Great Expectations. It’s a novel. It’s a story of human life that comes at you on many levels. It’s the story of love and appreciation, of work and of rising out of nothing into something. It has its nightmares and its problems, but it has its surprises, as well.
Can we expect great things from our children or from one another? Does our culture allow us to demand great things anymore? Do we have a right to make a child behave or do his homework well or his chores regularly?
I remember a very special group of nuns who loved the children in their care. When your ink blotted on your math paper, the expectation was to begin again. There was never a raised voice or a scolded child. It was simply expected, and everyone knew.
You didn’t crumple your paper, because that was unladylike. You slipped your paper quietly into the trash can, and you began again silently.
Ridiculous, you might think, but it taught us that everything we did mattered.
If you carry that thought with you into adulthood, at the very least, the most insignificant things you do will be done well because they matter, from peeling an apple to the real matters of achievement, that of rearing a child.
From what teachers see today, we expect virtually nothing, and then we whine when we get it. Children have a license to do nearly anything anytime without regard to anyone else, and we call this civilization. It isn’t.
I always laugh when a parent tells me, “I couldn’t get him to do it.”
“Really? What are your expectations?” Then they look at you as if a light bulb has gone off.
Parents often forget who is in charge. Rarely do ineffective parents have expectations. The children of fruitless, hopeless sloth are not free. In fact, they are prisoners of horrible behavior, which is more emotionally confining than simple, kindly, agreeable behavior. When parents are not in charge and have no expectations, children suffer.
In a classroom, the expectations move from parents to teachers. Teachers are supposed to back up parents and fill in for parents who are lax. They are supposed to be tough, caring, intelligent and filled with expectations for the kids in the room.
I salute all of my children’s grade-school teachers because of their strong and decent influence.
It starts at birth in the home when parents expect a good schedule for infants and toddlers. By 3 and the preschool years, a child’s behavior should be under control. He should have learned the hard lesson: how to listen.
By 5, a child should be able to conduct himself like a gentleman and turn his listening skills into learning.
Discipline today counts now as much as it did in the times of Great Expectations. Then as now, it should be a normal daily matter of attention to detail, and a conversion of manners, which means a gentle turning toward the best we can be from the inside out.
Expect great things from a child, demand the world, and he will give it to you.
Expect nothing and that will be yours also, and his.
Taken from “Expect Great Things From a Child—He’ll Give it to You,” Scripps Howard News Service