Parental Expectation Doesn’t Equal A Child’s Path

Whether you are a single parent, separated parent or a two parent family, we all have the same expectations and goals for our children – to do well and succeed.

When you are blessed with children something shifts in you. You work harder. You try harder at things with the goal that your children will have a better life than you. You try to lead your children by example. With leading comes expectations for your children. A parents expectation is tied into their goals and dreams for their children and can create hope that children will comply to reach the goals and wishes set for them.

However, what happens when children choose not to follow expectations? What happens when they choose their own path? What then? Who do we blame? Who is responsible?

canstockphoto4080996We’ve all heard sayings such as nature vs nurture or religious teachings that say to train the child and they will never part from you. We also hear if the child does something wrong outside of the parents’ expectation, values and beliefs, then it must be the parents fault.

For many parents the scenario involves living right and doing all the right things. You work hard and set an example such as: driving with your seat belt on; making a choice not to abuse drugs or alcohol; living in a nice neighbourhood; sending your kids to a decent school; and being actively involved in your church, mosque, temple and community. Regrettably, somewhere while setting an example for children and having expectations while following the rules of parenting something goes wrong. Children decide to do things different. Issues and behaviours such as: drugs; breaking the law; getting locked up; and on and on are not part of our plans for our children.

Now what?

Swans If you are like me and think that if you do all best parenting with high expectations for your child, then all will be well and they will follow your lead. Unfortunately for a lot us, this is not always the case.

As children reach a certain age, things change, their influences and choices do not match ours as parents. Sometimes their choice is the polar opposite to our choices for them.

What are our choices as a parent now? I know for me like so many others, I am left broken, angry, hurt, shamed, and disappointed while silently blaming myself. We can often feel that our children have not held up their end of the bargain and they have let us down. We hope they will turn it around and follow our plan and not continue along the wrong path.  

When children have disappointed us it is difficult as a parent not take it personal. When they continue to do things so extreme it can hurt and feel emotionally painful.

However, once you have passed through these feelings, you can come out the other side continuing to love and support your child and just love them unconditionally. As parents we do this because that is what being a parent and human being is about – love in action.

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Fatherless No More

Meeting my father was my lifelong dream.

All my life I wanted to know who he was. Do I look like him? Do I have siblings?

I finally met him when I was 37 years old.

I grew up in a household of women with my mom her two sisters and my two cousins.

There was no father figure in the house. My two uncles came by from time to time.

I asked my mom about my father over and over. She gave a number of excuses. I soon stopped asking.

I hoped and dreamt to meet my father one day and wondered if I would have sisters and brothers.


As a teenager I learned that the last name I bear does not belong to my father, but to my mother’s husband. They were separated at the time of my birth.

I felt confused, but convicted to find out who I am.

My mother’s family was very fulfilling, yet I felt the vastness of my other self. It was like I was on half of the bed and the other half was empty.

In the late 90’s, I cornered my aunt to tell me who my father was. She did.

In 2002 my mother also confirmed my father’s identity and revealed I have an older sister.

This confirmation was very illuminating and began to make me feel whole.

It turned out I had met my father years before when I was about 26. My mother and I were at a picnic where she and this man in a cowboy hat got along well joking and laughing. My memories of this man in the distinctive cowboy hat were such that I nicknamed him Tex. Since that time I greeted him every time I saw him as Tex. My father later told me how good that made him feel.


My father told me he always kept update to date with my ins and outs and even kept in touch with my mother.

My mother had her reasons for not telling me about him as both my parents were married to other people when I was born.

Later that year my mother succumbed to cancer and I was alone.

My mother’s support of me was warm and cozy. Her presence had provided an invisible blanket of security I took for granted. When she died, I felt less secure and very alone.

Almost one year later my godmother told me my father wanted to see me. I was so involved with settling my mother’s affairs I had almost forgotten about him and had not thought about what to do about my knowledge of his identity.

My godmother shared insights to my father and his family that had me thinking: “What man wants to claim a 37 year old child?”

With a lot of thought, I agreed to meet with him after the one year marker of my mother’s passing.

I insisted we meet in a neutral space, so our meeting was at the vacant home of a friend.

I asked questions which he willfully answered. I was very firm in letting him know I would not tolerate him speaking against my mom because she was not here to defend herself. He was very respectful in his responses and I was satisfied with his answers. We decided to work on our relationship.

My father told me I had a sister, niece, cousins, uncles, aunts and a great aunt who was 101.

Later that year, I met my sister and niece and my father reintroduced me to friends and people we knew mutually, letting them know I was his daughter.

I felt a lot of people knew our story, but it was not theirs to tell. No one told me, and for that, I am grateful. My mother finally told me and that is the way it should be.

Having a father figure later in life has not been easy.  My father is in his eighties and very set in his ways. He has had no experience raising children and I am a grown woman raised by a group of women with certain values. There are even some class differences.

