How Parental Judgments can Shatter a Child: Self Fulfilled Prophecies

How Parental Judgments can Shatter a Child: Self Fulfilled Prophecies 

It is often said when you are dealing with children:

“Treat them as you want them to be, not how they are!”

Basically the driving force while the child is growing and learning is the “Future Potential” of the child and not his “Current State”. Focusing on how the child is doing right now, i.e. his current state, ignores the tremendous store of future potential that every child has at any

given time. The potential is yearning to come out and wants to manifest itself. However, the child may not have discovered yet the niche where this potential would manifest itself. Our inability to focus on future and proclivity to brood over the current weaknesses destroys the self confidence of the child and closes the avenues through which the child would explore and eventually land into a niche where he can shine.There can be many reasons why the child may not have discovered his niche:

The child’s exposure of the spectrum of fields where one can excel may have been limited. Parents, family or even school may not be aware of the unveiling importance of many fields. They may not be aware of all the work that is happening around the world in different fields.

The family environment may not be sympathetic to a child who is trying to experiment with unconventional ideas. I clearly remember that when I did my intermediate, there were just two options in front of us. Either become a doctor or an engineer. It is only in the 1990s that computer science and business administration started appearing on the radar screen of the parents. Families in Pakistan have a very powerful role in determining the directions that kids may take. But, the recipe that worked for us or for some children may not work for others.

An environment that allows children to experiment with their thought processes is a great source of encouragement. Learning actually happens when one tries and fails. Failure should not be considered a crime, but actually a sign of maturity. You can’t become a world class footballer or a world class cricketer or a world class sportsman unless you have learned to lose and take each loss as a challenge to be overcome. However, our educational system and our families make failing a crime. They want to see everyone doing the same thing at the same time with the same competency. These expectations are highly debilitating for someone born with a different bent of mind, and yearning to make his mark in uncharted territories.

When we compare our child with others and expect from him to do the same thing as others and when he fails to meet our expectations, the school labels him as a failure. The parent sees the child and compares him with other siblings and feeling pressure from the school and the family concludes similalry. Parents start believing that there is some thing wrong with the child, may be some kind of learning deficiency or slow learning or hyper activity or some such pseudo deficiency.

Once the parents start seeing their child in a negative light, the last support of the child falls. His expectations of an unconditional love are shattered, his self confidence suffers, he becomes unsure of himself, and he loses his “khudi”. The more a parent worries about the deficiency, the more the child behaves in a similar manner. Feeling the spotlight on him, sensing that each act of his is under a microscope, his ability to make mistakes and learn from the mistakes suffers. The cost of failure appears to him too great. It will lose him his mother’s affection, the failure will disappoint his father, the cousins will make fun of him, the uncles and aunts will point the finger towards the mother or the father and when both, feeling the spotlight on themselves, turn the light back on the child in a vicious circle whose only outcome becomes predictably what was being expected. A self-fulfilled prophecy. A child with some learning problem.

There are parents who have lost faith in their child and consequently the child has lost faith in himself and his ability to learn. The barrier to self confidence becomes so great that the child gives up. The parent finally finds a refuge from the peer pressure of his or her family members and in turn starts having conviction (to resolve coginitive dissonance) that something is indeed wrong with the child, otherwise, the blame would have fallen on the parents themselves.

The poor child and the people around him playing a vicious game of self fulfilling prophecies!


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