​Helping My Teens Learn to Have Realistic Expectations

A few years ago my oldest was about to attend her first high school dance accompanied by her handsome friend. This young man was a boy my daughter had been crushing on since elementary school. This young woman of mine began preparing for one of the most magical experiences in her life and the pressure was high!

Now for years, I have had my kids in the kitchen with me. They have helped me prep, slice, stir, mix, knead, boil, saute, blanch and bake. I am able to say with confidence that when they leave home for the first time to live on their own that I have done my job training them in the kitchen. With that being said it was no surprise to me when my daughter told me she’d like to cook her and her date’s dinner for that evening.

My daughter scoured Pinterest for days and came up with the perfect menu for a candlelit dinner for two. She made plans and preparations in the days leading up to the event. When the day came she had timed everything so perfectly including getting herself all dolled up and ready. I couldn’t have been more proud as a mother!

At this point, life kicked in and her date was late, the food got cold, the meat was slightly undercooked and the cat shredded some of her beautiful table decorations while we welcomed her date into our home. To top it all off, a vegetable side dish she made just didn’t turn out the way she had hoped, in fact, she thought it was disgusting. I’ll never forget what she said as she held back tears:

“How could this happen? I ruined everything. I hope he doesn’t ditch me at the dance after this awful dinner.”

Watching my daughter’s eyes well up with tears just about did me in. This experience was one of many where I had the opportunity to talk with my kids about realistic expectations. Even with all the mishaps that took place she had, in fact, created an amazing atmosphere and meal for herself and her date. She did not see it this way and I had to help her realize a few things about expectations in life:

Setting Goals While Planning for Setbacks

Her goal to create the perfect night had one mistake from the beginning. She expected “Pinterest perfection”. It is important for us to remind our kids not to compare themselves to Pinterest, or their friends, magazines, commercials, and ads. She did great setting forth a plan to achieve her goal and learned that the only control she has over the situation is herself and her actions. She could not control what time her date arrived or what mood our feisty cat might be in at the moment.

Keep it simple

She may have gotten a little ahead of herself trying to accomplish the feat on her own for the first time. Outside influences (like Pinterest in her case) caused her to overthink the whole plan and bite off more than she could chew. If I could go back I would have talked her through her plan and asked what problems she might foresee, what piece of the plan could be eliminated completely to make her job easier, and what a few different outcomes of the dinner might be.

Enjoy the Experience and Do Your Best

At the end of the day, this is the most important part. As I witnessed my daughter begin to lose hope in herself and the night ahead of her I quickly reminded her of all the greatness she had just achieved simply by doing all she had done. I was able to convey what I had witnessed her accomplish that day and that I observed a girl who was creative, determined and had fun creating a wonderful meal. As she reflected on her experience that day leading up to the evening she was able to agree with me that it had been fun, she did her best and after all, it wouldn’t come close to ruining the fun night they had in store.

What’s so great about this simple lesson in expectations for my daughter is that we were able to have a great discussion later on about how much this applies to every aspect of life. She has the tools she needs to set goals, experience both failure and success, and enjoy the ride along the way.

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