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Learned Helplessness: Are You Doing Too Much for Your Child?

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Learned Helplessness: Are You Doing Too Much for Your Child?
If your child seems to be under functioning you might be contributing by over functioning for him.

If you’re doing too much for your child, you will eventually feel burned out and put upon. You can determine if you are an over-functioner if you tend to move in quickly with advice, think you know what’s best, not only for yourself but for others, have a low threshold for your child’s pain and don’t allow him to struggle with his own problems. You might have difficulty sharing your own vulnerability and spend more time focusing on others’ goals than your own. The people around you probably think of you as always reliable and together.

You might not see it as a problem until you start to burn out. Understand that over–functioning and under–functioning are a “circular relationship pattern” because these two roles feed off of each other. You may feel over responsible for your child, directing his moods, controlling his decisions and micro–managing his social life. In this way, you unwittingly encourage your child to be passive in life and become an under–functioner. When this happens, he begins to rely on you to do all the things he should be doing for himself. And you think, "He needs me. I can't just let him drown."

More from YourTango: How Do I Protect My Daughter?

Are You in Your Child’s “Box”?

I talk a lot about “getting into your child’s box,” and why we should avoid doing so. This means stepping over your own boundaries or your child’s—or letting him step over yours. You’re getting into a space that actually belongs to him and not to you. Why do we do this? The truth is, we get in there to calm ourselves down, not because it’s in the best interests of our child. Some typical ways you may invade your child’s boundaries would be to constantly hover, treat him as if he knows less than he does, and have his success define you. When you get into your child’s box, you’re trying to rescue, protect, and fix and doing for them what they can already do for themselves. You tend to believe that without your efforts, they wouldn’t be able to succeed.

Let’s say you feel your child relies on you too much and you’re concerned that she’s way too dependent on you. You have been in her box for a very long time. What should you do?

Why staying out of your child’s “box” is the key to better parenting.

1) Recognize that you are doing too much, particularly when anxiety is high. Own it. Stop thinking that over–functioning is a virtue and change your part of the pattern by not rescuing, fixing, mediating, or lecturing. You have to be an observer of the pattern. Pay attention to your contribution to the problem and make a conscious effort to take responsibility for only what belongs to you.

At this stage, it’s less about pulling back and more about observing the pattern that you see in your family and thinking about a plan of action. So the next time your daughter comes to you asking your advice on how to handle a difficult situation, you change your patterned response of taking control and telling her what to do. Instead of immediately giving advice, you might plan to say, “I don’t know, I would have to think about that.” Stop being a “Mr. Fix–it” and hand your child back the responsibility to struggle to find her own answers and solutions.

2) Don’t let “changeback” derail you. Don’t be surprised to find that when you do stop your part of the pattern, your children may try to test you and change you back by making you feel guilty, getting sick, and under–functioning more. This is called “changeback,” and it’s basically your child’s reaction to the change he sees in you. Let’s face it, change is uncomfortable—and when you stop doing so much for your child, he’ll have to start doing more for himself. While he will likely test you to see if he can get you to take on his responsibilities, remember that staying in your own box is what’s best for both of you in the long run.

More from YourTango: Deaf Baby Hears Mother Say 'I Love You' For the First Time

Read the rest of the steps and the conclusion of the article: http://www.empoweringparents.com/Learned-Helplessness-Are-You-Doing-Too-Much-for-Your-Child.php#ixzz1xReuYF5x

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