Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Learned Helplessness vs. Learned Psychosis

Aren't they purrrrfect?  Volunteering was THEIR idea, natch.

I was working out with my friend, Cindy (, yesterday, and we were discussing that Tiger Mom, which she is convinced is a good thing, or whatever, and then the subject turned to our children and the issue of "learned helplessness."  The concept basically describes a person who is so coddled that they are incapable of taking care of themselves.  Well, I immediately became defensive, because it hit a nerve with me.

People, I AM CREATING THREE CHILDREN WHO ARE KNEE DEEP IN LEARNED HELPLESSNESS.  They call my name at least seven thousand times a day.  The second they come home from school, they drop their shit and become laser focused on making me their bitch.  I do EVERYTHING for those little ho's.  It is exhausting and I have done it to myself.  SO, one of my New Year's Resolutions is to make them more self-sufficient.  It is the biggest gift I can give them.  They are not little anymore, and they need to start taking on more responsibility for themselves.

Now, in their defense, I do not have to get on them about doing their homework, or battle them about anything to do with school, so that is a huge relief, but I am realizing that, that may be do to their respect for their teacher and HER expectations, not MINE.

I give in a TON.  If my child presents a decent case, I usually cave.  Along with learned helplessness, I have actively fostered their art of manipulation.  They are very good at making me feel guilty, especially Hallie, because somewhere along the way, they must have learned that I was raised Catholic, so it was a slam dunk for them to use that as a negotiation tool.

I guess I just don't want to be one of those Moms that "freaks out" on them all the time, but I must say that when I am at my wit's end, and I do "lose it," it is effective.  They snap right in line, and do exactly what is expected of them, which then in turn, helps ME to develop "learned psychosis"

This is Pavlov's Dogs, peeps. If a certain repetitive behavior elicits a desired response, then, that behavior becomes learned.  This works both ways, people.  "Learned psychosis" is the original psychological concept behind the statement, "You are making me crazy."  It is their fault.  Gawd, what a relief.  I feel so much better now.

Look, I am not a perfect Mom - far from it, really.  I have never really been into perfection or the projection of perfection, so these are just issues I think about and struggle with.  The most important job a person will ever have is to be a parent (if they choose that path), and it is extremely daunting, if you allow yourself to really analyze the type of person you are shaping, and even more overwhelming to examine why you parent the way you do.

Now, I firmly believe that children are who they are, in terms of their dispositions and general personality traits, at birth.  Of course, traumatic events can shape that personality in early childhood, but I am just using the example of a child with a run of the mill upbringing, by parents who love them.

I was raised by parents who made me responsible, but most of my life's lessons were learned by trial and error, or experience.  I was raised to participate in chores and general household duties, and it taught me to take care of myself.  You just did what you had to do or it would not get done.

I think this is due to the fact that my parents both worked.  Last night, Brad and I watched the movie, "I Don't Know How She Does It," which is clearly written from the "working Mom's" point of view.  It is all but derogatory toward stay at home Mom's, and portrays them as perfection obsessed, workout-aholics, who judge working mothers for their store bought bake sale contributions, and disheveled hair, among many other things.  The film tries to balance out this stereotype by presenting scenarios in which the working Mom's children make them feel guilty for missing out on important events and family moments and putting themselves first.

I think what I am driving at here,  is that neither group has achieved perfection, and neither group ever will, because everybody knows that perfection is a myth, among the other unattainable things Mothers strive for in life, like consistent hygiene and pseudointellectualism (a word I made up, get it?).  

Mills.  Love it.
Here is my advice to you today.  Analyze your parenting style, but don't obsess over it.  Working Moms: don't assume that stay at home Moms just sit around and eat bon bons all day and should pick up your slack.  Stay at home Moms:  Just because you spend more time BEING a Mom, doesn't necessarily make you a BETTER mom.  Stop judging each other.  Negativity just breeds negativity.  It is wasted energy.  If you have peace with you lifestyle, then you don't care what other people are doing. 

Everybody knows that a person who judges another person is only trying to make themselves feel better about the choices they have made in life.  And finally, everybody needs to give themselves a break.  We are all doing the best that we can with the tools we've got.  
Mills and Hallie imitating me in "freak out" mode.  Niiiiccccceee.

We all carry with us our individual idiosyncrasies and baggage which influence our parenting and coping skills.  We are all equally enhancing our children's lives and screwing them up.  Listen, I have three daughters, the odds are against me, in terms of having lifelong close relationships with all of them.  It is a goal of mine, though, no matter how unrealistic it may seem.  The reality is that they will all be close and make fun of me behind my back about how irritating I am.  I guess I'll take that.  I am nothing if not a proponent of compromise.

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