How to Know How Much to Demand from Children

When it comes to knowing how much to demand from children, it's important to be clear about the expectations we're managing. Excessive demands can cause anxiety, stress, and frustration.
How to Know How Much to Demand from Children

Last update: 07 September, 2022

How do you find that balance between demanding too much and the laissez-faire style of parenting, which refers to “letting your kids do as they please”? “If I don’t demand they do their homework, I can’t expect my child to do it on their own”. This is a frequent concern and question that adults have regarding how much to demand from children. Let’s see what it means to be demanding and what the flip side looks like when it becomes extreme.

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Keys to knowing how much to demand from children

Demands, understood as challenges and as nudges that stimulate children’s development and growth, should be part of their education. Through them, they get out of their comfort zone and can explore a little further. That way, they can show themselves what they’re capable of. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Reinforce self-esteem

Demanding has a positive message linked to the idea that we believe and trust our kids, that they’re valuable, and that they’re capable of achieving. Therefore, it’s important to reinforce your child’s self-esteem so that they can trust their possibilities.

Don’t make excessive demands

A young girl ignoring her mother's demands.
With excessive demands, we tend to leave aside our child’s desires and interests. This can lead to frustration and stress, among other serious consequences.

When we become overly demanding, we forget who we’re applying our demands to and the responses they’re capable of giving. Excessive demands overlook the child’s interests, desires, and needs. For their part, adults adopt rigid postures with requests to which the little ones try to respond, but at a very high cost of stress and discomfort.

Avoid creating a climate of tension

When we think about where we should set the limit regarding what we demand from children, we can bring to mind a well-known metaphor: “It’s like asking a fish to fly, it won’t be able to do it”. That’s to say, we must take into account the evolutionary factor and link it to the child’s age. When we try to force them to do something they don’t feel ready for, we frustrate them and we may even generate a certain aversion to that activity or fear of trying it again.

In addition, when a climate of tension prevails in the learning experience, it’s unlikely that children can enjoy it, which undoubtedly influences their performance.

Warn of possible consequences

At the same time, let’s not forget all the emotions and reactions that arise from the demand, such as anger, rage, irritation, or fear, among others. Stress, anxiety, insecurity, and the search for perfectionism are also among the consequences. Also, we can lead them to internalize self-demanding tendencies at excessive levels, so that later they find it very difficult to regulate themselves, say no, and establish limits.

Some keys to applying positive demands

A mother and daughter high-fiving.
Recognizing your child’s achievements is a good way to reinforce their self-esteem and encourage them to improve. Adults should be patient, support their children, and show affection to them instead of demanding results.

Some recommendations that we can take into account to carry out a positive demand on children are the following:

  • Establish a routine and goals to be met. This way, children can gradually develop habits and commitment. Order and organization help in this direction.
  • Recognize their merits and achievements. This is a good way to reinforce and encourage them.
  • Tolerate mistakes and errors as well as the children’s own style of doing things. We ourselves must learn that there are multiple ways to reach the same result. With this in mind, we must let them do, try, and discover in their own way.
  • We must teach them to value the process and not only the results. This way, the idea is that they can have learning experiences and not become “result-dependent”.
  • Demands aren’t the enemy of affection and patience. Many people believe that if you’re too “soft”, children won’t learn anything. On the contrary, giving them confidence and respecting their time helps them to do their best, as they don’t have to concentrate on defending themselves from what they perceive as a threat: The critical and hyper-demanding gaze of others.
  • Avoid children’s full agenda. It’s important to acquire certain skills and demands, but it’s equally important that children have time to play, rest, have fun, and be bored. Nowadays, we find indicators of stress at increasingly younger ages and this is due, in large part, to excess demands.

Making demands also requires managing expectations

Finally, it’s important to mention the style of education and parenting we apply to children. In particular, parental expectations aren’t a minor issue in terms of making demands. It happens that, many times, we believe we’re helping them by pushing them to the limit, when in fact we’re making a mistake.

At the same time, when making demands, we can also ask ourselves why we do it. What’s our belief behind it all? Surely, most parents will say it’s “for their own good”, “so they can enjoy success” or “so they can learn things”. No one doubts the good intentions, but sometimes children become the spokespersons and protagonists of our own unfulfilled longings. However, this is detrimental to their emotional well-being, which is exactly what we want to avoid.

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