Please Don't Help My Kids

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up and help them climb the ladder. I brought them here so they could learn to climb it themselves.

Dear Other Parents At The Park:

Please do not lift my daughters to the top of the ladder, especially after you've just heard me tell them I wasn't going to do it for them and encourage them to try it themselves.

I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn't bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.

They're not here to be at the top of the ladder; they are here to learn to climb. If they can't do it on their own, they will survive the disappointment. What's more, they will have a goal and the incentive to work to achieve it.

In the meantime, they can use the stairs. I want them to tire of their own limitations and decide to push past them and put in the effort to make that happen without any help from me.

It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.

If they get stuck, it is not my job to save them immediately. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn to calm themselves, assess their situation, and try to problem solve their own way out of it.

It is not my job to keep them from falling. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that falling is possible but worth the risk, and that they can, in fact, get up again.

I don't want my daughters to learn that they can't overcome obstacles without help. I don't want them to learn that they can reach great heights without effort. I don't want them to learn that they are entitled to the reward without having to push through whatever it is that's holding them back and *earn* it.

Because — and this might come as a surprise to you — none of those things are true. And if I let them think for one moment that they are, I have failed them as a mother.

I want my girls to know the exhilaration of overcoming fear and doubt and achieving a hard-won success. 

I want them to believe in their own abilities and be confident and determined in their actions. 

I want them to accept their limitations until they can figure out a way past them on their own significant power.

I want them to feel capable of making their own decisions, developing their own skills, taking their own risks, and coping with their own feelings.

I want them to climb that ladder without any help, however well-intentioned, from you.

Because they can. I know it. And if I give them a little space, they will soon know it, too.

So I'll thank you to stand back and let me do my job, here, which consists mostly of resisting the very same impulses you are indulging, and biting my tongue when I want to yell, "BE CAREFUL," and choosing, deliberately, painfully, repeatedly, to stand back instead of rush forward.

Because, as they grow up, the ladders will only get taller, and scarier, and much more difficult to climb. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather help them learn the skills they'll need to navigate them now, while a misstep means a bumped head or scraped knee that can be healed with a kiss, while the most difficult of hills can be conquered by chanting, "I think I can, I think I can", and while those 15 whole feet between us still feels, to them, like I'm much too far away.

