Monday, January 21, 2013

Don't Help

I recently read an article that I found to be incredibly well written, with a lesson that is so true. "Please Don't Help My Kids" is written as a letter to someone on a playground who tries to help the author's child make it up a ladder. She is telling this person that there is a reason she isn't helping her child - there is a reason for having this frustrated child figure it out on her own.

I can't count the number of times I've been in the shoes of this mother, or in the shoes of this helpful person, or in the shoes of the frustrated child. We've all been there. We've all looked at that ladder in front of us, and wanted someone else to lift us to the top because we didn't want to face the challenge. We've all watched someone else stare up at that ladder and wanted to reach out to lift them to the top. And we've all watched our children and loved ones stare at that ladder, and have known that we must allow them to try it on their own.

This article discusses the need to allow children to face their own challenges head-on. Children, and adults as well, need to learn the skills to problem-solve. They need to learn to overcome obstacles - or, to at least try on their own before reaching out for help. We are all - children included - capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for, and are more capable than others give us credit for. But if we constantly do the work for someone else - if we continuously lift our children to the top of the ladder - they will never learn to do it on their own. 

Yes, they may fall. This is a part of life. They may skin their knees, or get some bumps and bruises along the way, but this, too, is a part of life. The strongest people are those who've received skinned knees and bruises, but kept trying until they figured out how to get up that ladder.

 I'm not saying we can't ever help. Or that we shouldn't sometimes ask for help. In this life, we will often need someone's helping hands to guide us. But there is a difference between lifting someone to the top, and holding their hand (or standing beside them for support) while they climb. We need to learn when to step in, and how much to do when we do step in. We need to learn when to keep trying on our own, and when to reach out for assistance. And, we need to learn what it is we're asking for.

I can say "Please deal with this for me." Or, I can say, "Please stand beside me and catch me if I fall." Or, I can say, "I can do this on my own, but please be here to kiss my knee if I fall." Or, I can simply say "I've got this." Each may be appropriate depending on the situation, but I would caution against ever using "Please deal with this for me" - unless you've tried and tried and your knees simply cannot take any more bumps and bruises. "Catch me if I fall" or "Kiss my knee if I fall" both require a good deal of trust in another person, but are good concepts.

Asking for help, for someone to be there to bandage the boo-boos, is one of the hardest lessons for me. I grew up being taught that you don't ask for help. I grew up being taught that no one will be there to help. I was forced to overcome obstacles on my own, without anyone there to catch me or fix the scraped knees. This is not the way to go either. Children (and all of us) need to learn that they can do it on their own; but they need to know that there will be someone there supporting them. They gain confidence in themselves, and trust in others, and this is what we all need.

And this is what God offers us.

Our Father does not lift us over the obstacles in life. He does not keep us from them. Every day we are faced with trials in this life. We run into walls which we must find a way over. We fall. We skin our knees. And God does not prevent this from happening. However, he stays beside us. He gives us the courage and strength to push past these obstacles. He holds our hands and hearts as we stumble, guiding us.

Isaiah 41:10 - do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.


 There is a special strength given to us when we have this trust in God... an extraordinary gift of courage and confidence given to us when we know that God is there watching us as we face obstacles. Through faith in him, we know we can make it through this difficult time, and the next. We know we can climb the ladder. We know that if we fall, God is there to catch us, to soothe our bruises, and to give us the strength to try again until we finally make it to the top.


  1. So...I've been away from your blog for a while. Life happened, and I fell off the online grid for a bit. But I'm back, and I was going through your posts, picking through them to read something that caught my eye. I love the fact that you actually posted on this very topic - not helping - because honestly, it's been on my own mind quite a bit. And I say that because quite frequently I find myself at the playground with my 2-year-old son, and after observing many of the parents around me, I notice that a good deal (not all) of them are either on the sidelines, allowing their children to do whatever, with no guidance, no fellowship, or they are there in their child's face, refusing to allow them to fall or scrape a knee. With my own son, it was extremely difficult at first, being a first time parent, to let my son trip, bump his head, or learn a hard lesson about going down the slide the wrong way. But I've slowly learned that this is the only way to learn - to be allowed to make mistakes, but have someone there to catch us if we're about to do something to endanger our life or the lives of those around us. You have very mature insight in your post, realizing that God deals with us in the same manner. There was a saying I heard once - "God helps those who help themselves." And even though I don't agree with it in its entirety (God does help those who cannot help themselves), there is some truth there. When we are going through life, God expects us to do what we can do, while He will step in and do what (ONLY) He can do.

    1. Hi David! Long time no see :) I hope you're doing well. And, thank you for the comment. I remember when mine were little, going through the same uncertainty... wanting to step in but needing to let them do it themselves, and just stay near/available. And, as most of mine are teenagers now, I find this hasn't changed a bit. I still have to let them bruise and scrape their knees.


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