Avoid Learned Helplessness by Increasing Your Expectations

Learned HelplessnessExpectations are a funny thing, aren’t they? If your expectations are too challenging, you may be disappointed. If your expectations are not challenging enough, you may become stagnant. Same goes for the expectations you have for your kid and subsequent behaviors your kid exhibits.

We can think of expectations as a mountain: each step up the steep hill signifies a new increased challenge. Not all mountains are the same and everyone climbs at their own pace. Most climbers have spotters, ensuring that if the climber falls, they will be there to catch them.

Parents: you are those spotters. You’re ready to catch your child when they fall. But you also need to be your child’s coach, setting the bar high for challenges and encouraging your child to reach their greatest potential.

Consistency is the Key to Successful Change

As a provider who works with children exhibiting various behavior concerns and academic needs, my first step is to establish appropriate expectation levels tailored specifically for the struggling student. The institution of expectations extends to the family home as well because we know that if we provide consistent expectations to kids who are struggling in school we must also provide consistent expectations within their home life too. This is wraparound support, and this is what we need more of.

Children are able to self-regulate in an environment with clear, outlined expectations and follow-through. Where there are not clear expectations, however, the child is unable to manage their own behaviors because they are unsure of where the boundaries are. Simply, the expectations are not clear.

Parents, Don’t be Scared of Failure

Sometimes parents are hesitant to implement what is perceived as challenging expectations because they are scared that their child will not live up to those expected outcomes. I hear things like, “Issac isn’t good at math but I wasn’t good at math, so that’s okay” or “She just doesn’t like to eat dinner with the family, so I let her eat dinner in front of the tv because I don’t want to cause an argument.” These expectations, and responding behaviors, are not okay.

I understand a parent’s resistance towards change. Oftentimes, parents feel that if the expectations are too high they will set their kids up for failure and, in turn, have failed as a parent themselves. Don’t be scared of failure, Parents. Failure serves to help us identify what we need to improve upon. It’s not a bad thing, as long as you work to resolve the challenge.

For this reason, I always encourage parents to look at the issue with fresh eyes by explaining and then modeling greater expectations for their child. If you increase your expectations, that means you truly believe your child will rise to the occasion. I believe this truth for my students, and set the bar high. Don’t you think you should too?

Avoid Teaching Your Child Learned Helplessness

If you don’t have challenging expectations, you’re essentially teaching your child the concept of learned helplessness:

Learned helplessness is the belief that our own behavior does not influence what happens next, that is, behavior does not control outcomes or results. For example, when a student believes that she is in charge of the outcome, she may think, “If I study hard for this test, I’ll get a good grade.” On the contrary, a learned helpless student thinks, “No matter how hard I study for this test, I’ll always get a bad grade.” ~ The Psycho-Educational Teacher (Special Education) via Edutopia.org

The Standard You Set Will Be the Standard Your Child Attempts

The way we perceive our own abilities really does affect our success, and it starts with setting appropriate but challenging expectations for your child. Like anything we need balance, but if you think the task is too hard for your child to achieve, then it will be. The standard you set as a parent, will be the standard your child attempts to achieve.

Remember, your kids adore you. They love you. They want to meet the standards you set for them. They want to climb to the top of the mountain and see that well-deserved, amazing view. Let’s give them a chance to do so by expecting more and raising the bar for individual success.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

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One thought on “Avoid Learned Helplessness by Increasing Your Expectations

  1. Pingback: Hi, My Name is Consistency and I am Related to Success | THE TERRY TUTORS BLOG

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