Beware the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

roles

Do you have a stubborn child? Is your child very shy? Is your child a bully or a liar? Well, you may want to rethink those labels, especially if you want to set your child up for a successful new school year.

We’ve been talking about how to deal with your children’s emotions about going back to school. We also discussed a couple things you can do to make his days more manageable. But probably the most important thing you can do to set your child up for success is to think of him differently and help him think of himself differently.

In my parenting workshops I discuss freeing children from the roles they play. This is a very powerful lesson for many parents who often reminisce and realize just how powerful their parents perceptions of them were.

What role does your child play?

When I was very young my parents told me – and everyone we met – that I was shy. When I went to school, it was difficult for me to make friends. After all, I was “shy” and didn’t have the courage to approach new people. Maybe you have a shy child. Maybe your child is disorganized or scatter-brained.

Whatever label you have placed on them, that is the role they have decided to play.

This is the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Establishing roles happens innocently enough. It could be that your toddler is called “Miss Bossy Pants” because she doesn’t use her manners all the time. Then when she gets into school her friends call her bossy because she always chooses the games. As the accusations pile up, the role is internalized until your child becomes straight-up “bossy.”

Freeing children from roles.

If you’ve noticed that your child is “stubborn as a bull,” you can still help him see himself in a different way. For example, your stubborn child willingly dresses up for church. Let him know you appreciate his effort and that he looks very nice. If he allows a sibling to choose which restaurant to eat at, praise him for giving her the opportunity to make a choice. Whenever he acts outside of his role, recognize his efforts and help him see himself as flexible and giving, rather than stubborn.

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