The Pygmalion Effect at Home

Pygmalion Effect, child development

Want to know the easiest tool for making your child a Super kid?

It might seem so simple that you might be surprised at first but try it out and you are sure to see the results in a short span of time. The Pygmalion Effect is a phenomenon in which children, students or subordinates improve or diminish their level of performance as per the level of expectation of their parents, teachers or supervisors have for them.

It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy since whatever the person in the assumed position of power thinks or expects out of the person in a weaker position is what the person feels pressured to execute.

Power Distance

People are not vulnerable to anyone or everyone but in relationships that involve Power distance (like ones with parents, teachers or supervisors), they become like putty in the hands of those who wield social or emotional power over them.

It has been scientifically proven that in any such relationship (Parent-Child, Teacher-Student, Supervisor-Employee, Coach-Athlete amongst others), the less powerful person will rise or fall to the level of expectation of the more powerful.

Psychologically, the less-powerful character bases his or her self-opinion, self-belief and self-worth on what he or she interprets the more powerful character’s opinion is about him.

They perceive this even without overt verbal or written communication—through non-verbal cues like facial expressions, tone of voice and body language.

Children are the most impressionable as well as the most vulnerable section of the human population. In the context of the home, this vests enormous power as well as responsibility in the hands of the parent figure as well as the parent-like figures (teachers and coaches) that a child comes in contact with during his formative years.

Since this effect works at such a sublime level, what you think in your subconscious mind is what gets communicated to the child who spends a substantial amount of time in your presence.

You might be behaving perfectly well on the outside but might not be thinking well of the child internally. This will have a negative impact on the child’s sense of self and he will act according to the power of your expectation. That is Pygmalion Effect for you.

Your Subconscious Beliefs

If you believe (genuinely) that your child is a super-kid, research shows that your child will have a much higher chance of actually turning into such a child as opposed to another who is constantly ridiculed, scolded, derided or questioned.

Such negative thinking or treatment would substantially increase the chances of turning a child into a loser. This can be rolled back later in life through counseling and support but will leave the child scarred (as well as scared) for years before a trained psychologist or caregiver figures out what the exact problem is.


Let’s understand the Pygmalion Effect at home with an example

Rachit was a ninth grade student who was struggling in his studies and developing complicated behavioral issues. He took no interest in sports, theatre or other extra-curricular activities either. His neighbor and friend, Ishan, who was in the same grade in the same school was, however, the exact opposite.

Not only did he excel in studies, he was also the captain of the football team in school. When Rachit’s parents approached a psychologist-counselor from his school to look into his case, it was revealed that his parents used to ridicule and criticize him regularly for small mistakes since a very young age.

As a result of this, he had developed an inferiority complex and had withdrawn, psychologically, from all forms of achievement.

The counselor was surprised to see that he, in fact, had a high level of IQ but was still an underperformer academically. On comparing his IQ score with other students in his class, it was found that Rachit actually outscored Ishan on IQ! Ishan, the super kid was just lucky to have received an encouraging environment at home (parents who, albeit subconsciously, understood the value of Pygmalion Effect).

Pygmalion Effect – Conclusion

Use this psychological phenomenon to your child’s advantage and resolve to think well about your child and focus on his strengths instead of his opportunity areas. You will see his confidence level rise and his personality develop positively in a miraculous way.


About the Author

Supradeep Mukherjee is an author, trainer and broadcaster. Educated at Hindu College and the Delhi School of Economics, he has consulted with a number of corporate organisations, radio stations and academic institutions. His areas of interest include Personal Development, Parenting, Relationships and Lessons in Living from Mythology.

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