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Tag Archives: child development

When we make them learn helplessness

In a school, after a long conversation where I mainly asked questions, the teachers finally asked me something.

“Madam, can I also ask something?” said Lakshmi a teacher in a private school.

“Yes please do so…we are talking ….” I said to encourage her to talk.

“There are some children about whom I am never sure how to deal even though I have been working as a teacher for more than 8 years.”

“Hmmm….hmmmm…”

“There is this one girl and one boy in my class who never speak, even when I talk to them specifically taking their name. They just lower their head never make eye contact. They are both unable to write or read anything. I just feel so frustrated and sad that I don’t know how to help them.”

This reminded me about Khushi in my class who was also very much like this. She always sits on the first bench, yet it took me two-three days to notice her. She is so silent that she sometimes becomes invisible in the class. She also takes many leaves. She mostly sits with her head down not talking with anybody. To keep herself engaged she often tries to complete her notebook work. In my class I like to give each child chance so I often go from child to child and ask everybody to add something to the topic being discussed, whenever we reach Khushi the discussion comes to a stand still. Other children start getting irritated and start telling, “Mam, she wouldn’t speak, she never speaks, she doesn’t know anything.” It is a difficult time for a teacher, you want to give this child time to speak, but too much time may mean torture for her and boredom for others. You want to stop all the other children from saying these hurtful things yet not make this child too dependent on yourself.

With Lakshmi madam, I discussed a little bit about these two children’s home background and kept comparing notes about Khushi and I came to the conclusion that all these three children seem to be victims of learned helplessness.

What is learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness is a state of mind where the individual starts feeling that nothing that she will do will have an impact on the negative situation that she is in. This happens after a long time spent in a situation where the individual is placed in negative situations…..and efforts made by her seem to be futile.

Lets take an example of a woman in an abusive marriage, in the beginning every time she experiences domestic violence she talks to her family members but all she gets from them is a baseless assurance of how things will improve gradually and how as a woman she should adjust with the situation that she is in. She then tries to revert to the strategy of fighting back, which leads to even more thrashing. She then has a baby and starts feeling that she is tied to this setting and cannot go anywhere….that’s when it is possible that she may stop retaliating totally and may bear everything silently.

Another example of learned helplessness which leads to child abuse is when the parents learn that nothing they do will make the child stop crying and they just let the child be.

In school setting we often see those children who fall in a complex situation of constant negative feedback from teachers and parents go into a learned identity of being helpless in changing their situation. Often siblings imitate what the parents say and do and peers imitate what the teachers say and do thus completing the circle of negative feedback for the child. Such children gradually stop making an effort to learn. They may not always the silent ones but may also be the extremely boisterous never listening type as in both situations they are not ready to engage with you or make an effort to learn as they have learned that this will not lead to anything.

In the next post we will discuss what can be some of the intervention strategies in such cases. If you know of a similar situation do share with us.

Learning is fast

This is my second post in the series mommy learns – an experience sharing in my journey of parenthood. If just by reading the title of my post have you decided that my hormones (even after 1.5 years of child birth) are not back to normal and I am contradicting what I said just last week, then hold on….come on! Don’t be too quick to judge.

It has been only one and a half year since I have been blessed with a daughter. The best one and a half year of my life. One thing that I have learnt about myself in this period is that I am capable of loving somebody so much. I did not know this. My husband doesn’t accept this about himself and continues to say that I love you both equally, but come on! Who is he fooling! She is the most important and most loved person in our family. But this post is not about this.

I want to share about how much she has learnt in this time period and how amazingly fast this journey has been.

Let me start by pointing out some of the things that she can do at this point of time: (I know, I know it is an impossible list to make! But some examples can be jotted)

  1. She can walk, run but I don’t think she can jump.
  2. She can say complicated words, joins sounds and says word like and sentence like utterances.
  3. She understands most of the instructions given to her and also ignores when she wants to ignore.
  4. She can go up and down the stairs on her own and yet today morning itself she just lost her balance while taking a step on the plain floor.
  5. She has her likes and dislikes and “knows” what she wants to do or not do. Its not so easy to distract her now.
  6. She likes playing with friends and is unhappy and expresses that when they leave or I try and bring her inside.

