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The Language of Learned Helplessness Quiz

by Chick Moorman

Not many parents set out to raise a thirty-year-old Nintendo player who sprawls on the couch all day sucking up pizza and diet Pepsi. Yet many parents actually subvert their positive intention of raising responsible, confident, fully functioning children. They do it by unconsciously using Parent Talk that allows and encourages helplessness.

What about your Parent Talk? Is it filled with language that builds autonomy and independence? Or is it filled with words and phrases that teach your children dependence? To find out, take the following Parent Talk Language of Learned Helplessness Quiz. Read the statements below to determine whether or not they occur regularly in your language patterns. (Answers appear at the end of the quiz.)

1. "Let me get that for you."

2. "I'll do it."

3. "Act as if you can."

4. "Let me handle that."

5. "Let me demonstrate for you."

6. "I'll get you started. You do the rest."

7. "Take a risk and see if you can do it."

8. "I'll talk to your mother and see if I can get her to change her mind."

9. "It was raining, so I put your bike in the garage."

10. "What possibilities do you see?"

11. "Sounds like you have a problem. What have you thought of so far?"

12. "I'll fix it for you."

13. "I'll send your teacher a note and get her to give you more time."

14. "That's too difficult for you."

15. "It's late so I'll let it go this time."

16. "Would you like me to teach you how to do that?"

17. "You are old enough to begin doing your own laundry. Come on, I'll show you how."

18. "Ask me if you need any help."

19. "I'll call the store for you and see if they have any left in stock."

20. "The cleaning lady will be here on Monday, so put away anything you don't want moved in your room."

The answers to the Parent Talk Language of Learned Helplessness Quiz follow. If you note that you are regularly using the language of learned helplessness, you may be an over-functioning parent. You just may be performing tasks, rescuing, and taking over to the degree that your child is being deprived of learning his or her own lessons. Inadvertently, you may be encouraging your child to stop doing things for himself or herself. Check it out.

1. "Let me get that for you." (Learned Helplessness) Allow children to get things for themselves, or teach them to ask for help.

2. "I'll do it." (Learned Helplessness) If you do for, do for, do for, children don't learn to do for themselves. This creates dependence.

3. "Act as if you can." This phrase encourages autonomy.

4. "Let me handle that." (Learned Helplessness) Let children handle things. Experience is messy. Let them learn from experience.

5. "Let me demonstrate for you." Demonstrating is teaching. This helps them become independent.

6. "I'll get you started. You do the rest." This is another example of teaching. If you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior. Teach your children the system, then let them use the system.

7. "Take a risk and see if you can do it." This way of speaking makes you dispensable rather than indispensable.

8. "I'll talk to your mother and see if I can get her to change her mind." (Learned Helplessness) Whose relationship with the mother is this? Yours or the child's?

9. "It was raining, so I put your bike in the garage." (Learned Helplessness) 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.

10. "What possibilities do you see?" This style of Parent Talk promotes possibility thinking and helps children see a variety of alternatives.

11. "Sounds like you have a problem. What have you thought of so far?" This promotes a search for solutions and lets children know you see them as problem solvers.

12. "I'll fix it for you." (Learned Helplessness) If we keep fixing things for youngsters, they have no reason to learn to fix things for themselves.

13. "I'll send your teacher a note and get her to give you more time." (Learned Helplessness) This is a classic rescue. Your children will learn a more valuable lesson if you allow them to experience consequences.

14. "That's too difficult for you." (Learned Helplessness) Allow children to decide the degree of difficulty unless this is a safety or health issue.

15. "It's late so I'll let it go this time." (Learned Helplessness) Every time you let it go, you teach children that someone will bail them out and they won't have to live with the consequences of their actions.

16. "Would you like me to teach you how to do that?" This Parent Talk allows children to determine whether or not they want help. If they do, teaching is more helpful than doing.

17. "You are old enough to be doing your own laundry. Come on, I'll show you how." Your job is to teach them how. Their job is to do it.

18. "Ask me if you need any help." If you help before they ask, they won't learn how to ask.

19. "I'll call the store for you and see if they have any left in stock." (Learned Helplessness) If they won't call the store themselves, they don't want the item badly enough to have it. If they don't know how to call the store, teach them to use a phone book.

20. "The cleaning lady will be here on Monday, so put away anything you don't want moved in your room." (Learned Helplessness) Whatever happened to children cleaning their own rooms? If you want to raise kids who feel entitled, pay someone to clean their rooms.


Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The Abracadabra Effect: The 13 Verbally Transmitted Diseases and How to Cure Them. They also publish a FREE email newsletter for parents and another for educators. Subscribe to them when you visit www.chickmoorman.com or www.thomashaller.com. Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. For more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their websites today.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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