I Hate the Way My Stepchildren Are Treated and There’s Nothing I Can Do.

stepchildren, stepmother help, Pygmalion Effect, stepfamily, divorce, remarraige
Stepmothers Have a Tremendous Effect on Their Stepchildren via The Pygmalion Effect

Is that true? Is there nothing that you can do to affect your stepchildren’s life? If you feel powerless, I want to
remind you of The Pygmalion Effect. The Pygmalion Effect is a scientifically proven phenomenon whereby the greater the expectation placed upon people the better they perform. Another way to look upon it is that when we believe in another person’s potential, we bring that person’s potential to life. PEOPLE ACT AS WE EXPECT THEM TO ACT.

 The theory is named after a story by the poet, Ovid. The sculptor Pygmalion could look at a piece of marble and see the sculpture trapped inside of it. Pygmalion had a vision of his ideal woman whom he named Galatea. One day he chiseled a sculpture and crafted it to his vision. His statue was a beautiful creation that represented his every hope, dream, and joy. He fell in love with his statue and asked the goddess, Venus, to make his sculpture a reality. Venus granted his wish. Pygmalion’s vision became reality.
It’s a powerful law of human behavior. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson’s study illustrates how the Pygmalion Effect takes place in a classroom setting.

The purpose of the experiment was to support the hypothesis that reality can be influenced by the expectations of others. This influence can be beneficial as well as detrimental depending on which label an individual is assigned. The observer-expectancy effect, which involves an experimenter’s unconsciously biased expectations, is tested in real life situations. Rosenthal posited that biased expectancies could essentially affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies as a result. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect)

 In essence, Rosenthal told the teachers in the classroom which students were academic superstars. They asked the teachers not to mention the results of the study and not to spend any more or less time with them. You can guess the end of the story. At the end of the year, these students tested and their results were exceptional. By the way, at the beginning of the year, all the students who were labeled as superstars tested wonderfully normal. The important learning was that the students turned the teachers’ belief in their potential into reality. The Pygmalion Effect has been proven over and over again, not only in educational settings, but in work settings as well. It is a law of nature.

What does it mean for a stepmother? Remember that you have one of life’s most powerful tools at your disposal: belief in the potential of your children.  We can change our children’s self-fulfilling prophecy. Even when you are seeing a child who is whining and acting out, walk a mile in their shoes. Have their parents separated? Are there new people in their Dad or Mom’s home? New children? Wouldn’t you be terrified about losing the love of the adults in your life? In your mind, isn’t it plausible that you are losing the love of your parent to the stepparent or any new children in the home? Do the kids truly know us or have we been introduced to them as their Dad or Mom’s new partner? These children are overcome with fear. If you can look beyond the outward behavior, do you see the potential in your children? Can you see the artist? The adult who has great compassion for children in pain and becomes a therapist or a teacher? Can you see the doctor? The wonderful mother or father?

Stepmoms have many opportunities to express their faith in their children. When you get one of those quiet moments, let your children know how you feel.

“You have a real talent for working with children. I’ll bet you will be a wonderful teacher one day.

Thank you for sharing your toys. It was very kind of you.

I heard about your test scores. I can tell how intelligent you are.”

There are caveats to the Pygmalion Effect. No lying. Say things that you mean. Remember that change develops over a lifetime. You may not see your impact quickly, but it is there.

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