Helping or harming

As a parent, I have often struggled with the dilemma of when to offer assistance to my kids and when to let them handle things on their own.  I have always been a rather independent person and have fought to do things by myself, rarely asking for assistance from others.  However, I know that every individual is different.  I have generally been very eager to help my children when they encounter issues, feeling that my assistance is part of the job of being a dad.  There are many  people who share the same feelings that I do on this philosophy, whether it is correct or not.

Now that my children are basically grown, I can now step back and see the faults of my prior interventions.  Although the short-term results were well-intended and appreciated, it appears that it likely prevented them from developing the independent qualities that are needed to cross the precipice to adulthood.  I realize that the benefit of hindsight isn’t available to the parent dealing with an immediate need, but the truth is that every interaction with your son or daughter is realistically a decision about their future.  It’s easy to solve the problem and move on, but sometimes, if not every time, a teachable moment results from such situations.

When a child is getting a jar of peanut butter from the pantry to make a sandwich, the parent might be quick to take over and make the sandwich for the youth for many reasons.  He may feel a responsibility to address the hunger of the child.  He may be concerned for the safety of the boy or girl in using a knife to spread the peanut butter on the bread.  Likely the intervention will be quickly (and cleaner) than permitting the youngster to do it on his or her own.  But will that be the correct way to allow the individual person to blossom into a fully functioning human being?

Time will tell.

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