We have butt heads at times, however we also laugh a lot.

He is not my security blanket and he certainly does not replace my mother’s love. But, I am not as alone as I was before. I am not sure how he feels about me, whether he loves me or not, but we are family, and I feel that.

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Parenting From the Sideline

So the story goes something like this… three days before my teenage son Myles’ (not his real name) progress report was due, he text me to say “Mom, I need a tutor for math.”

In a normal situation a parent would commend their teenage child for taking this initiative.  However, this is not a normal situation.  Myles who is currently in grade 11, has always taken the laid back approach to high school and his grades.  As parents we push, coerce, force, threaten and sometimes hold their hand, but sometimes nothing changes, this was this case with Myles.


We spent many a day taking him to tutors over the years and having his older cousins speak with him, but neither his marks or laid back approach showed no improvement, nor was he any more serious with his studies.  So in grade 11, we made the decision we will no longer coerce or hold his hand. We instead decided to sit on the sideline.

Many conversations happened with Myles at the beginning of the current school year. He responded by being irritated and stating “I’m fine. I’m now ready to get serious, let me do it on my own.” So, we sat on the sideline.

Fast forward two months later, “mom I need a tutor.” My first reaction was to scream “I am not coming off the sideline!”  With frustration, I jumped in yelling, giving him ‘the speech.’ Unfortunately for him and us his report card was the same, minimal signs of progress.

To help us better understand this process I asked questions. When do you sit on the sideline and let your child use the skills you have taught them and when do you jump in?  In hearing others share, a common theme was heard; it depends on the child, your parenting style and your ability to step back and give the child the chance to learn from their mistakes. As I continue this high school journey with Myles, I timidly make the decision to sit on the sideline and to jump in ever so often.  In this process, I am reminded of what I was told as a child “If you can’t hear you will feel.” As I do this I see Myles making positive progress.


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Untested allegations of abuse or family violence

Mary Wells, BA, BSW, RSW

Supervised access to children is becoming a more frequent occurrence for families where there are allegations of family violence or abuse, or where a parent is alleged to have addiction or mental health disorders.

Supervised access may be done in the offices of a child protection agency, a family court clinic or by a private, supervised access professional.

canstockphoto3265631Once a decision has been made that there should be a period of supervised access, consideration should be given to the impact on the child in a supervised access setting. Planning and preparation ahead of the visits should be developed in consultation with the access supervisor, the referring professional and the parents to maximize this as a positive experience for the child and parents.

Factors that should be considered include:

  • The developmental stage of the child
  • A history of the family’s interaction that lead to the decision that access must be supervised
  • Whether the child may have directly suffered as a result of abuse or neglect
  • Where there is an allegation of family violence, the extent of the exposure of the child to the violence should be explored

canstockphoto8677454Referring professionals may have this information and if so should inform the access supervisor. If the referring parties do not have this information, it may be appropriate for the access supervisor to meet with the child for the purpose of making the assessment and a plan for addressing unresolved issues. This does not mean the issues have to be “fixed” prior to the access. It does mean however, that the supervisor will be prepared to intervene effectively to support the child.

Parental preparation of the child for supervised access

How the child is prepared for the supervised access can have a significant effect on both the child and the parents. Here are some do’s and dont’s for preparing a child for access:

 For custodial parents:

  • Reassure the child the supervisor will ensure the visit will be safe and as pleasant as possible
  • Do not instruct the child to attempt to gain any information from the non-custodial parent
  • Try to neutralize and normalize the situation for the child. For example, explain that “sometimes it works best for children to see their parents with somebody else present”
  • If a parent is very anxious about the access, discuss this with the access supervisor or other professionals who are helping you so they can keep your anxiety from affecting your child both before and after visits

For parents whose access is supervised:

  • When you see the child at the beginning of the visit, you can explain that you are visiting this way because sometimes, in some families, it works out best for children to see their parent with another adult who helps out.
  • Discuss ahead of time with the access supervisor what to expect during the visit (length of time, location of the visit, what you may or may not bring to the visit).
  • Discuss ground rules for the supervised access. For example, you will likely be told that you must not discuss court, family finances, the other parent or their family in front of the child. Do not ask the child questions about the other parent. These are often difficult issues for parents who can only see their children under supervision, and sometimes the parent forgets or breaks the rules. With the access supervisor, work out a signal that the supervisor can use to let you know you need to stop saying or doing something. This should be a signal you are comfortable with that the supervisor can use to not cause you to lose face. For instance you could ask the supervisor to say “Not just now”, or “We’re getting off track here” and you can agree to be guided by that signal.
  • Be aware that the access supervisors are expected to take notes and report on the visit.
  • Ask the supervisor if you can debrief with him or her after a visit and in preparation for the next visit.

