Expectations: Drowning our Young People’s Dreams

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Expectations. They’re like a ball and a chain around our neck pulling us to the abyss beneath the sea. Why do we put so much emphasis on to me?

This is an especially important topic for young adults who are the audience for the books I write. They are in a phase of their life where they are searching for their own personal identity and all these expectations are flooded.

For the next several weeks I want to post once a week about a different expectation that we place on our young people. We’ll discuss why it exists, what is good about it, any bad sides to it, and if there’s a solution to placing such an expectation on the backs of our children.

Expectations have validity. I worked in education for years and data proved that when you expect your class to achieve certain standards, they work to meet those expectations. Not 100 percent of the students, but overall, young people want to rise to the challenge.

They want to accomplish. They want to be validated by adults even if they snarl at them and pretend that they are the dumbest people in the world. That is all part and parcel of being a teenager, but in the back of their minds, they know that you have something that they don’t: life experience.

They want to meet your expectations. Problems arise when we throw too many expectations on them. Suddenly, there’s no way on earth they can ever meet them. If we place such high expectations that even a genius could never attain them, why are we disappointed when the seventh and eighth and ninth graders can’t reach that mark?

The benchmark. The state benchmark is a lie. Can you tell I’m not a fan of standardized testing? I personally find this expectation that you aren’t deserving of a high school diploma if you cannot pass a series of standardized tests (most of which are based on tons of information that you will – let’s see – never again need to know in your life) is ridiculous.

Why do we want to set our kids up to fail? Why are the bureaucrats deciding what information is important for kids to know? I’ll tell you why. Because in Japan and China, kids go to school 10 hours a day six days a week and they turn out to be incredibly gifted in science and mathematics. They come up with all sorts of innovations and Americans feel like they’re falling behind.

So let’s raise the standards for the average kid. You can bet that’s going to make the people who are gifted rise to the top. Not at all. It is guaranteed to discourage the guy in the middle, our average citizen.

You know the guy who is going to be a worker. Guess what? Society needs worker bees. Society needs someone who is willing to ring up your groceries at the store or stock the shelves. Who will assemble that car (you need a new one every five years) if someone isn’t willing to work on the line?

Before I go off on a rant about this issue, I will stop. I plan to discuss this whole “everyone needs a college degree” expectation in a future post.

What I’m looking for here today: commenters to tell me some expectations that they see heaped onto our young people. I’ll be happy to discuss your suggestions in the later blog posts. They can be positive expectations or expectations with negative consequences.

Please join my discussion. Parents, grandparents, teenagers (if you’re out there reading my blog), young adults: what are some expectations that were placed on you as a teenager? Did they help you succeed? Did they discourage you? Were they reasonable or unreasonable?

Your input is invaluable to me on this most important topic.

4 thoughts on “Expectations: Drowning our Young People’s Dreams”

  1. I’m one to agree with you on standardized testing. I promise not to go off in the comment section. I think teens have it worse than anyone. They want to be adults. They want to be treated like adults, but they’re afraid to leave the teen years behind. They put their own expectations on themselves and then we dump more. We as adults forget they’re still teens, still learning, still trying to find their way. My expectations for my kids were: love yourself and who you are; do the best you can in school and in work, not goof off and pretend it doesn’t matter because it does. Be kind to others even if they don’t reciprocate; expect the unexpected and face life with dignity, grace and perseverance. I know I’ve fallen short many times but I think overall, I’ve been a good role model. I’d like to think my kids agree. I know my kids are awesome, though they’ve had their share of ‘mistakes’. They still hold their heads high and have a good moral compass. I look forward to your series.

    1. Jenny-
      I think your expectations for your kids were reasonable and things you could model for them. And let’s not get started about making mistakes in parenting because I made so many. Ugh.
      Are there any unfair expectations you see placed on teenagers that you’d like to see me address in this series? So far I’m talking about tests and college.
      Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your input.

  2. The expectation to know where you are going in your life. I remember everyone needing to be so concerned with what classes you are taking in High School to be connected to what you were going to be studying (or not) post high school. I guess my expectation is that people have expected me to succeed and know where I am going. I guess maybe because I did well in school people have expected me to obviously have a clear path for what I want to do now that I am trying to do it. But I really haven’t had much of a clue until more recently. I guess doing well in many things can kind of be a burden that way. If you are always told you are good at different subjects how are you supposed to know what to do once you are faced with any job or education concentration that there is? I think that is what has taken me so long to figure out. I need to do what is right for me and what I feel is right for me and not worry so much about what other people expect or want me to do.

    1. Kacy-
      I believe it is difficult for multi-talented people to find the right path. Is it wrong for adults to encourage them down paths that they have a gift for? I don’t know. I wonder how much pressure that places on teenagers who are confused about the future.
      Speaking from experience, it’s pretty ridiculous to spend 40 years pleasing everybody else in the world. Especially since I knew what I wanted to be since age 9.
      Being a writer wasn’t a good career path. Being a lighting specialist (or whatever the proper name is) is a narrow career path, but if that is what your heart yearns for, do it. Life is short but regrets make years drag.
      Thanks for sharing. I will be addressing the subject of choosing a career path in high school in a later post.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.