The “Learned Helplessness Syndrome”


The “Learned Helplessness Syndrome”

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I have observed a very disturbing trend among older, school age children. Perhaps you’ve observed this too or maybe not. You don’t have to agree with me if you haven’t observed this, but understand that I’m not only expressing what I’ve witnessed but also echoing the voices of other teachers and parents. We have a problem; we are raising children who seem too willing to accept mediocrity, and a possible explanation for this could be a theory psychologists are still working on, a theory called “Learned Helplessness.” Whether we admit it or not, we have a “generation helpless” on our hands. I don’t know if this is a problem related to some deeply seated psychosis, but I am appalled to report that this generation of children seems to desire or express helplessness on issues even as trivial as reading directions. Here are a few examples: a child raises his or her hand to say they do not understand a question, but when you read the directions to them, they suddenly get it. Another child picks up that bottle of pills and asks, “Mom, how many tablets should I take?” when the red label clearly says, “take two tablets.” I see this helplessness expressed when simple tasks have to be accomplished, but rarely when they whip out their phones to get online to interact with clearly sophisticated apps. I meet children daily who genuinely express this symptom of “Learned helplessness,” and it is quite bothersome. I ran into a student in the school library who had been given a specific link, but when the link popped up after his initial Google search, he wanted me to verify it. At first, I thought he had a vision problem, so I politely asked if he had trouble seeing it.
“No ma’am, I just wasn’t sure.”
“Does it match the one your teacher gave you?” I asked kindly.
“And you needed me to verify that for you?” No response.
I am appealing to all parents who might be unconsciously encouraging this disturbing habit to start brainstorming ways to reverse this tendency. Of course, Regroup.Refocus.Rebuild discusses many strategies to empower kids and eliminate this need to feel helpless.
We, as parents, and perhaps some educators, too, are setting children up for failure when we discourage independence. Perhaps you’ve noticed this tendency in your child but just thought your child was being lazy or you didn’t quite know what to make of it. If your child is old enough to do laundry, don’t do it for him. If your child eats and doesn’t put his plate away, don’t do it for him. I know a lot of mothers who are still doing the laundry for their twenty-something-year-olds, and still clearing the tables after their children. Together, let’s avoid creating a generation of helpless adults. These kids are doing sophisticated tasks when no one is watching but exhibiting helplessness when someone is around. Together, let’s build a stronger society by empowering children who might become the leaders of tomorrow.
Have you noticed this “learned helplessness” in your child or student or experienced other puzzling behaviors related to tasks or chores? Please share your experiences in the comments section below. ‪#‎RRR‬
‪#‎regroup‬ ‪#‎refocus‬ ‪#‎rebuild‬ ‪#‎strongerkids‬ ‪#‎independent‬ ‪#‎empowerkids‬ ‪#‎ethics‬ ‪#‎helplessness‬

  • Posted by Natalie Cabinda/
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