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”?

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!

3 tips to brighten your homeschool blues

ideas to recharge | homeschool blues | homeschool discouragement |

January and February are the toughest months to homeschool. Just about everyone will tell you that. I’m not sure if it’s holiday hangover or the dreary winter weather or just the fact that the newness has worn off. Whatever it is, the “homeschool blues” are in full swing this time of year. If that’s you, you are not alone. 

Our first week back to school at the beginning of the month was rough. After a month off, no one was really feeling like buckling back into the structure of daily school, least of all me. But each week, it’s gotten progressively better. My daughter’s dyslexia gave us some major challenges in that first week, but a few adjustments had her motivated and excited again. So, how do I battle the homeschool blues when they hit?

Here are a few ideas to recharge your year and get back on track.

3 tips to brighten your homeschool blues

  • Recharge with something new. Add a new subject or unity study. Purchase some fresh school supplies, even if it’s just fresh crayons or a new notebook. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive, but adding anything new gives you all something to be excited about. For my daughter, I picked up a couple of new dyslexia apps for her to use and a new pack of colored pencils. She’s raring to go now. That’s all it took. Other years, I’ve purchased new binders and organizing supplies. Work within your budget, but just a little spark can add a lot of energy.
  • Bring back an oldie-but-goodie. Pull out a favorite book you haven’t read together in a while. Play a favorite game, educational or not. Spread a favorite blanket on the floor and do school on it. Take your school work to a favorite location you haven’t been to in a while. Take advantage of those fond memories. The energy connected with that fun memory can recharge everyone as you make new memories.
  • Shake things up. Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Maybe you need a new schedule or a new order of doing things. Maybe you just plan to do a few things “out of the norm” for you: a pajama day, backwards day, or star wars day. Let them dress up and do school as their favorite superhero or sports figure. Have a tea party for reading time and play legos for history. I think a lot of the “blues” comes from just needing to air out. Change the scenery. Do school at your local library one day, or at Barnes and Noble, or at the mall Food Court. Anything to surprise your kids and add a sense of adventure.

And here’s a bonus: do something that recharges you!  “Secure your oxygen mask before assisting others”—kind of thing. This is not the same for all of us. I can tell you how I recharge, but that may do absolutely nothing for you. Maybe cleaning and organizing your school area will do the trick. Add a new Bible study, exercise routine, or arts & crafts time. Or perhaps, schedule some time alone with a cup of coffee and a good book at Barnes and Noble. In other words, let’s take care of ourselves. We can’t fill cups from an empty pitcher.

In my small group at church, we are going through Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study, and I’m journaling through Ephesians. I’m reading Uninvited by Lisa Terkheurst (my favorite author) and Craving Connections by (in)courage. And I write. Writing is therapeutic for me. I write to empty my head and shush those thousands of voices. But I’m muddling through, too. My dishes are behind, I just finally put away Christmas, and there’s a thick layer of dust and dog hair on everything it seems. I’m behind in so many areas of life. I’ve survived the holidays with no energy left for this next lap. But I know one thing: it get’s better. Yes, this lap is hard, but I’ve pushed through before and the sun does shine again. The energy does return. In the meantime, God’s strength and grace is sufficient, if I’m willing to receive it.

Hang in there, friend. If you are already feeling discouraged and burned out, don’t make recharging your homeschool something intimidating or overwhelming. Pick a few small changes to bring a little sunshine back to your day. Just a little light can go along way in brightening those homeschool blues.