Learned helplessness


Growing up my mum used to come to our rooms to clear our dirty clothes to wash. She did this every Saturday and even paid a woman to come wash. At the end of the week our pile of laundry was crazy. Until one day, mum stopped. The washer woman came a day early to do the laundry for my parents only. We woke up Saturday morning to find all our clothes both clean and dirty soaked. Then she said – WASH! We had no choice but to wash or else we wouldn’t have clothes or undies to wear. Kai, that woman was wicked sha! After all was said and done, I asked my mum why she was so mean to us and complained about the blisters in my hand and she said she realised she was teaching us to be lazy. That we were beginning to get spoiled. That we started out by helping her sort the clothes, then helping her bring it out of our room for the lady but now we just sit there and expect her to do all that while we hurry to watch TV and wait for breakfast.

Now, if you have shouted and even threatened your child to do something like clear their plates from the table or tidy up their room, but they ignore you and feign deaf. You get frustrated and clear it yourself and end up muttering children of nowadays are just lazy, back in my days we dare not try it…bla..bla..bla..and this happens for everything you ask them to do. They ignore you and pretend not to know what you are talking about. Please stop. Enough is enough. It’s one thing to help make their life easy it’s another for them to take it for granted. This is what oyibo calls “learned helplessness”. This is a situation where kids learn that if they act helpless, eventually someone else will do the job for them. They learn that if they ignore you long enough, you’ll do the dishes yourself. You will sweep the house yourself, you will wash their clothes for them. If they don’t answer you when you call them, you’ll eventually walk upstairs or take the bin out. Bit by bit, your expectations are lowered until you don’t have expectations anymore. But realize that once you do this, you’re only setting your child up for failure. There comes a time in your children’s life when they need to grow and learn. If you let them off the hook with few responsibilities, they simply won’t gain the skills they need to move on to adulthood. Even though they may feel like they’re getting away with something, they’re actually falling into a trap that will be very hard for them to climb out of later. Please mothers don’t get into the habit of doing things for them. Keep talking, keep asking, keep disciplining and sometimes take drastic actions and decide enough is enough. Groom them boys and girls to be useful to people they will meet in future. And use the opportunity to finally have some rest.

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