Learned helplessness is when your child has learned that they are helpless or incapable of doing something because they are often so heavily supported or not given control in a task. Whether it is feeding themselves, tying their shoes, zipping up their jacket or solving a puzzle.
If you are consistently doing these tasks for them, your child is actually learning that they are unable to do these activities. It greatly affects their motivation. They assume they can’t, and have given up, before even attempting the task, because they have never been given the opportunity to try or take full control over the situation.
At Kipinä, we are always promoting a child’s independence. Allowing children to try new things on their own, or guided by a caregiver, ultimately to mastery.
As a parent you can give your child that spoon and let you child try to feed themselves. They probably will make a mess and that is okay. It is important to be supportive and encouraging and non judgmental. Make your child feel secure in making a mistake and learning through the process. You can say things like ‘nice try’ and ‘well done’.
You can help facilitate this by purchasing clothing that is easier for your child to put on and take off by themselves or slightly supported by you. Shoes with velcro laces are easier to learn before going on to shoes with laces. The first step is getting your child comfortable with putting the shoes on before adding additional elements of challenge.
Yes is it faster to just do it for them and rush out the door, but in the long run, as a parent, you will appreciate your toddler being able to be self sufficient even though the journey to get there takes time.
Be conscious and mindful in not establishing learned helplessness in your child by promoting a safe and nurturing environment where your child can learn through trial and error to be independent and confident.