How to really help your loved ones

Amazed Child

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Hey there,

I heard a funny (and true) story about parental help recently.

A student was running late – very late – with a piece of college work and tried to cram a week’s worth of effort into just one night.

That night was, of course, the night before his paper was due in!

The boy stayed up and worked on the paper until about 4 a.m. before realising that he had no chance of doing a good job.

So he e-mailed the paper to his father – and pleaded with him to re-write it!

And what did his dad do?

Well yes . . . he re-wrote it of course. And what’s more, the lad (I mean the dad) got an excellent mark for it too!

It can be tempting to help your kids out that way and, as parents, most of us will do too much for our children in some areas.

But it’s not a great idea because it risks leaving our children with what the psychologists call ‘learned helplessness’

It’s obvious really. If, every time someone refuses to do their work (or pay their way), some other ‘kind’ person steps in and does it for them, then that first person won’t learn to take responsibility.

Yes, they might survive on bailouts for a while but it’s unlikely to last long.

Most ‘bailers’ tire – eventually.

And when they do, they quite often deliver a lesson.

The thing is, we can never predict when that will happen. All we know is that the longer the bail outs go on, the harder the lesson will be. And it’s doubly hard if it comes at a bad time!

Personally I didn’t bail out my children by doing their homework – and that’s not only because I couldn’t do it 😉

Children need support and encouragement of their learning. And they need to understand the benefits they can get from their work.

I was particularly keen to encourage my three lads in Mathematics studies because it’s a powerful second language which opens up so many more doors.

And rather like long term saving, healthy eating or physical activity, the benefits of learning do need to be sold because they can take a while to emerge.

But I think we can sell them if we focus on the positive feelings we get from our achievements based on our efforts.

And perhaps just mention the ghastly feelings that flow from failure – where it’s down to a lack of effort.

Most children ask for as much as they can get away with. I’m not sure there are limits unless we’re clear about them.

We’ll want to help them out on many fronts and we do – but we really don’t need to do their homework for them eh?

Of course, we all know that learned helplessness is not restricted to the young.  Most of us (in the workplace and at home) suffer from it in one way or another.

So let’s all help each other a bit more.

And let’s remind each other of the immense improvements to self esteem that come from learning to do more for ourselves.

Then, perhaps, we can even start saying NO (a bit more often) to those last minute pleas from others for us to do their work.

In the long run, that’s surely the best help we can give.

Have a great day.

Till next time


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