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This one is about: The Power of Positive Expectations

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by Joanne Green

Years ago a very famous experiment was conducted in a mid-western American grade school in which sociologists randomly divided students into three groups: "Normals", "High Achievers", and "Low Achievers". It is important to remember that the children were not divided according to ability. Their names were drawn, lottery-style, and they were assigned to their designation purely by chance. The teachers of the school were unaware of how the students were divided and thought the designations were made on the basis of testing. They were told the designation of each student after the scientists' "testing" was completed. The strange results of the experiment were that by the end of the school year, the "Normals" had done average work while the "Above Averages" did above average work and the "Below Averages" did poorly. Why?

It would take a coincidence of monumental proportions for the scientists to have divided through random assignment in such a way that all of the students were placed in the group that appropriately described their learning potential. It appeared apparent that it was the expectations of the teachers that led to the achievement of each student. When the expectation of a behavior leads to that behavior, that is called a "self-fulfilling prophecy". That classic experiment done decades ago, and replicated many times hence, demonstrates that our unspoken expectations can have a serious influence over our children's potential.

My son, with his bilateral cleft lip and palate, wanted to learn how to blow bubbles with bubble gum. Never mind he was only two and a half years old. Never mind that he still had an opening in the alveolar ridge the size of a pencil eraser. He wanted to try. So I stuck a piece in my mouth while he chewed a piece in his mouth. I demonstrated my technique and he tried his own. I could have said, "You can't blow bubbles. You're too young, and besides, you have a hole in the roof of your mouth." But instead I let him try. After several frustrating trials, air filled the little pillow of gum on the tip of his tongue and my son experiences a delicious taste of success.

Maybe we fear that our children will experience failure. And indeed, if they risk, they will fail once in a while. But they will fail trying, they will not fail to try.

Your daughter wants to go out for a part in the high school play but fears that her speech is not clear enough for the director to choose her. Should you protect her by telling her that she might do well as a stage hand, or should you encourage her to give it her best shot? If you think she can succeed, chances are she will. Not every child gets the part they go out for. Kids without clefts get turned down too. But she tried, and maybe - just maybe - you'll sit in the audience at the school's auditorium applauding not only your daughter's performance, but her fortitude as well.

The power of positive expectations is not magic. You cannot hope away every problem or disappointment. But if you believe in your child, your child can believe in himself. He can feel confident enough in himself to take a risk. He can ask the girl of his dreams to the prom, or he can walk into the department store and ask for a work application. If he doesn't attain the goal he reached for, he can reach again. He can recognize that not all hits are home runs and a strike is not confirmation of incompetence. With the power of positive expectations on his side, he simply feels the freedom to step up to the next pitch and take another swing.

----------------Joanne Green is the mother of three cleft-affected children. She is also the Editor of WIDE SMILES Magazine.

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