What makes us what we are? How do people become accomplished individuals? Obviously, several factors contribute to our growth, but key people around us are certainly crucial. Their influence is powerful. It has been scientifically demonstrated that their expectations have a strong, compelling force. They can direct our behavior, mold our self-concept, and even determine the limits of our success. Thoughts like the following prevail as we try to define who we are. "I am what I think you think I am." "I can do what I think you think I can do." "I should be able to do what I think you think I should be able to do. If I am not, I must be a failure.”
This phenomenon leads to what is called "The Pygmalion Effect" or "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.” It means that very often people become what others expect them to be. If others expect us to succeed, we are successful. But if they expect us to fail, we often do. Of course, this is much more evident during our formative years as children or youth. As a matter of fact, our greatest Pygmalions are our parents, the most important people in our lives.
The name "Pygmalion Effect" comes from an old Greek myth. Pygmalion, the mythological character, created a statue of a woman so perfect that he fell in love with her. Because of his great love and desire, the gods granted that she would turn into a real woman. The ivory became flesh. However, there is no magic in the “Pygmalion Effect” as sociologists and psychologists define it today. There are no mysterious vibrations in love or in positive thinking. The “Self Fulfilling Prophecy” actually involves a simple five-step process. (1) Expectations are set. (2) They are communicated verbally and non-verbally. (3) Information and training, if necessary, are provided. (4) Opportunities are offered. (5) Feedback is given. Watch “The Pygmalion Effect and the Power of Positive Expectations” on YouTube. What lessons can you learn from this video?
Here are some important facts about the “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” phenomenon. Parents who are positive Pygmalions have the following characteristics.
- They have confidence in themselves and in their ability to positively influence their children.
- They motivate their children to be successful.
- They have high but realistic expectations, and they communicate them in a warm and positive way. If your expectations or goals are unreachable, the child will most likely give up and develop a poor self-concept.
- They encourage their children to make decisions and take personal initiative.
- They give their children opportunities to work on their tasks and help them acquire the tools and skills they need.
- They encourage the motivation which comes from the inner satisfaction resulting from reaching our own goals and reflecting about our own efforts and abilities.
- They provide useful and positive feedback. They do not criticize, ignore, or falsely praise their kids.