The word ‘expectation’ can apply to many aspects of a child’s life and covers a broad spectrum of areas. It can help to direct a child’s general behaviour, academic goals, aspirations, enthusiasm, self-esteem; the list is endless.

Here at St Peter’s Prep, as one of the leading preparatory schools in Devon, we provide our students with a traditional and progressive education. We are dedicated to creating a safe and supportive environment which ensures our pupils can reach their potential. In our blog, we offer advice for setting realistic and healthy academic expectations for your child.

What are Expectations?

Expectations help to outline what is expected from a child and can act as a form of guidance. It can cover both short and long term goals and challenges.

For example, it could apply to the expectations of a child’s behaviour, such as how they should act on a family trip to the supermarket. In this circumstance, expectations are put in place to ensure the safety of your child first. They also ensure that the trip to the supermarket is as stress-free as possible.

On the other hand, a child may be informed of the expectations of their school grades and the educational levels their parents expect from them.

In most circumstances, having high expectations can be healthy as it keeps your child safe and encourages them to achieve their potential. However, expectations which aren’t realistic or properly supported can cause stress and anxiety. Sometimes it can be a lot to take in, especially at an age where a child isn’t developed enough to make their own decisions.

A child smiling in a school jumper
Seeing Your Child as an Individual

All children develop at different rates. It is essential that when setting expectations regarding their academic progress, you always keep your child’s achievements, strengths and challenges in mind.

Comparison is an easy trap to fall into. Whether you are comparing your child to other abilities in the class or perhaps what you accomplished at their age, you must treat their progress independently of other people’s achievements.

Furthermore, it is also important to realise that if a child is not as advanced in a subject as another, it doesn’t mean they never will be. With the right support, they will get there.

Your Challenges May Be Their Strengths

On the other hand, this can also apply to areas which you may have struggled with at school too. If maths wasn’t your strength, for example, it might not mean it will also be the same for your child. Maintaining that they need to apply effort into the same subject which you may not understand yourself is crucial, as it could, in fact, be one of their strengths.

A girl drawing outside

The Importance of Support and Encouragement

There is a fine line between encouraging your child to achieve their full potential, which helps to promote high self-esteem, and putting too much emphasis on failures of underachieved expectations.

Understanding what constitutes too much expectation for a child is often a debated subject. In general, most people believe that children will do what is expected of them, so high expectations will equal high results.

Where this may be true, there is a certain way to address and implement high expectations. It requires an accurate understanding of the capabilities of your child and how you can support them in the achievements that they have the potential to accomplish.

Verbally telling them what you expect, but not offering emotional support and constructive guidance is not particularly a healthy or helpful way to help your child. Without adequate support, it can make the expectation feel like a pipedream if it is a particular area that they find challenging.

Positive and Realistic Expectations

Understanding where your child is at is the first step in achieving realistic expectations.

Valuing what they excel at and where they may need some extra support is integral. Using this knowledge, you can then evaluate where they may need some extra attention and what they are realistically capable of achieving.

It is also necessary to set realistic achievements, so your child doesn’t feel like they are set up not to achieve or that if they don’t meet the expectation, that they have significantly failed.

If the expectations don’t suit the child, it can create an overwhelming sense of disappointment when in fact the expectation wasn’t initially appropriate for them.

Netball girls

Exchanging Expectations for Goals

Breaking the expectation down into manageable goals is a more realistic and constructive way to help a child with their development. Instead of focussing on the long term, such as the ultimate goal of achieving high grades for entry to university one day, providing small set goals which will help them to achieve the overall expectation is much more beneficial.

You Have to Walk Before You Run

This may be as simple and as small as learning a particular equation one week. All these small achievements contribute to the bigger goal, so it is essential to make them manageable and keep them in perspective, so children don’t feel overwhelmed with responsibility.

Emotional Support

However, the most significant aspect of supporting a child is to offer emotional stability and care.

Ensuring they feel valued and encouraged, when at home, will help motivate them to achieve at school. It is essential that you acknowledge and celebrate the achievements they reach.

Maintain Clear Communication

Try not to focus on the failure of a situation but instead value the effort they put in and explain and appreciate why it was good and how it will help them in future situations.

How do you keep your child feeling motivated when facing a challenge? Why not share your thoughts on our social media channels; we would love to hear from you!

Here at St Peter’s Prep, we provide our pupils with dedicated support throughout their education. To find out more, or arrange a tour, please contact Rachel Elliott, Director of Admissions & Marketing, on 01395 280335 or email

Published On: September 30th, 2020 / Categories: News / Tags: , , , /