High Expectations or Unreasonable Expectations Through Adoption?

High expectations or unreasonable expectations? This is a question that has plagued our household since the children came home. At 3 and 5 their personalities, likes, experiences were already fully formed and we knew this. Or at least, we thought we knew this!

Before they arrived home we had talked so much about what we would expect from them. We had a list of what we would expect from our two new arrivals. Some of it looked a little like this:

  • We wanted to sit all together at the table every night, with great manners from the children, whilst we chatted about our days together.
  • The children would understand the different rules we put in place to keep them safe and would be able to follow them from the first day.
  • We would reason with them when they were upset and they would then be able to use words to explain how they were feeling.
  • They would enjoy going to school and be excited to tell us everything they did. This would include homework.
  • Both of them would love to read, would learn to read quickly and would spend hours curled up with books.

Right. So…..it turns out that we were basically thinking we would be getting mini me’s!  My friends did tell me when I would spout the above at them, that perhaps my expectations were just a little unreasonable.  Would I accept that? Nope! In my head we were aiming for high expectations.  After all, if you don’t aim high then the children will never strive to meet them.

Well, 18 months later and I look back at those moments with a wry smile.  What on earth was I thinking?  The thing about adopting is, I guess similar to having a birth child, you have so many hopes and dreams for them and for the life you are about to lead.  The difference is, adopted children have been through so much already, and have formed into little people with their own ideas, experiences, thoughts, desires and dreams.  That’s the part we really didn’t think about!

Over the last 18 months, our expectations have definitely changed! I would say that they are still high expectations, after all I want the children to grow up to be good members of society – but they are not any more unreasonable!  What do our expectations look like now?

  • We want the children to always try their best, no matter what it is.  If they want to take up a sport, go to a club, learn a new skill, then we want them to build resilience, keep trying when it gets hard, and learn how to pick themselves up and try again.  But, we are not expecting them to know how to do this straight away. We will be there with them with encouragement, understanding and guidance on how to do this!
  • Manners remain an important skill and we do expect good manners.  Both children are great at saying please, thank you and thank you for having me.  They occasionally need a little prompt but not often!
  • We really do want the children to be able to use words to explain how they are feeling – but this is a skill in itself.  Both of the children have a tendency to go to a primal place when they are sad and it’s really hard to be reasonable when emotions are so huge.  So we hold them close when they are angry or sad – make it clear we are hear to listen to them, and wait for the storm to pass until they can talk to us. Then we always help to solve the problem so they can see that words really do work!

It did take some time for us to see the children as the people they are rather than the children we hoped they would be.  And we are delighted they are who they are – funny, engaging, smart, hard working and determined – why would we want them to be any one else?

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2 thoughts on “High Expectations or Unreasonable Expectations Through Adoption?

  1. Cathy

    I love this and can resonate with it even though we have two biological children. They definitely aren’t mini-mes and my expectations were wildly unrealistic too! But I love the people they are and I’m very thankful that are their own individual selves… The manners, the chats about our days, the book loving will all come with time (ours our very young, only 2 and 5 months) and with much repetition! But as for their temperaments and quirks, I’m so glad they are different to me, even if it was a shock initially! I love reading your posts, thanks for sharing so much about your family on your blog.
    Cathy recently posted…Finding Joy in Unlikely PlacesMy Profile

  2. Lucy At Home

    I think everyone has this when they have kids (adopted or otherwise) – you have this perfect picture of how it’s going to be, but in reality, life just doesn’t pan out like that. I imagine this will be much more amplified with adopted kids because, as you say, they’ve already formed opinions and tastes and behaviours before you’re on the scene. Accepting our kids as they are and nurturing who they ARE (rather than who we pictured they’d be) is tricky but very rewarding. It sounds like you’re doing a great job 🙂
    Lucy At Home recently posted…Easy Peasy Party Bunting In 3 Quick StepsMy Profile


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