Help Them; Don’t Help Them

I was pretty sure I could reach her in time, should she need my immediate assistance. We’d never done this before. It was a huge leap of faith on my part and a huge step in independence for her. Instead of mommy doing the cooking; the girl was on her own.

There comes a point in life, when we do an injustice by constantly safeguarding our children. Life lessons are learned as much from failure as they are from success. We need to afford them the opportunities to help themselves and teach them to stand on their own two feet. Now, this is not to say we immediately toss our children to the wolves with no preparation! That would just be foolishness. No; I think we definitely need to prepare them, train them, and supervise them for a given time. All the same, at some point, there needs to come a time when we step back and see what they do on their own.

N7_May_2009 If we constantly hold their hand and walk them through every step of their lives, our children will never have the necessary skills to be adults. They will lack the confidence to fulfill their God-given roles, the skills to meet those roles, the wisdom to perfect those roles, and the motivation to do more. By the time my children reach adulthood, they should have learned to manage their own households. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, organizing, driving, money management, and more should all be skills they no longer need me for.

Yes; she might be eating slightly burned grilled cheese for a little bit. Yes; he might foolishly spend his money on items which have no value. Yes; they might choose to wait until the last-minute to get a job done. Those life lessons are important though; they will learn through trial and error. Incidentally, these are great learning opportunities.

Instead of me pointing out what they did wrong, I gently prod them to find the reason out for themselves. What did they think went wrong? Should they have lowered the fire on the stove or perhaps flipped the bread sooner? Did he do his research before making that purchase or make an impulse buy? By not immediately jumping in to help or point out the error, I am allowing my children to learn and come to logical conclusions on their own.

Does this mean they will never call me or ask for advice? Of course not! All of us need assistance from time to time; that is life. What it doesn’t mean is that they are making the same mistakes at forty that they made at fourteen. If they are, perhaps the failure lies in me.

Time to Chime In: How do you help your children help themselves?

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” – I Corinthians 13:11

14 thoughts on “Help Them; Don’t Help Them

  1. I say the first is the crash test child. We didn’t do a great job of preparing her with some of the basic cooking/cleaning skills you mentioned. But recently, we did make her do all of her own college searches and applications, which has been a very real world experience. She has hated it and I keep telling her that waiting in line and filling out forms is SO much of adult life.


  2. I think the biggest thing I do right now with my youngest (he’s 3) is just standing very close encouraging him…”You try first…then mamma will help if you need me to but you try yourself first”… he ‘s often pleased at his accomplishments but doesn’t seem to distressed if he needs help so for now, I’d say it’s working. For my older kids, it’s different. I have one off in college – that one I’m sitting back and biting my tongue. Hand out the encouragement when given an opportunity. Try not to overdue the advice…even when asked because really, I’ve learned, when she asks for advice she just wants me to tell her she’s right. Anything else is unappreciated. So I bite my tongue…. a lot. I’m told it gets better after a couple years? Sigh. My teenage boy…. he’s pretty independent. I encourage a lot. He doesn’t usually ask for help. I offer. He refuses. He makes mistakes. I bite my tongue. He’s hard enough on himself. I guess in a way that is him helping himself too.


  3. My two year old is learning to bath himself while we watch pointing out the different nooks and cranies. He also makes his own Pb&J with just a swipe of peanut butter between the bread. Currently we’re working on cleaning up his toys. I try to keep them organized and encourage him to only get out one thing at a time because he gets overwhelmed.


  4. Couldn’t agree more! The girls love looking through my cookbooks and picking out what they will make for dinner. I still do anything requiring large knives (not quite ready to relinquish that yet!) but otherwise I give them the reigns. I do talk them through new techniques they are learning. Trin even made a bechamel sauce last week! I’m trying to let them each make dinner once a week. When one is cooking dinner, the other one sets the table and they get so excited to make it extra pretty to showcase the special dinner their sister is making. It’s pretty sweet. In December we had a great financial teachable moment: I may have come off badly to the sales guy but she learned a great lesson. 🙂


  5. So true! We do this from the very beginning. Allowing them to stand and then walk and then, inevitably, fall. 😀 If we don’t let them fall, they’ll never learn to stand on their own…literally! Great job, Mama!


  6. I think this is great. I think as parents we feel we need to be there to walk our kids through everything but if we do not teach our children to help themselves they will never grow up to be strong independent adults. We need to teach and then trust in ourselves that we taught right and that they can handle themselves.


  7. As a former public school educator, I have developed a keen sense of legitimate effort vs. feigning effort. Mostly, I make them do it themselves, when they fail, give them a tip and have them try again. When older, I will ask them why it went wrong and have them reflect for a better attempt. I do however need to get better at modeling things before just throwing them into the fray of it all. Sometimes I forget.


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