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Jo Wright Wood December 02, 2013 at 08:51 AM
wow! Some people just don't get it. It doesn't matter if you are 15 ft or 3 ... as long as you let your child succeed instead of doing everything for them. We have a "me me" society. Everything is handed to the child....and if they can't do it....the parent does it for them. If a school assignment is due....parent gets mad at the teacher not the child. So many issues our youth growing into adults have today. All because the parents didn't let the child succeed in something as simple as climbing the ladder at the park. Totally in agreement with this article. I have raised two kids, grandchildren and taught for 35 years...I do speak from experience.
Anabella Maria Fontini Della Rossa La Bellissima December 03, 2013 at 07:01 PM
I generally just take my kids to the playground and leave them there, while I go grocery shopping or go get a cup of coffee. I say they are never too young to start learning how to be responsible for themselves. Why not start now? Boo boos, owies, my kids will know cpr before you know it.
Becky December 03, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Why not just let them drive themselves? If you have a big enough SUV, they can't get hurt.
brenna December 03, 2013 at 09:59 PM
When other people have an opinion I'm interested even if I don't agree, but when they are just making rude comments it's just obnoxious.
Michelle Thygesen December 05, 2013 at 12:02 AM
I definitely agree that people are getting to a point of babying their kids a little to much and not letting them learn on their own sometimes but man did this come off bitchy. A person who is just trying to be nice and help a kid who they think maybe struggling gets the bad guy rep from the parent? That seems a little ridiculous to me. Some people are just nice and want to help. No need to put them down for it.
Amy St. Germain December 05, 2013 at 11:03 AM
At the age of 2 my daughter could cross the monkey bars on her own. At 3 she was going down the water slide by herself. Once a woman jumped in after her, with all of her clothes on. Emma came up laughing and smiling as she swam to the side oblivious to the concern the woman had. The woman proceeded to yell at me for allowing my child to indulge in such a dangerous thing. I thanked her for her concern and moved on. My job isn't to teach others how to act or react in situations. There are many people who do not pay attention to their children and other adults do need to step in. Although the parent who wrote this article seems to be involved I would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to people stepping in to help. If it is an issue a person can address it by saying, "Thank you for your concern, I appreciate that you must care about children, but I'm right here allowing him/her to experience this on their own." By the way, at the age of 9 she is one girl in a group of 65 boys on a wrestling team, because we have given her the opportunities to realize she is capable of anything.
Greg Buns Mills December 09, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Rose Rowland December 09, 2013 at 01:02 PM
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE - would someone kill this thread already? It's been going on since summer.
Beth Wankel December 14, 2013 at 11:51 PM
I heart you. You are so right. All if this. People who don't get it just haven't realized their full helicopter-ness.
Beth Wankel December 14, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Rose, I wrote an article for PopSugar TWO YEARS ago that they still promote. If it gets folks talking...
Dion Rich December 17, 2013 at 03:52 AM
I thought your final sentence odd; "and while those 15 whole feet between us still feels, to them, like I'm much too far away". It seems you are acknowledging your daughter's feelings that they fear you are much too far away. This is a sign of insecurity, not security. It speaks of low self esteem, and a sense of powerlessness. I suggest you look at this and really think about it. Whose independence are you wanting to assert? Yours? Or your daughters'? Children are not interested in ego or competition. That's a dysfunction commonly seen in adults - not very young children.
Jason Atkinson December 19, 2013 at 01:14 PM
I'd never help someone else's kid into a more dangerous position. I have, on occasion, helped a kid down from a precarious position when it looked like no one in the vicinity was even watching them.
Steven See December 28, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Luis Andrade December 29, 2013 at 02:05 PM
well you aren't exactly being a great parent by sitting on the sideline waiting for them to fall and give up. a good parent (since you seem to be able to differentiate easily) would be there helping the child with confidence and reassurance that they are doing a good job and that they can succeed. it would also give the other parents (who want to be helpful, which is nice for then to learn that people are willing to help instead of the fail on your own parents they have) indication that you aren't the lazy parent you are appearing to be.
HairMetalFan January 02, 2014 at 04:07 PM
At least she's not a helicopter mom.
Becky January 02, 2014 at 05:48 PM
At least she's not a helicopter Troll.
Cheryl January 03, 2014 at 09:42 PM
I agree with your philosophy, but your strident tone isn't helping the cause.
HairMetalFan January 23, 2014 at 06:30 PM
@Becky: Troll
Becky January 23, 2014 at 06:54 PM
John Santaella February 08, 2014 at 02:42 PM
Good for you Kate. You're daughter will grow up just fine. I take my granddaughter to the playground and sit in a place where I can watch her and sometimes that can be a lot farther than 15 feet. Sometimes as much as 100 feet but I can still see her and she's doing just fine on her own. I'm teaching her to be independent. She's a bright girl and when she's an adult and in the corporate board room she will not be there to make coffee. Congrats. You're a wonderful mother.
Joe Neighbor February 08, 2014 at 03:34 PM
I think the story has a great point to make, but there is too much focus on the "villain," who probably has the best intentions. It's an interesting way to make the point, but I couldn't stop thinking about the author being oversensitive to a stranger with only kind intentions. These days, many parents at the playground are so hypersensitive to their own children that they don't even notice others. There are times when people in life have helped me up the ladder, and I am forever grateful. But they're not always there. Wait, that sounds like another great lesson for a child. That sounds like a great discussion topic for the walk home from the park.
JW February 08, 2014 at 05:59 PM
The author did say "Please don't help my kids," which isn't too strident. The example in the comments I disagree with is the waterslide at 3. Can the kid swim? How deep is the water at the end of the slide? Kids die all the time because their parents don't realize they're drowning, sometimes in very shallow water. Maybe the woman who ran into the water saw something the parent did. She might have saved a life.
JW February 08, 2014 at 06:00 PM
Sorry - maybe the woman who ran into the water saw something the parent didn't.
terry February 09, 2014 at 09:19 PM
Wow, lots of extremes here. I don't think this is a black or white issue; meaning that the other parents who try to help are not necessarily bad or overbearing or intrusive. In fact, I probably would try to help one of those kids, especially if they were on a ladder, and yes, I am a parent myself. If learning to be self-sufficient and independent (all good things) means your kids may struggle a bit and even experience some bumps and bruises on the way, fine. On the other hand, I have seen WAAAAAY too many parents who are totally neglectful of their kids behavior or possible harm because they (the parents) are on a cell phone, chatting with other adults, or simply not paying attention to a potentially dangerous situation. What am I supposed to do, say "sorry your kid fell off that later and broke his neck, but I knew it would make you mad if I interfered?" Not me, lady.
Stephanieanne Smith February 10, 2014 at 10:49 PM
So you think you are a good parent for sitting 15 feet away and just letting your child struggle??? Why not turn it into a learning opportunity. If they are having trouble going up the ladder...don't lift them up. Use this as a learning opportunity and help very simply to explain to your child how to climb the ladder. Why would you ever leave your child to struggle through something that could be such a great language and learning opportunity. No we should just be "not lazy" and sit away while we miss out on opportunities to help our children learn and grow...but wait that would mean not letting them figure it out on their own...what a load of BS
Rose Rowland February 12, 2014 at 05:28 PM
Please, please, please. let this thread die.
sharlie babbitt February 20, 2014 at 04:42 PM
I have a solution to the problem. Choose not to have children.
John Santaella February 20, 2014 at 04:48 PM
What's the problem sharlie?
Kristen Thompson March 15, 2014 at 10:04 PM
So silly.
sophia kov March 28, 2014 at 09:38 PM
This article did come off as mean. I hope it wasn't the authors intent. If I see an old woman crossing the street, I might help her. If I see a young child I might help them, it depends on the situation. And I don't consider them to be 'property' of their parents. They are people, plain and simple. This article makes me think this lady needs to chill out. Her kids will learn these lessons without her planning them. Really, its possible to be nice to children and have them turn out to responsible adults :)


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