And yes……the list can go on….and on….

But these are examples of her physical, cognitive, linguistic and social developments. She is becoming a person in her own right! With opinions, choices, tastes, an understanding and awareness of “I”.

Lets take the first example, physical development of a very complex skill of walking. Walking is often defined as a continuous act of preventing oneself from falling. As soon as you take one foot off the ground, you are in an unbalanced unstable position and then you bend forward and quickly place the foot to be stable again. But you don’t step there, you repeat the process again. Though we all want to be in a stable state and yet to move forward (both physically and metaphorically) have to leave the state of stability or you can say by will put yourself in a state of uncertainty and then reach stability again. So, when she started walking, now obviously I am speculating, but I would like you to speculate with me. When she started walking, her desire to reach a place or an object currently away from her was so strong that she decided to take the risk of falling and took her foot up from the ground. In those days, she would not walk…but run….why? I think because she was not confident of her ability to get the foothold again and was probably consciously doing the act of risk the fall- and get the foothold.

So, when I say learning is fast…very very fast….I see this small baby wrapped in a sheet unable to suck, not sure how to breathe becoming into a willful naughty risk taking communicative toddler in just a year and a half.

Mommy Learns

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This post is written by Richa Goswami, an EPTAF member.

It is not surprising to me anymore that Piaget became Piaget by observing his children. I am a mother of an eighteen-month-old super naughty girl. And I learn with her all the time, I would like to use this space on the blog to share with you my learning. I don’t think I would really come up with a new theory or anything…but there are things about child development that I am learning on a daily basis and losing too due to my laziness to document.

Documentation is important as the process of writing will make me analyze more and learn more….

So, the first and most important thing that I have learnt since she was born is that learning and development is a slow process…..very slow process…

She seems to be on the verge of learning something and then months would go, before she would make any progress. I would share some examples and other readers can share more…you may be parents or uncles and aunts….we all have seeds of being a Piaget all around us, we just never water them

  • I would start with the time when she was 2.5 or 3 months old. Let me start by humbling informing you that I have studied child development and also worked in preparing child development papers for teacher trainees of two states… so wouldn’t I know what to expect. To add to it, I am also one of the google-everything-moms (who isn’t these days). So to cut the long story short I knew that rolling over is a milestone she would achieve by 5 or 6 months age. But there are two more things….worth sharing (at least I believe that): first, my daughter is preterm by two months so the doctors had told me that her developmental milestones may be (the doc said “would be”) delayed by two months. And secondly I am not much believer in milestones anyways….My education has made me skeptical of that and a follower of individual difference. So one Sunday when she was a little less than three months and we saw her roll over…once….twice…thrice….we were thrilled (like most new parents are) “We have got this exceptionally fast baby”……and then the worry, “oh….we need to be very careful now…she can roll over…it wouldn’t be long that she would start successive roll overs and may fall from bed”…..but that’s about it…she did not roll over after that…not until she was almost six months old….in the mean time for many months she would just go on one side and get stuck….but when the time came she learnt that on her own her own and much more…
  • Similarly I remember the time when she learnt to sit and then stand from a squatting position…she would stand near the table and non stop do sit ups….we were amazed…how many times she did the same thing…but she would untiringly and happily do it.
  • And the time when she was ready to walk….This is the time when she had mastered walking by holding…and was about to take her first independent steps…when I saw this I said “may be in a week she would start walking….” But weeks passed….and then there was a stage when she started leaving whatever she was holding and would balance herself but not move….and I waited with breath held…”she is abut to walk” but days passed and then one day we noticed she was walking on her own….but this was much later than we had expected….
  • The last example that I would like to share is about her current phase…is about talking. She is a talkative child (no surprises there!) she non stop communicates, asks, responds, demands or comments…though we understand very few words from what she has said….and she has been like that for more than two-three months…and I the resolute non learner have been making announcements for two three months now, “she speaks so much and such long things….in a few weeks she would start talking …dekhna” but my darling is obviously proving me wrong….she is happily continuing in her own language….and is in no hurry

So, the point is learning and development (I think development has a bit of learning in it) is a slow process…a very slow process…. children take their time and are happy in the journey…unlike us….

Happy learning

Ciao (till next week….coz mommy loves talking too)