Family: They can be one of the best motivators for success and your biggest cheerleaders, and they can also be hugely demotivating and unfairly nitpicky. It all depends on the pressure they put on you, how intense it feels, and how they demonstrate that to you.
Sadly, some parents with really high expectations can be overbearing and upsetting. Here we’ll talk about some ways to deal with parents with high expectations, and ways to meet them halfway in some capacity to make them feel good about it, too.
The most important step is to separate your expectations from theirs.
This can be a really tough one, especially if your parents are strict and overbearing, or if you have a naturally more withdrawn personality. Still, it’s worth at least trying to figure out what you want your priorities to be so you can know if they are different from your parents’.
There are plenty of ways to do this. If you’re in school, you could meet with your guidance counselor or a therapist (or even a career counselor if you want to work on your career priorities) and have a conversation about it. If that’s not an option, you could try having a casual conversation with a friend or family member where you both share.
You could also just sit down and write out on a piece of paper: “What are my priorities?” Separate it by work, school, personal, or any number or categories, and write everything out. You can change it whenever you want, and it’s always a good idea to keep your goals in mind, especially as you grow up and stop living with your parents.
If you feel their expectations are unfairly high, have a serious talk with them about it.
Depending on how you think they’ll respond, decide whether or not to have a direct conversation or just let it be. Still, even if you think they won’t change their mind or understand where you’re coming from, if you feel safe doing it, having a talk is one of the best ways to communicate your needs to them.
It’s up to you to decide the setting and the content of your serious talk, but make sure to prepare before you go into it so you’re not nervously stumbling on your words or not saying what you want to say in the right way. Set it up either in person, over a video chat, or on a phone call.
In the conversation, do your best to tell them that even though you love them a lot, their high expectations stress you out, make you sad, or demotivate you—because this is your talk, it’s your choice how to describe how they make you feel.
If the talk doesn’t seem to work as well as you’d hoped, don’t despair! You can always follow up with another talk in a few months when you note some of the ways their expectations bother you, and bring up more specific grievances you can ask them not to do. Or you can try some of our other tips if they really don’t seem to be responding.
You can figure out what expectations you want to try to meet, and what ones you don’t… or, even better in some cases, meeting them halfway.
In this kind of situation, you don’t have to stick with the plain black and white options of trying to meet your parents’ expectations or not! It can be valuable to evaluate which expectations you can feasibly meet, and which ones you can’t, or if you could meet some of their standards partially. (This could be another good topic for a serious talk directly to them, if you want.)
For instance, if they pressure you to get really good grades and you find that difficult, trying to get all B’s could be a good goal. You might explain to them that your coursework is difficult and too much pressure from them makes it hard to perform (if you want, because some parents might not take that one so well).
If they ask you to do a lot of chores around the house and you don’t have enough time in the day, finding the most important ones to get done is a great way to triage and make you both happy. Especially if you let them know you hear them and you’re trying, sometimes it’s the effort parents appreciate even more than the end result.
If your parents are difficult or abusive, there are ways to meet some standards on a surface level while privately rejecting them.
Some of our previous advice might not really apply if your parents are tough to deal with or flat-out abusive, which is understandable. That’s a whole other level of difficulty we can’t fully cover in a single article.
So while you focus on doing your best to fly under their radar in most cases, it’s probably in your better interest to try and meet some of their expectations… at least on a surface level.
Never put yourself in a dangerous situation with a volatile parent by rebelling in a way that would infuriate them! (Unless you really want to; it’s your parents’ situation.) But if they have exhausting standards for chores or appearance, there are subtle ways to get around that.
If they want to dictate what kind of clothes and makeup you wear, you can bring things to school to change into. If they want your room spotless, find a way to be able to clean up really quickly and easily, even if that means sweeping things under the bed. Difficult parents can have a lot of high standards, so try and “game the system” a little bit to make your life easier if you can!
Hopefully this helped you think about ways to deal with your parents’ high expectations! It can be a lot of pressure, but finding ways to talk to your parents about it and maybe finding a happy middle ground (or being a little tricky for the greater good) are great ways to alleviate that stress.