Here’s a question for you: How many times a day do you help your child?
For most parents, I would bet the answer would be “At least a 100 times day!”
But here’s another question: Are we really doing what’s best for our children when we provide help?
As parents, it’s important to teach our children how to ask for help. It’s far more productive for a child to say “Help me!” than to start screaming out of frustration. However, we need to be careful that we teach the true meaning of the word help. This means we need to discern when to help and not just rush to assist at every cry.
As a Director of a school, I see firsthand that a lot of children these days don’t know what “help” means. Children – especially those who are new to the school - ask me for help all the time without first attempting to do things themselves.
Let’s take little 3 ½ year-old Timmy for instance who earlier in the day had a lesson in how put on his own shoes:
“I need help,” claims Timmy as he sits there staring at his shoes and not even touching them.
“Remember,” I say, “first you pull out the tongue then you put your toes in.”
“But I need help!” He exclaims still keeping his hands as far away from his shoes as possible.
Obviously, little Timmy’s definition of the word help is “A grown-up does it for me.”
“Timmy, help means you try to do it first. Then, if you can’t do it I will be happy to assist you. But you try first.”
Timmy continued staring at his shoes muttering the word “help.” Finally, after a good twenty minutes (which, as the Director I can spend with one child, but a teacher in charge of 20 other children does not have the luxury of doing), Timmy realized he was not going to get any help without trying to do it himself first. So Timmy put on his shoes. All by himself. And he was so proud.
Now, as a parent, I know how painful it is to watch your child struggle with something you can do in flash like put on shoes or socks. I remember literally feeling pain in my body watching my daughter put on her socks for what seemed like half an hour. It was all I could do to keep my hands away from her feet. But now at the age of 4 she’s an absolute pro and has been for quite some time.
The point is sometimes we think we’re helping our children but what we’re actually doing is robbing them of learning how to do things for themselves. This does not help them when they are away from you such as when they’re at school. And it teaches them that the role of grown-ups is do things for them. Parents should be teachers for their children – not servants.
So next time your child asks for help, be sure you’re really helping and NOT enabling.