Learned Helplessness means:
Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.
While the concept is strongly tied to animal psychology and behavior, it can also apply to many situations involving human beings. When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.
Sadly in almost every Evaluation I do there is some degree of Learned Helplessness (LH). Not in quite the same level but it is there. Think about it. I'm sure we are all guilty of the behavior that can cause (LH).
You are rushed in the morning, you get your perfectly capable 6, 7, 8 year-old, maybe even high-schooler breakfast. You rush and do their hair, pick out their clothes (maybe even tie their shoes or dress them), load their dishes, pack their lunch...Well you get the idea.
At times we forget we are raising adults, NOT children. We want our children to be independent. This independence gives a child good self-esteem and the thought that they CAN.
A child that doesn't do things that they are capable of doing will over time start to think, "I can't". And that is a scary road. Why try when you already no you CAN'T. No one wants their child/teenager to think this way.
But let's be realistic, I am often guilty of being in a hurry/lazy.
So what can we do...Give them chances to be successful when things aren't rushed and when they learn the skill, LET them do it, everyday.
Every child (starting @ 18 months or so) should ATTEMPT to dress themselves for bed. Things should be laid back and relaxed at this time. Don't be afraid to bump up the challenge when they meet a skill. If they can don (therapy word for dressing/putting on) pull-on top and pant jammies, get them a pair of button up.
Let them get breakfast, simple snacks, dress themselves, tie their shoes, do their hair, read the clock, do the dishes, pay for items on the weekends or vacations. It is so important for children to learn that they CAN.
I remember when I was growing up it was almost expected that you could tie your shoes before kindergarten. I would say HALF of my son's second grade class can't do it.
Have kids gotten dumber? Or have parents become a mix of busy and lazy. We are so BUSY with the day to day that we are to LAZY to teach our kids independence/self reliance, that will in the end save us endless amounts of time/stress.
Please vow right now to teach your child something that will make him or her more independent. Do it tonight and you will BOTH be glad you did.
*Kids with special needs can do a lot too. Teach them, try it, show them, they can. It will make all the difference.
**What do you do to teach your kids independence?