Recently, I had a meet-up with a friend who has a five year-old son. Throughout the coffee session, she told me how her son was “stupid”, “slow” and “will probably end up taking all the foundation subjects in primary school” in front of the child! At one point, she turned to her son and said to him, “Too bad you didn’t inherit your father’s smart genes.You will have a tough time growing up if you keep learning so slowly.”
I was appalled by the negativity.
I am never an advocate of pessimism. I like to be surrounded by positive energy and believe this self-fulfilling prophecy is self-defeating. I am not a fan of people who tell me they can’t complete a task even before trying.
A self-fulfilling prophecy refers to a belief turning into reality because we are behaving like it’s true. It is important for us to have trust in our children. It is just as crucial for us to educate our children to be optimistic. We should mould them into adults who would believe in themselves and not someone who gives up before even trying.
You are a mirror to your children.
You create their self-image, according to Dorothy Briggs in her book “Your Child’s Self Esteem”. Since you are the person they trust the most, your child will believe you wholeheartedly if you tell him he can’t make it in life or that he’s incapable and stupid. Only when he’s older, would he challenge what you say. But the damage is already done.
Similarly, if you keep telling your child he’s great and has abilities, he would believe that and outperform his counterparts.
That’s how important your role is.
You should be encouraging and always believe in him. I am not asking you to overdo the praises. That would result in a child with a bloated ego or a delusion of grandeur. Just have faith in the child and don’t be a wet blanket all the time.
Researchers at Iowa State University did a study in 2006 with 115 parents and their seventh grade children. The parents answered questions on how much they think their children drink and their children filled in a survey at the start of the experiment about their recent consumption of alcohol. A year later, the children did another survey to state their recent alcohol intake. The results showed that if both parents had overestimated their children’s use of alcohol at the start, their child would end up drinking more, even if they didn’t initially.
As seen from the experiment, don’t doubt him from the start. That would propel him to conform to your expectations. Always have confidence in your children and believe they are capable of excellence. Tel them to aim higher than what they can achieve. That’s what I always tell my students.
Imagine this: I am on a treadmill. I aim to run 2km. I may stop and walk when I reach 1.6km. If I had aimed for 3km, I may have run continuously for 2.6km before stopping.
In the same vein, if you aim for 60 marks for the exams, you may work hard and eventually just get 55. If your goal is 90, even if you get 70 in the end, it’s higher than the 60 marks you initially wanted.
My friend’s son may really be slower than his peers. With my friend’s constant reminder that he is incapable of excelling, he will not perform his full potential. He won’t try his hardest, thinking it wouldn’t matter with his “stupidity.” If my friend had constantly encouraged him, he would have the confidence to overcome all odds.
As Paulo Coelho said in the Alchemist, it is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting. Motivate your children to always reach for the moon, because even if you miss, you land among the stars.
Wei is a reporter who teaches students English on Fridays and Saturdays because he loves children. He started this project with his buddy Wallace, who teaches Maths and Science. To get more tips, you can visit their facebook by clicking here and website here. To know more about their classes, click here.