Supervised access can be a significant opportunity to help the parents and the child in working towards a positive outcome for the whole family. Thoughtful, child centered preparations can make supervised access visits an opportunity for healing and growth as the family moves forward.



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Tough Love or Just Discipline Positively

If you are a parent like me who is trying to learn the best way to positively discipline, you would likely hear many suggestions and ideas and more often than not, you would hear “do tough love… don’t enable the child.”

Parenting comes with many do’s and dont’s, some things valid some not. It sometimes rattles me when I share and vent about disciplining my child and then hear a response, ‘do tough love’.

The scenario goes like this: you call your friend upset about something your child has done. “I can’t believe this child! He knows he must catch the 4 :00 o’clock bus for his game and again he misses the bus. He is now calling me to get him.” Your friend reacts by saying “Let him miss his game, that’s the only way he learns its called, ‘tough love’.” You sigh because you are again left confused and angry by this reaction of ‘tough love’ that does not help you or your child.


Positive discipline can include a variety of options


The question arises, ‘What is the true meaning of ‘tough love’ and how can we use it to teach our children?’ There is a verse in the bible which says ‘God disciplines those he loves’. Nothing mentions that he administers ‘tough love’ to those he loves. ‘Tough love’ to me has no place in parenting and disciplining of our children. When this phrase is mentioned there is only guilt, with feelings of being unsure in your parenting. You leave your child to take the bus you feel guilty, you pick him up, you feel guilty and sometimes furious with yourself and the child.

So what do you do? Why can’t we just parent and discipline our children with love. Why do we need certain words and phrases that create more stress and confusion in our parenting.

There are several attempts to define ‘tough love’ such as “love or concern that is expressed in a strict way especially to make someone behave responsibly.” An article also describes it as “any parenting in which the child experiences some negative emotions that are part of a learning process.

I would recommend to eliminate ‘tough love’ and just discipline because you love your child. Our ultimate goal as a parent is to love and nurture our children, which includes discipline. So, sometimes it’s ok if Sammy goes to his friend’s house and for the fourteenth time asks if you can pick him up. As the parent you have to decide the reasons to pick him up or not. Sometimes there is no wrong or right decision you just do.

In the end, we know as parents we have the best and most challenging job in the world and we do the best we can. Again, our job as parent is to love and nurture our children and with that we discipline. As noted by Dr. Kevin Leman on parenting and discipline, “discipline is a privilege.” “Having the opportunity to give your kids direction, teaches them a valuable lesson that can help them avoid some long-range disaster, or that will contribute to their character development.” That is the privilege and the joy of parenting.

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The Joy of Parenting and the impact of Trauma or Abuse

Parenting is the most significant job one will ever take on. At times, it can be the most challenging, but it is the most rewarding. When we first become parents, there is an overwhelming, indescribable feeling of joy, happiness and excitement. How we take on and perform in this role of parenting is determined by our makeup of past experiences our perception and knowledge. Sometimes when we have faced significant challenges from trauma or abuse it affects our various roles in life. In our brokenness, we sometimes can’t see beyond, to be a positive parent and support our children. Parenting through our brokenness and darkness can be detrimental to our children’s development. This doubles when our children too exposed to our trauma or abuse. When we are stuck in brokenness from its effects, the outlook in parenting will not feel rewarding.

There are many challenges that can cause us to lose our ability to parent effectively. This inability often leads to neglect of our children. When we don’t recognize our brokenness and the effects or seek support and services it becomes impossible to meet our children’s needs for their healthy development. There are many situations and incidents that will occur in our lives that will challenge our ability to parent. We may find ourselves in scenarios such as an abusive relationship where children are exposed decisions to stay or leave a situation where the effects of trauma on our psyche still linger. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as the “development after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as a major stress, sexual assault, or other threats on a person’s life” ( Encyclopedia). The effects can cause feelings of depression and anxieties to name a few. In trying to manage and understand your feelings, loss and the grief we sometimes neglect our children. In struggling to manage, these feelings will sometimes cause reactions of anger and neglect towards our children. When these events occur in our lives, our children require special attention for them to feel secure. The impact for our children includes nightmares, displays of regression, bedwetting, aggressive behavior, use of drugs or alcohol to name a few.

Despite or own experiences and challenges of trauma or abuse parenting is rewarding. Watching our children grow, develop and meeting their milestone, is rewarding. To overcome the effects of trauma and abuse, it is vital to seek support and services, such as individual counseling, groups and support of families and friends. For your children, seek counseling such as play therapy, family therapy to name a few and involve them in sports and other activities. While working through the effects of trauma and abuse focus on your children, reassure them that you are there, and listen to them and their concerns. Be positive as much as needed because our children often mirror our behavior. Remember, each child is different, no set solutions, but feelings of security are needed for all.The

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