Parental Expectations: an Obstacle to Wholeness


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Parents have always pushed their children toward success, encouraging them to be the best version of themselves. At first, they cheer on their children and help them back up on their feet; however, once their children grow older and accumulate more accomplishments, failure no longer is an option. Instead of applauding them for their hard work, parents set even higher expectations, almost as if they believe that their children are superhuman. As a result, their child is forced to deal with the often unrealistic goals set for them. Parental expectations often result in unnecessary pressure, which may even lead to depression, negatively impacting the lives of countless teens in society today.

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High expectations for teens allows for all sorts of pressure. Parents always want the best for their child, but often times their methods are not very good. Contrary to their parents’ belief, many teens are trying their best in school, but are still not meeting expectations. Under the pressure of performing well, however, many consequences arise. Teens work extra hard, sacrificing their physical well being to try and perform better. At first, this works, but the amount of strain this routine causes them cannot be kept up. Not long after, emotional stress takes a toll on their minds and they begin performing worse and worse, up to the point where they literally cannot do anything.

When asked about what a good parent should not do, one teen emphasized the importance of not “pressur[ing] [them] too much” and “try[ing] to push [them] to the point where [they] cannot comply anymore” (Monica). There is a limit to how much a teen can handle, but many parents do not understand this as having their child get into a good college is their primary goal. Pressure causes damage to every aspect of life, which is even more harmful towards teens, who are in a critical stage of development.

Child Abuse

By placing these unrealistic expectations onto teens, parents may cause their children to experience severe consequences. Sometimes, parents may enforce punishments when their expectations are not met. Whether it be taking away their phone or disconnecting the wifi, most parents will have a method of “motivating” their child to do well. However, this punishment system can get out of hand in extreme cases. Child abuse is one of these extreme cases. In the words of Amy Jenkins, a licensed clinical worker, “A parent may expect a child to be able to do impossible things based on age and development level. He or she may want the child to be perfect, even though no child is perfect. That is an unrealistic expectation. When the child fails to live up to unrealistic expectations, the parent may lose control and abuse the child” (Jenkins). Whether it is a terrible test grade or not making it onto the school basketball team, there is no excuse for inflicting pain upon one’s own child.

Emotional Pain

Not only does child abuse cause physical pain but it also causes an even greater amount of emotional pain. Getting whipped and beaten by the people that are supposed to love and support them the most causes feelings of uselessness and abandonment, as if they are not good enough. These actions enforcing their expectations could lead to many unhealthy courses of action and even depression. Depression among teens has become more and more serious, and nothing much is being done to reduce it. According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, symptoms of teen depression include disruption in their sleep cycle, social withdrawal, increased self-destructive behavior, etc.

Depression can ruin the lives of teens, forever leaving its curse in their lives. In order to combat these feelings of sadness and anger, teens may turn to darkness. Drug abuse and alcohol are very common among depressed teens. By taking drugs, teens can temporarily escape the stress and pressure they carry on their shoulders. However, this obviously has very serious consequences. First, most drugs are illegal and alcohol is illegal for anybody under the age of 21. If they are caught, teens risk their chance at a good college, which consequently forfeits their future.

In addition, many scientific studies show that alcohol and drugs both have detrimental side effects on the underdeveloped mind. Because a teen’s mind is in the most critical stage of development, damage to this development will last a lifetime. Overall, unrealistic parental expectations cause a multitude of problems that can change the lives of teens for the worse.


Unrealistic parental expectations stand as an obstacle to a teen’s wholeness. Wholeness requires a balance between many elements, like community, relationships, physical and emotional health, and nutrition. Yet the effects of pressure to perform well and the depression that can develop ruin this delicate balance, preventing one from wholeness.

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