How Parental Expectations Affect Children’s Academic Achievement

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Children usually strive to live up to their parents’ expectations. If you set the bar high, your child is more likely to be successful. If you have low expectations, there’s a good chance your child won’t even attempt to exceed those expectations.

When it comes to your child’s academic success, you’ll likely get what you expect – or at least close to it. Make it clear that you expect your child to put a lot of effort into his school work and you’ll help him succeed.

Here’s what the research says about parental expectations and achievement:

Your Expectations Influence Your Child’s Expectations

Positive expectations are contagious. If you expect your child to do well academically, he’s likely to establish high expectations of himself. When children have higher expectations about their grades and academic success, they’re more likely to put in the time and effort necessary to do well.

Your Expectations Affect Time Spent on Homework

If you expect your child to get his homework done every day, he’s more likely to devote time to his school work. It’s also more likely that you’ll be supportive of his endeavors and you’ll provide the tools he needs to do his work – like a workspace and assistance in managing his time.

Your Expectations Impact Your Overall Child’s Achievement

Children achieve more when their parents have high expectations.

If you expect your child to get good grades or to go onto college after high school, it’s much more likely that your child will live up to those expectations. Parental beliefs about a child’s effort and abilities influence a child’s grades and test scores and parental expectations about continuing education plays a large role in a child’s decision about whether or not to go to college.

Tips on How to Make Your Expectations Effective

Establishing appropriately high expectations clearly gives children an academic advantage. But simply saying you want your child to do well isn’t enough. Instead, there are steps you can take to ensure that your expectations of your child’s academic achievement will influence his educational success.

  • Discuss your expectations with your child. Hold frequent conversations with your child about your expectations. Talk about how much time and effort you expect him to put into school work. Start talking about college from an early age or help your child explore future career aspirations.
  • Don’t expect perfection. Setting too high of expectations on children can backfire. Don’t expect your child to be perfect. Instead, praise him for his effort and encourage him to learn from failure. If you demand perfection, your child may be tempted to cover up mistakes, rather than learn from them.
  • Avoid comparing your child to others. The key to success is about helping your child become his very best, regardless of what his peers are doing. Avoid making the goal to do better than other kids or to be the smartest in the class. Instead, make it clear that you want him to focus on learning and improving without constantly comparing himself to others
  • Talk to teachers about their expectations. Although parental expectations have the biggest impact on a child’s success, teacher expectations can also be influential. If your child’s teacher expects poor grades and behavior problems, your child likely won’t perform at his best. Talk to your child’s teachers to make sure they have reasonably high expectations.
  • Point out how increased effort increases chances of success. Help your child recognize how more time spent studying increases the chances of doing well on a test. When kids recognize the control they have over their academic success, it motivates them to try hard. Unfortunately, many kids believe there’s no point in trying to learn because they’re convinced they’re not smart enough to achieve good grades.
  • Talk about long-term goals. Help your child understand how learning will impact his future. Make it clear that studying isn’t just about getting a high rank on a report card, but instead show him how learning can expand his opportunities in life.
  • Show unconditional love. Make it clear that you love your child regardless of his academic success. Help your child see that you’re supportive of him even when he’s struggling to achieve his goals and work together on developing a plan to help him overcome obstacles.


Froiland, J. M. & Davison, M. L. (2014). Parental expectations and school relationships as contributors to adolescents’ positive outcomes. Social Psychology of Education, 17, 1-17.

Froiland, J. M., Peterson, A., & Davison, M. L. (2013). The long-term effects of early parent involvement and parent expectation in the USA. School Psychology International34, 33-50.

Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 249-275.

Zan, M. (2006). Assets, parental expectations and involvement, and children’s educational performance. Children and Youth Services Review, 28, 961-975.

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