Handling Unfulfilled Expectations, Disappointments, & Failure

unfulfilled expectations | parenting through meltdowns and anxiety

Disappointments are a part of life.  Unfortunately, we have to face that reality pretty early in our existence.  If I could pinpoint the number one reason for meltdowns, anxiety, and emotional outbursts with my kids, it would be unfulfilled expectations. From my oldest to my youngest, they each have certain expectations of what the day will be like, how their siblings will play with them, where we will go, what we will eat, etc. And if any of those expectations don’t happen, it can get pretty ugly.

I can hardly blame them. After all, even as an adult it’s often not easy to process unfulfilled expectations. I know the usual advice is to set “realistic” expectations, but the reality is that no expectation is truly realistic.  After all, when I have to combat Murphy’s law, my own forgetfulness, people’s short comings (including my own), ADHD multiple times over, and all of the chaos that comes from parenting three kids, the only realistic expectation is getting up in the morning. (And even that occurs earlier than I expect most mornings.)  So how can I maintain my sanity and help my kiddos understand a healthy way to process and deal with life’s disappointments? The answer to unfulfilled expectations is not really what I am expecting but WHO I am expecting it from. 

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” ~Psalm 62:5

wait upon God | Psalm 62:5 | unfulfilled expectations

You see, it really is ridiculous to think that I can expect anything from anyone else when I can’t even meet my own expectations.  And while I could easily blame a number of people and miscellaneous factors for my unfulfilled expectations, the truth is I’m a sinner—and so is every one else, except for One.  That One is the only One who is perfect, holy, and unchanging.  He is the only One who can fulfill and even exceed expectation.  He is the only One in whom my confidence should rest.

When my expectation is in the right place, the tempest of my emotions can settle.  No longer am I expecting my children to realize I have needs or to be motivated to clean their rooms and finish the dishes on their own; no longer am I expecting myself to have everything under control and to remember the 1001 things I need to be doing; no longer am I expecting my husband to never have a bad day on the same day I have one or to come to my rescue and meet all of my emotional needs.  Instead, I wait for, rest in, rely on the One who knows all, controls all, provides all. 

I have to believe this and live this out with my kiddos. Together, we have to lay all of those expectations in His hands and trust Him to work out the details. So we’ve started praying a simple prayer together:

“God, this day is not going the way we expected.

Please help us to trust you with the day you’ve given us instead.”

Our only “realistic expectation” is that God will come through for us and provide us with everything we need for everything we will face. When He is our only expectation, we receive only fulfillment.  After all, how could we expect anything less from the One whose name is “I AM”?

A Positive Atmosphere: changing the mood of your home

changing the mood at home | a peaceful home | creating a positive atmosphere

Sometimes I can sense it before I even roll out of bed. The kids are awake & already screaming at each other, and I cringe in frustration. I can feel it—the very atmosphere of our home is chaos and anger and impatience. Before we’ve even started the day, we already need an attitude adjustment. And it’s going to be an uphill battle. How do I change the mood in my home? How do I combat all the negativity to create a positive atmosphere?

Creating a Positive Atmosphere

My Heart. Atmosphere, I’m learning, is not about the contrived elements of my home necessarily. It’s not necessarily how I decorate or how I clean. It’s not simply the kind of music I play in the background. All of those elements can help, for sure, but atmosphere begins with the ideas that rule my life and the affections that rule my heart.

When my children disturb my peace and upset my expectations for the day, my reactions reveal my heart. Are my affections set on things around me—my peace, my comfort, my pleasure, my agenda? Or are my affections set on something HIGHER? God is much more concerned with my character and heart than my lesson plans or intentions to have a quiet cup of coffee before tackling the day. If I want the atmosphere of my home to change, than I must allow God to change my heart and affections.

My Actions. As much as a positive atmosphere is determined by my heart and affections, the mood of my home is also affected by my character and my actions during the day. It’s the difference between “do what I say” and “do what I do”; between saying “be ye kind” when my children are in strife and actually being kind to them when they are in strife; between saying that my children are a blessing and actually having joy in their presence and acting like I believe that I am blessed by them. Do these ideas rule MY life and determine my actions?

Too many times I assume the atmosphere or mood of my home is someone else’s responsibility. I blame the kids or the mess or the space or the circumstances or a thousand other things. But it comes down to my heart and my actions. I can’t confuse aesthetics with atmosphere. I influence the atmosphere of my home, my homeschool, and my life with my heart and actions.

And in turn, that atmosphere educates my children. It’s the first element of discipleship; I’m not merely parenting my children or controlling their behavior, I’m discipling by creating an atmosphere that shapes and informs their beliefs, their affections, what they value in life. The ideas that rule my life will be the same ideas that shape theirs.

If I want a loving home, I must model steadfast love. If I want an atmosphere of joy and peace, than I must be joyful and peaceful. That doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. But it means I can’t expect those character traits to rule my home if they don’t rule my life. I can’t expect in others what I can’t live out myself. And I can’t live it out without Christ.

