'Martyr Parent Kingdom'.
This kingdom consists of people who are bitter, frustrated and sure that the world is against them. I was there too, in Martyr Kingdom, until I understood that being a martyr is a choice. Reality is what it is, and the universe really doesn’t care what I think of it. It exists, nature continues to evolve, and life goes on. The choice is ours. We can be angry at reality or accept it.
It might seem like a frustrating revelation, but it's actually liberating. It's an understanding that generates humility and puts things into proportion. Because while we have no control over what happens to us - we do have control over how we interpret reality.
Do your kids do what you ask them after you yell at them? Do your punishments achieve their goal, or do you have to step it up a notch each time just to be effective? It didn’t work for me. I suddenly realized that I was missing out twice: first, no one was listening to me, and second, I was hurting my emotional health.
How did I get here? I realized that if the martyr strategy wasn’t serving its purpose, it’s time to recalculate my route. How? By taking absolute responsibility for everything that has to do with me. It takes a lot of courage and honesty. We are only accountable to ourselves. I examined what it was about my behavior that makes my children lie to me or leads my spouse to ignore what I ask for. I changed my perspective and went from blaming my children and spouse (and my neighbors, my boss, my mother-in-law) to a meticulous introspection of my beliefs.
What I learned was not pretty and definitely not easy to digest and change. I discovered that I was busy proving to the world that I’m right and everyone is wrong. I discovered that I enjoy thinking that I’m in control, and I realized that I spend a lot of my time wallowing in self-pity. I realized that I don’t know how to act differently.
Then, I set out on a quest, searching for a different strategy. I read, researched and found it, and then I made the change. I slowly discovered that the more I accept things and don’t act against them, the happier I am. I discovered that the world is in my favor, not against me, that if something doesn’t work out, it’s just a learning opportunity. It’s a daily process that requires me to take absolute responsibility for the matters that relate to me. I said goodbye to the passive-aggressive approach that included ignoring, accusations and cynicism and which mainly led me to be bitter and angry with everyone. The more we trust and release the reins, the more we get back from our surroundings and from life. The more we get back, the more we trust and let go. It’s a positive spiral that works in the opposite direction of the negative spiral of accusations, disappointment, anger and criticism. I know what you’re thinking—it’s easier said than done. It is a lifelong process. It’s not a one-shot deal. Even if you decide to get going, the automatic reactions will sometimes surface, and that’s okay, it’s natural. When it happens, take a deep breath, read or watch something that encourages you and makes you happy (hint: not the news). Hug yourself and move on. I’m here with you. Stumbling, getting up, and constantly learning.