If You Keep Bailing Someone Out, Will They Ever Learn?

This is a question I asked myself several times and especially after having children.  Our natural compassion leads us to want to help someone who is struggling, but are we “really” helping them by stepping in?  May be and may be not.

Please Help Me OutMy mother was a home economics professor and I grew up in a near sterile environment.  India, at that time, had a number of illnesses and my mom was very scared of us contracting any of them.  I was not allowed to eat or drink anything outside our home, until I was off to college.  Living and eating in the dorm was far from the conditions that I grew up in and I found myself getting sick often.  In fact, I missed 2 semesters of exams due to typhoid and hepatitis.  However, once I recovered from them, I could eat anywhere and not get sick.  My non-medical opinion is that I did develop some immunity and strengthened my system.

My wife and I made a pact before we had children.  We both agreed that we would not interfere with a child’s decision unless their action would result in irreparable or irreversible damage.  Therefore, breaking a limb was okay for us, but not crossing the road and risking being run over.   I am not sure how the mothers reading this post would feel about what we did, but it was a conscious decision, given how I was raised.  I was never allowed to cross the road, much less taught how to do it.

We learn a ton from our mistakes.  If only our society could reduce the stigma surrounding mistakes and re-framed failure as a learning opportunity, we would accelerate our growth – both in business and our personal lives.  If we don’t allow ourselves or our children to make mistakes, how will we ever learn life’s many great lessons.  Some may argue that we could learn from our teachers, parents and others.  In my opinion, there is so much more to learn and it varies from individual to individual.  Experience is something that is gained, not taught.

I have seen this quote by many folks and I am not sure who originally said it.  It has been attributed to Barry LePatner, Will Rogers and Rita Mae Brown.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

I would really like to hear your thoughts on this topic.  How far do you take it?  What’s worked for you and what are some pitfalls?

Peace and be well,

About Krishna Pendyala

Author of "Beyond the PIG and the APE: Realizing SUCCESS and true HAPPINESS". I am a life coach, speaker and workshop leader. My vision is to enhance life on our planet by raising awareness of the ego, in a simple manner. My commitment is to empower men and women make better choices to achieve joy and fulfillment, without protracted struggles or huge personal crises. I believe we can create an enlightened society where inner awareness empowers people to thrive in harmony.
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4 Responses to If You Keep Bailing Someone Out, Will They Ever Learn?

  1. Lisa V says:

    Well Krishna, here’s my opinion on that. I spent most of my mother years protecting my child and “helping” her in just about every way I could possibly think of. This, I learned later from a therapist, was my way of shielding her from any and every kind of pain that life could possibly throw her way.
    When I realized what I was doing, and as much as I tried to be so unlike my mother in that respect, I came to understand I wasn’t allowing her to leave the nest without holding my hand.
    It wasn’t until her junior high school years that I relinquished the decision making and consequences of her decision making to her full power.
    I started saying “it’s your 8th grade life”, “it’s your 9th grade life” and so on, when she’d come to me asking what should I do? Of course I would give her advice, but explain that how she chose to handle a circumstance was in her control. She would not always take my advice and had to live with her choices.
    Since I have relinquished control, I have noticed changes in my daughter and have seen more and more growth mentally and emotionally.
    She is now away at college. HER choice was to live in the dorms away and not commute “to become more independent”. Recently she made a decision to rely on herself to get home on a bus. Initially she was relying on a college friend to help her through this. When this friend didn’t come through, she made a decision to get herself home and was determined to do it on her own, even refusing a ride home from me and my husband. On the way home she called herself a cab and headed back to college. Both of these trips on the bus and in a cab were her very first experiences utilizing public transportation. She was very proud of herself and is also proud that she is able be self-sufficient away at college.
    So coming from a person that dealt with both ends of the spectrum as a mother, I would have to say that the best thing any parent could do for their child is to allow them to make their own choices and decisions and to allow them to bear the consequences. That is not to say that as a parent you cannot advise them, however the ultimate choice should be in their hands as soon as they can possibly have the ability to make choices for themselves.
    I think the bottom line is that our goal as parents should be to make our children grow into independent adults that can stand alone and be functional in society. That being said, this is an extremely hard task for a parent to accomplish since it is not in our nature to “let go” but I am able to see how beneficial this has been for my child, and I highly recommend relinquishing decision making to the child when it’s appropriate in their life.

  2. Joe Stafura says:

    One alternative to “finding out the hard way” is to promote reading, especially fiction, although it is dense most human conditions can be examined and even “experinced” throught the reading of Crime and Punishment. Recent books such as the Story Telling Animal, or Wired for Story describe the evolution of fiction as the ultimate in life simulation.

    So while reading wont keep one from making any mistakes, it can help avoid some and mitigate other, the oldest and best answer to the hard problem of how to live a good life as evidence by the accent texts filled with wisdom that much of the world follows today.

    As for practical issues of raising kids, my adage was “make sure it matters”, so little annoyances are ignored, saving your credibility for the hard facts of life.

    Good topic Krishna,looking forward to reading other views.

  3. Nagaraj says:

    I appreciate your writing about this topic.
    I thought the same way about raising my kids. They were allowed to fail as long as they put in their best efforts.

    There is an old Sanskrit Shloka which goes like this:
    AchAryAt pAdamAdatte, pAdam shiShyaH swamedhayA |
    sa-brahmachAribhyaH pAdam, pAdam kAlakrameNa cha ||

    Which means,
    A student learns
    one fourth from the teacher, one fourth from own intelligence,
    one fourth from classmates, and one fourth only with time.

  4. Al Mancini says:

    A long time ago a young father told me that if his young son were underneath the dining room table and stood up, the father would not put his hand between the child’s head and the bottom of the table. I think I would have protected my son even though no irreparable damage was likely.
    It’s hard to make steadfast rules when dealing with each other.
    I can tell you that it’s worth looking into the reason why a youth has no desire to enjoy the company of peers, compete with peers, be hurt by peers and learn from peers. Thanks, Krishna.

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