Practical Tips for Creating a Positive Atmosphere

  • Have a battle plan. I can’t let bad moods and negative attitudes catch me off guard. If I know ahead of time how I intend to handle “those” days, if I have a “bad day” protocol, it’s very literally half the battle.  An activity or game, a high-protein/high-fat snack, a family P.E. break, a worship-music dance party—I need to have something in mind to change the direction of our day to keep me from reacting. 
  • Make a playlist of music. I actually have a playlist entitled “Battle Songs.” Over the years, this playlist has helped me so much to battle fear and discouragement. These songs help me process my emotions and direct my attention to the One who is worth it all. Here’s my playlist:

Rise (Josh Garrels)

Even If (Kutless)

Sovereign Over Us (Aaron Keyes)

Praise You in this Storm (Casting Crowns)

10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)

Your Great Name (Natalie Grant)

  • Create a battle station. Perhaps you’ve turned your closet into a “war room,” or maybe you stow an inspiring devotional in the bathroom. Wherever it is, setting up a battle station (or escape room), a place to escape for just a few minutes, can refocus my heart and mind when everything starts to get to me. And it gives me a chance to pray and formulate a battle plan.
  • Don’t rush in. I love the stories in the Bible where everyone expects Jesus to rush in and save the day or jump to their conclusion, and instead He takes his time. He draws in the sand or takes four days to arrive or stops in the middle of going to heal someone to ask who touched Him. I think it’s a good lesson for us. I often feel the urgency of rushing into a chaotic situation; I want to make it stop. And yet, sometimes I need to delay. I need to take my time to enter the situation and pray first. I need to settle my own heart before I attempt to correct theirs.

Ultimately, God is the source of all those things I long for in my home—love, joy, peace, stability. I can’t find those things in an atmosphere, but I can bring love and joy and peace to the atmosphere of my home if they are the fruit of my life as I’m abiding in Christ. 

Motivating YOU when your child is unmotivated

homeschool moms | encouragement | motivation

Nothing drains the energy out of a day like a sulky child. No matter how optimistic I feel at the start of the day, no matter how much coffee I consume, no matter how many Scriptures I quote to myself—pouty, sulky, unmotivated kids are rough to homeschool. So, how do I keep a good attitude? How do I stay motivated to homeschool when my kids are not? There’s no easy answer, but I try to keep 3 things in mind when I’m tempted to throw in the towel. 

It’s not my fault. 

This is such an easy trap to fall into. Maybe I haven’t made school enjoyable enough. Maybe I have the wrong curriculum. Maybe I’m teaching this wrong. Maybe I’m a terrible teacher. Maybe I’m failing at this. It’s such a vicious trail of defeat and lies. But it’s so easy to assume it’s my role to make everyone happy and my fault if they aren’t. It is my job to put learning materials and opportunities in front of them. And I do try very hard to match their learning styles and make school “fun.” But in the end, whether or not they enjoy it is their choice, not my fault. Some days, my kids are just bound and determined to not enjoy anything. I don’t prefer it that way, but their choice does not make me the “mean mom.” It doesn’t make me a failure. It just makes me the mom of a bunch of unmotivated kids having a bad day.

It is not my responsibility to keep them happy. 

It’s my responsibility to keep them healthy, to protect them, to provide learning opportunities for them. But to keep them in a constant state of happiness and contentment is not my responsibility. I fight this constantly. We can wear ourselves out looking for the next best thing, feeling as though it is our responsibility to make them love every moment of their education. I’m so guilty of this! And I have to reign myself back after some time on Pinterest and say, “You know, it’s okay that we haven’t used all of these super cool Lego Learning ideas. And it’s okay that I don’t have a cool acronym and song for everything we memorize.” My responsibility is to teach; it is their responsibility to learn. I have to consciously cast that back onto them: “I’m sorry you feel that way. That must be miserable. I would much prefer that we choose to do things this way, but I can’t be apart of your choice to….” Bottom line, my kids can choose to love learning (and I do try hard to encourage that), or they can choose to hate it all. But in the end, it is their choice. My favorite line in these moments: “If it were me, I’d prefer to enjoy learning. But if you’d rather be miserable, I’ll let you.” Most of the time, after they’ve calmed down those BIG feelings of theirs, they decide they’d rather enjoy it with me.

It is my choice.

Just like my child has a choice about his or her attitude, I have a choice about mine too. It is not my child’s fault if I join his pity party. It stinks when kids are unmotivated or in a bad mood. All the negativity can be very draining, which is why it is ultra-important (and not a bit selfish) to do some self-care. 

  • Step away (even if it’s to the bathroom). I make a point to let my kids know that I need a time-out to control my attitude and reactions. It teaches them, by example, that this is the correct way to handle those BIG FEELINGS, and it teaches them to respect others feelings. I also let them know the consequences. “I may become a Momster, and I don’t want to act that way. So I’m taking a time out.” Some times, they still don’t get the point, and I have to be a little more specific: “I feel like I’m going to either cry or scream, and I don’t want to do either. So I need you to be completely quiet all the way home.” (And unfortunately, they know I mean it. Because, yeah, I’ve done both.)
  • Supply your time-out space with what you need to regroup—an inspiring devotional, some battle verses, a cup of coffee, some chocolate, whatever it takes! I have a playlist of “Battle Songs” that I use for times when my emotions need to be redirected. I keep my Paul David Tripp devotional handy. And yes, there are times I take chocolate with me.
  • Do something shocking. Think of a car that has a dead battery. It doesn’t need a gentle nudge; it needs a giant shock! Sometimes my day needs a shock, too. Mondays tend to be our horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days. To shock our week into action, I’m trying a couple of different things: (1). taking school to a different location or (2). canceling our normal schedule to do a big learning project that we’ve been meaning to get to. Other times we’ve gone on a nature hike, watched educational movies, or taken an impromptu field trip. Make the kids do their schoolwork under the table, in a tree, or in a pillow fort. SHOCK THEM! And maybe even shock yourself. Most of the time, the thing I feel least like doing (leaving the house) is absolutely the thing we need most.

In the end, for my kids and myself, it’s a heart issue. And these days take lots of prayer—for my kids, with my kids, over my kids. I have my kids pray for me. And then we inch forward, in the Lord’s strength and sufficient grace. Because most days, when I’m unmotivated and losing momentum, it’s because I’m doing it in my own strength. I’m not enough for this job, even on a good day. But He is. Thank God, He is!