The Mistake of Helping Children When They Don't Need It

Helping children when they don't need it hinders their development and turns them into dependent and insecure people. Learn more.
The Mistake of Helping Children When They Don't Need It
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Generally speaking, the latest generations of parents are more aware and sensitive when it comes to parenting. They seek to provide quality education and create a positive emotional climate for their children as they grow up. However, sometimes this is confused with permissiveness, a lack of limits, and overprotection, which causes serious consequences. In order to prevent this from happening in your home, we want to talk to you about the mistake of helping children when they don’t need it.

You may have seen videos, read articles, or heard lectures about parenting styles that encourage autonomy. In these, children as young as two years old dress themselves, eat on their own, brush their teeth, and even help with household chores. For some parents, this causes admiration and surprise, while for others, it arouses pity for the child. Why put so many responsibilities on them so early on in life?

However, many parents seek to make life as easy as possible for their little ones. By doing so, they understand that they’re relieving them of heavy tasks and allowing them to enjoy their childhood more. However, this can be a serious mistake.

The tendency to help children when they don’t need it

We know that helping children when they don’t need it harbors only good intentions. These parents only intend to show their love for their children through these acts. They also want to lighten their daily burdens and make them feel loved and supported.

However, it’s important to remember that parenting is preparation for life. It’s a period in which children can learn, in a safe environment, what they’ll need to be functional and independent individuals. In this regard, if we do everything for them, we deprive them of these opportunities. Thus, when they have to face the world, they won’t have the tools to do so. Any unnecessary help impoverishes the one who receives it. That’s why we want to tell you why we should let them manage on their own when possible.

A little girl bringing her mom a basket of laundry.
Children like to feel productive and that they contribute to family life. Therefore, it’s a good option to give them some light chores or let them participate when they show interest in doing so.

Children want to feel useful

From a very young age, infants show interest in doing things for themselves, such as pouring water, helping us cook, or putting clothes pins on the clothesline. They like to feel useful, productive, and independent and enjoy participating in these daily tasks as part of a team.

When adults do everything for them, these moments disappear. Thus, the little ones become a sort of prince or princess, and the parents, their lackeys. As a result, children lose the opportunity to feel that they contribute to family life and that their tasks are necessary, appreciated, and recognized. By failing to achieve daily accomplishments, they limit themselves to a passive role.

They need to practice

Having confidence in oneself and in one’s own skills and abilities is fundamental to facing life. However, to develop this confidence, children need to practice, make mistakes, and learn from them in a safe environment such as the home. By doing everything for your child, you deprive them of that opportunity to improve and build their self-esteem.

A child who has been challenged, allowed to make mistakes, and encouraged to continue will be better prepared to take on new challenges on their own. On the other hand, a child who’s never had the need to go through this process won’t have the necessary tools when they need to do so.

They must trust themselves

A child climbing on a playground.
Children must learn to trust themselves, which is built on their own achievements. If adults make everything easy for them, they make them feel weak and dependent.

One of the most valuable gifts parents can give their children is to help them build self-confidence, as this will be the key that will allow them to advance and adapt in any environment and context. But this confidence isn’t built on empty praise but on real achievements. The child needs to see that they can do it and prove it to themself in order to gain confidence.

This is why helping children when they don’t need it conveys the idea that we don’t trust them. We give them the idea that we consider them weak and incapable, and they believe it. As a result, they can become dependent people who need us for everything and don’t dare to try things on their own.

They have to learn to tolerate frustration

Finally, by doing things on their own, children not only learn that particular skill, but also the value of effort and the ability to tolerate frustration. If their parents are always there to solve their problems and needs, they don’t exercise this ability. As a result, they may become frustrated too easily, tend to give up, and not persevere. In addition, they’re likely to feel extremely uncomfortable when they receive a negative response or when something doesn’t go as expected.

Helping children when they don’t need it hinders their development

In short, although we want to make life easier for children, it’s important to remember that we won’t always be by their side, so they need to know how to manage on their own. The job of parents is to facilitate these learning opportunities by assigning responsibilities and challenges in accordance with the child’s age and abilities. Their task is to model skills, accompany them when they stumble, and encourage them to try again.

A child who learns from an early age to be autonomous, to trust themself, and to take on challenges, will be much more successful and happy in later stages. Overprotecting is hindering development and condemning children to always need help. Therefore, as much as possible, we must encourage their independence.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Kamii, C., & López, P. (1982). La autonomía como objetivo de la educación: implicaciones de la teoría de Piaget. Infancia y aprendizaje5(18), 3-32.
  • Ramos, J. L., Arranz, P., Hernández-Navarro, F., Ulla, S., & Bitencourt, E. R. (2003). La sobreprotección como un factor de riesgo en la reducción de la autoestima en niños con hemofilia. Psiquis: Revista de psiquiatría, psicología médica y psicosomática24(4), 37-42.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.