When Helping Hinders Child’s Wings From Growing

butterfly wing

A butterfly takes flight for the first time, showing it’s beautiful colors. What would happen if it feared the transformation? Or a fellow butterfly hindered it’s flight? The butterfly’s wings would freeze or get stuck in it’s cocoon.

As parents, it is hard to see our kids get stuck. We want to see them grow and reach their dreams. And, we would do almost anything to help them reach their goals. But, when does helping our kids hinder their growth?

Re-learning A Parenting Lesson

Recently, my daughter learned to ride her bike. It was a much longer process than I anticipated. Her fear got in the way. She would start peddling, get scared, and stop. For months, I held on to her seat, her arm, or her back until we were both tired of trying.

I almost lost hope. Then, I realized that I needed to let go. I was holding on too tight and hindering her flight. By holding on to her, I was agreeing with her fear, that bike riding is scary.

When I let go, she just did it. She couldn’t believe that she was riding all by herself. To see her do it all by herself was gratifying to both of us. It was a day to celebrate.

Letting Go and Letting Growth

What about you? Are there areas you might be holding your child back from growing?

I wasn’t intentionally holding her back. I was trying to be patient, yet was treating her fragile. I had tried talking to her about facing her fears, but it didn’t help. My actions didn’t match my words.

I had to get out of the way, and show her I wasn’t afraid. By letting go, I invited both her triumphs and her falls. I was no longer treating her fragile and hindering her wings from growing.

As parents, we don’t intentionally get in the way of our child’s growth. In fact, it is really hard to see how we could be interfering with our child’s mastery of a task or conquering a fear.

Markers of Over-Helping

How do you know when your helping is getting in the way of your child’s growth? In theory, the more one thinks they have all the answers, the more the other one has none.

Here are some markers of over-helping:

  • You think you have all the solutions, while your child doesn’t seem to have any solutions.
  • You spend great time and energy trying to solve their problem.
  • You want them to reach the goal more than they want it.
  • You treat your child fragile as if they are broken, lost, or sick.
  • Worry about your child is guiding you more than the facts.

I wanted my daughter to master this new task more than she wanted to. I expected her to master it as fast as I did. I was worried that she would be the only  one on the block her age that couldn’t ride a bike. And, I eventually let her worry convince me that she needed a lot of help.

Fear Turns Into Joy

Once my daughter faced her fear without my interference or over-helping, she smiled so big. She told me, “Now, I believe what is in my heart, instead of what my worry says in my head.” My heart melted.

Not all challenges that kids face are this easy to overcome. As you know, once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget. Yet, most challenges are faced again and again. We have many opportunities to let our child grow and learn.

Ways to let go and let kids grow:

  • Ask them what they think will help.
  • Be present when they stumble and struggle without having all the answers.
  • Put your worry in a container, so they can find their own way.
  • Share when you observe them mastering a new skill even if it’s sporadic.
  • Believe in them.

Just like my children, I stumble and slip up. I am re-learning how to let my children face their fears without getting in the way. I can let them show all their colors as their wings get stronger. In doing so, fear becomes joy.

Let me share one of our joys. It’s a song my daughter and I enjoy singing together, even if out of tune – “Butterfly Fly Away” by Miley Cyrus. Enjoy:


What parenting lessons are you re-learning? Where do you need to let go and let grow?


Related Posts:

Let Kids Grow Up Without Fretting and Fuming

What Not To Do: When Your Child Fears the Dark

Photo Credit: “Broken Butterfly Wing” by Claudio Gennari


Coming Soon: My e-book is finished on Taking Charge of Your Worry. I’m putting on the finishing touches and working on delivery services. It will be available very soon!

5 responses to “When Helping Hinders Child’s Wings From Growing

  1. A wistful, thoughtful song indeed, Marci.
    Letting go is hard – in so many ways. I had no idea it would be so hard to let go, and that my children would feel like my responsibility so many years after they were ‘children’.
    I don’t think it’s ever easy to see them fly, but it’s what we, as parents, have to do…
    Thanks for this thought provoking post.
    (BTW, something strange is happening in the sidebar. You might want to check it out.)

    • It is hard but so worth it. My daughter is still thinking about how mommy held on too long. She realizes it was her worry, and sees how I unintentionally joined her in the worry with my actions. It’s been a great lesson for both us.

      (Linda, Thanks for the note on my sidebar. I’m updating my sign up forms, getting ready for my ebook launch. Having trouble with Mail chimp’s sign up form,so using a text link. How does it look?)

  2. A very important parenting concept – helicopter parents. Overdoing and swooping down to Always be there to step in, all under the guise of deep love.
    But what is the goal of parenting – to raise Independent, functioning, capable, well-adjusted people. We must give them the tools to be able to handle what comes their way in life. Coddling them, doing everything for them, robs them of that elated feeling of self-pride that says, ‘look, I did it myself.’ Stepping back and allowing our kids to do for themselves and even fall down, teaches them responsibility, accountability, and most important how to handle mistakes and failure. There is Sooo much to say on this and I won’t go on. But our society is raising kids (generally speaking of course) who are entitled, emotionally crippled. We have some of the highest statistics of depression, anxiety and addictive behaviors.
    There’s a terrific book I highly recommend and a terrific documentary also.
    The book is “The Price of Privilege” by MadelineLevine :http://www.thepriceofprivilege.com/news.html
    The documentary is “Lucky Ducks” by Tracey Jackson- http://www.traceyjacksononline.com/films/lucky-ducks/

    • Harriet,
      Thank you for the resources and passionate response.

      I do think we are living in an era of anxious parenting, but I also know they we can over-help any family member (not just kids). The imbalance from having all the answers to not having any answers can occur anywhere. Not being emotional responsible for others is a work in progress.