Are You a Victim of Learned Helplessness?

by | Feb 2, 2015 | Blog, Empowered, Parenting for the Workplace | 1 comment

help wantedHave you noticed that parents are doing more and more for their children these days? For example, a mother of a ten-year-old tells me she still picks out her daughter’s clothes for her every day. She doesn’t have confidence in her daughter to choose her own clothes. A seven-year-old boy tells his daddy to put his socks and shoes on for him—and Daddy does! Daddy doesn’t push back to tell his son that he could do it himself.

Whether it’s the parents or the children who drive the dependence, it creates young adults who don’t know how to take care of themselves or do their work independently. This is what managers are complaining about. Young workers need “hand holding” to get them from one step to the next in task completion.

How do we raise children to learn how to do it on their own? Two things have to happen for children to develop into independent people:

  1. Parents have to let go and
  2. kids have to let go.

It’s that simple.

But it’s not that easy! Parents feel special when they are needed. They also feel special when their “best friends” love them unconditionally. Children feel good when they are taken care of, and it is so much easier if someone else does it for them.

In addition, it is scary to let go. It’s scary for parents to let their kids try things on their own because they might fail or get hurt in the process. It is scary for kids to try things on their own for the same reasons. It’s the discomfort that keeps the codependence in place.

Experiencing the discomfort of letting go andnervous trying things out on your own is not fun. Surely you can think of numerous times you have avoided doing something because you didn’t want to feel the discomfort. For example, it may be awkward for you to tell an employee that they haven’t done a good enough job. It may be heart-wrenching to discipline your child. It may be scary to take the car for a spin on your own for the first time or ask someone out on a date or travel far away to college.

We sometimes find ways around doing what we ought to do to avoid the discomfort. We ignore bad behavior, invite others along to accompany us, or decide we didn’t really want to do it anyway. We conclude the person’s performance wasn’t really that bad or choose to go to college closer to home. By doing this, we limit ourselves (and others) to being dependent and accomplishing less.

It takes courage to break through the discomfort. It may be scary, but we need to be brave to be independent and foster independence in others.