091 – Chapter 9 – Part 5

Differing Parental Expectations

My wife and I disagree about what to put into our program. She says I expect too much from the children, and I think she’s too soft. How can we get past this problem?

Many parents operate similarly and over time their expectations and interactions with their children actually grow further and further apart. Each parent, consciously or unconsciously, tries to compensate for supposed errors in the other’s style. Most often, as in your case, the mother is seen as “too soft” and the father becomes more demanding to compensate; in response the mother strives to soften the impact of the father’s stance, setting up a pattern that feeds on itself even to the point of destroying the family.

Often parents haven’t discussed their goals and don’t know that they actually both want what is best for their children. To clarify where you each stand on child rearing, find a calm and unhurried time to discuss what you each are hoping to accomplish. Parents who see themselves as far apart on child rearing frequently discover that they actually have pretty much the same goals for their children. Virtually all parents, in one way or another, say they want to raise responsible, hard-working, caring, and even-tempered children. The issue, then, comes down to the best way to reach those goals.

If you are like most couples, the approach discussed in this book is different from what either of you has done before and it therefore represents a kind of neutral ground from which you can start fresh. Your home program invites your child to comply with your expectation with a promise of reward for compliance. Under these circumstances, your “soft” wife need not worry so much about you being too harsh since the child will either succeed or not and will either be rewarded or not – without harsh recrimination for “not.”

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When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.

                                                                             ~Erma Bombeck

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Similarly, the program will directly show how realistic your expectations are based on your child’s success rate. If you have set expectations too low, you’ll see lots of success and will be able to raise your expectations as each behavior is mastered. If your expectations are too high, your child will rarely succeed, and you’ll know that you must reduce the standards to a level that will show success. Working in this fashion will help you find a happy middle ground where you can pool your resources and work together to meet your overall goals for your child. The child’s success in assuming responsibility for his or her own behavior will be well worth your efforts.


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