In my early jet-lag wake this morning, I was apathetically throwing my hands up in despair. Playing victim, quitting, frustrated and blaming the workday ahead of me for my inability to conquer the tasks I had to do right now. Blah. Once I regrouped and got out of bed, I called myself out with the term I use with my students and self parenting classes:
Learned Helplessness: A psychological condition that causes a person to feel completely powerless to change his or her circumstances for the better. A mechanism some people (like myself on occasion) employ to survive difficult or on a more extreme scale, abusive circumstances.
As a parent myself but also a professional educator, I am constantly experiencing other parents “save their children” from circumstance. This may seem short-term gain for the immediate protection, while I see it as long-term pain because we are training them to be helpless decision makers. So with little research, bits of reading and great discussions around the topic, here are some alternative ways to re-train and re-phrase your adult parenting language for your children’s behaviors.
- “Let me take that for you.” – Allow you children to ask you to help before you save them – you negative hero, you.
- “Let me ask mom to see if i can fix it for you.” – Whose relationship is this? Yours or the child’s?
- “Don’t do that hun, you may hurt yourself” - Is it a safety or health issue? Can they decide the degree of difficulty?
- “I’ll let it go this time.” - Every time you let it go, you show that you will bail them out and they won’t have to live with the consequences of their actions. What you gonna do at their first job? I have parents of 22 yr olds call me every season – it sucks for them.
- “I just picked up your…” Let children handle things, pick up toys or clean their room. Experience is messy. Let them learn from experience.
- “It started to rain outside, so I brought in your…” If you do this once, okay. If you do it twice, you have set up an expectation. If you do it three times, congratulations – you now have a new job.
Other parental coaching language I am conscious about using:
- “What possibilities do you see?” - Promotes possibility thinking and helps children see a variety of alternatives.
- “What have you thought of so far?” - Lets children know you see them as problem solvers and promotes a search for solutions.
- “You are old enough… Com’on, I’ll show you how.” – Your job is to teach them how. Their job is to do it.
- “Take a risk and see if you can do it.” - This way of speaking makes you dispensable rather than indispensable.
- “Ask me if you need any help.” – If you help before they ask, they won’t learn how to ask.
My favorite # 1 suggestion that can be implemented in any behavior:
“Teach me how you did that!”
I learned in university that you will never know something until you can teach it. Not only are you re-enforcing the behavior, but you are empowering them to embody the skills through educating you. In the words of Dr Henry Jones Senior – ‘I taught you self reliance’. Do you think that adults today are doing too much for their children? Comment below if we educating our kids to be entitled/spoiled? Are you a brat?
If a Dad is in, Everyone wins!