22 October 2012

Learned HelpFULness

10 years ago at the recommendation of a fellow Syster I added The Design of Everyday Things to my professional library (along with a few other programming and technical books). I still haven't read all the way through it but I like to flip through and read different sections from time to time and the other night I flipped to the topic of "Learned Helplessness" - this was intriguing to me as I watch my children grow and learn and do and also watch human interaction in a more professional environment.

Learned helplessness is a technical term that refers to the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond even though there are opportunities for it to help itself by avoiding unpleasant circumstances or by gaining positive rewards. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation. Organisms which have been ineffective and less sensitive in determining the consequences of their behavior are defined as having acquired learned helplessness.

I am amazed at how many adults I know, especially women, who will give up so quickly at a technical task (or even just a new task) at the first sign of trouble or not understanding. I've seen it happen with young girls too so I'm a big advocate of helping my children to help themselves. Healthy struggling and then figuring things out helps kids (and adults) become smarter, independent, self-reliant and resourceful. At least that's what my dad told me when I was a kid and he'd make me look things up instead of telling me the answer direct. (Was he being lazy or teaching me to help myself? Possibly both, friends)

I want my kids to know that the journey IS the reward (much of the time, anyway). I want them to be successful in everything they do and I want them to TRY their best. I definitely don't want them living at home when they are 30 (unless they are taking care of their mama) and I want them to have confidence in themselves and their abilities and that comes from trying and succeeding, often after failing multiple times.

Growing Up So Fast

I think we are moving in the right direction...

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