Have you ever realized that, when you go to some clothing shops, some mirrors seem to make you fatter and some thinner?
What if the mirror you saw yourself in was the only way you could see yourself and therefore, was the only reference you had on how you looked? Well, that is how it is when people look at the world. They live based on their own viewpoint of the world and their memory. Now, remember that you might have seen yourself in the thin mirror and someone else has seen themselves in the fat mirror. Each of you will have a different viewpoint of how the world is.
A mother said to me, “I can’t believe my child! All of a sudden, as soon as she turned 17, she’s become another person. I have never seen anyone so uncooperative, so rebellious, so angry, and so unwilling to do anything to help us at home.”
QUESTION: What do you think is happening to the mother’s ‘point of view’? What do you think she’s going to do about it? Yes, she’s going to act upon it because that is now the image of her daughter that she has in her head. It’s like having a ‘map’ of a certain person – your own perspective of this person. As long as you have this image or, should I say ‘map’ of this person, you are going to treat them in a particular way.
As soon as you treat them that way, the tendency is for people to react accordingly. This is called a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. People live up to the ‘map’ that surrounds them. They conform to perceptions others have placed on them.
I told the mother, “Notice how you ‘see’ your daughter?”
Mother: “Well, it’s not how I see her; it’s the way she is.”
“Potentially, is she capable of so much more?”
Mother: “Oh, yeah. I know that!”
“So why don’t you see her in terms of her potential? Is not her potential part of the reality of her life? Isn’t it really the larger part of her life? Presently, she’s experiencing ups and downs due to her teenage life. She’s going through a period of identity crisis. You could live out of your own imagination. You could see her from the ‘map’ of her potential, which you deeply believe in.”
Mother: “Yeah, but what do I do with all this behaviour? What do I do with the uncooperativeness and unwillingness to do her part?”
“Observe the ‘map’ you have formed of her. (Remember how people live up to the ‘map’ that surrounds them?)”
There was a ‘study’ on the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ where a computer generated the results of a group of students. The computer classified one half of the group as dumb and the other group as clever. When the teachers came in, the computer technician explained the following in front of the students: “This group over here is highly intelligent. They have an average IQ of 130. They love education. They love learning. You will really enjoy teaching them. But this group over here, you can kind of tell, when you look at their faces. Well, this group, they are very fine people too. But they don’t have the same ‘candle power’ and you will have to respect that and take things slow with this group when teaching them.”
Notice what happened? This technician talked as if he was describing reality. This is the way the students are. The teachers bought it. They acted upon what they were told about these students for the next several months. In other words, it became their ‘map’ of how these children were. Several months later, they discovered that there was a computer error of some kind and the two groups had been accidentally switched. This meant that the students the technician, and now the teachers, had labelled as dumb, were, in fact, the clever ones and vice-versa.
They immediately tested the students again, without telling anyone of their mistake. The results came back and the students that had been mistakenly labelled as more intelligent had improved their grades by 18 points. The grades for the group that was naturally intelligent had gone down by 14 points.
Hence, the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ theory was proved. Regardless of what ‘map’ everyone places on you, you will act upon it. The two groups acted upon the ‘maps’ or ‘expectations’ of the teachers and technician. Notice how the children’s behaviour and attitude flowed from how they ‘saw’ themselves to be – from the ‘maps’ they were given of how they were. It’s like the thin and fat mirror I mentioned, earlier. If the mirror is saying so, then it surely must be true.
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Let’s think of our own children. What type of ‘maps’ are we placing on them? If our children are acting out or behaving in a certain way, is it possible that there might be a problem with the ‘map’ that we are placing on them? The problem might be with us as parents, not our children. Are we, as parents, major contributors to these problems and issues we have with our children? Are we giving them labels from our current ‘maps’ or, are we talking to them as though addressing their future potential?
What is your personal motive, as a parent, when it comes to the ‘map’ you are placing on your child? Are you trying to ensure that you (as a parent) look good to the other parents because your child does well in school or at sport? Are you putting the pressure of your own motives for your child doing well onto your child? Are you worried about what people will say since your child isn’t living up to your personal motive of doing well?
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Is this what you really want for your child? The answer should be no. In that case, you should start to see your child differently. You should start to see your child as a person – precious in their own right. They are not to be compared to anyone else, or to timetables, social pressures, and social agendas. Your child could be a late bloomer with tremendous potential. Stop putting labels on your child if it’s not about talking to their potential.
Our tendency is to project from our own experiences, like a home movie. We project our views onto others. Be aware of what ‘map’ you are projecting onto your child.
For more ideas on how to find out what ‘map’ your child has of themselves, ask the following questions:
How do you see it?
What is your view?
What is your perspective?
What is your opinion?
What is your frame of reference?
References: The above article was influenced by “The 7 habits of highly effective people”
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