4 Things Kids Learn When We Do Things for Them

If there is one thing I hate, it’s being late. My high school basketball coach’s trademark saying was, “If you’re on time, you’re late.” We were expected to get places early so nobody was waiting on us. Well, now I’m a parent, and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually arrived somewhere on time. Someone is always missing a shoe, hasn’t bathed, or is starving, even though I offered them food 45 minutes earlier.

I get very frustrated because, inevitably, my wife and I become those parents who do everything for their child, just to get out the door promptly. We pile into the car, irritated, feeling burdened for having done it all ourselves while the kids wind up relieved of any effort. I want to get places on time, but my desire to be punctual can’t outweigh my duty to teach my kids responsibility. But I fail to teach them anything if I do all the work. Here are 4 things kids learn when we do things for them.

1. Their actions don’t matter.

When I pick up toys for my kids, they discover leaving a mess isn’t their problem. When I take out the trash for them, they learn chores can get done without their involvement. Kids easily get the false impression that their actions don’t matter when we do things for them. But their actions do matter to the people around them.

First Corinthians 12:12–27 describes the body as many individual parts working in concert to benefit the whole. A foot is not an eye or an ear. It can’t see or hear, but it can walk. Without a foot, the eye and ear are stuck in one place. Kids need to understand that their actions matter because inaction leaves a burden for someone else to carry. Doing your part exemplifies treating others how you want to be treated.

2. Their things are not their responsibility.

My son leaves his hockey equipment lying around the house quite often. It drives me nuts. It’s supposed to go in his bag when we get home from the rink. When it’s time to dress for the next practice or game, he frequently can’t find a sock or elbow pad. I stopped hunting for those missing items. He can find them, and if we’re late, that’s his fault, not mine.

One of my favorite proverbs says, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” It’s a lesson in consequences. If we do things for our children, they won’t fear consequences. Parents who do everything for their child rob them of this responsibility lesson. They won’t learn the benefits of chores.

When we start doing too much for our kids, they become content to remain consumers instead of contributors.

3. Their needs will be taken care of.

Yes, I am responsible for the important things like food, clothing, and shelter. But, there are varying degrees of needs. Children are capable of managing life’s smaller needs. They can brush their teeth, look up how to spell things in the dictionary, and dress themselves. I’m not doing them any favors by holding their toothbrush.

Someday, all those big needs will fall on their shoulders. I am happy to handle them now, but we prep kids to manage tomorrow by giving them tiny tasks today.

4. Their desires trump everyone else’s.

Selfish kids end up as lonely kids. My greatest desire for my children is that they are loved and know how to love. The best way to show love to others is to live sacrificially. I am a huge fan of how the concept is explained in Philippians 2:3. It says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Parents who do everything for their child should keep this in mind. Becoming unselfish is one of the benefits of chores.

When we start doing too much for our kids, they become content to remain consumers instead of contributors. Teaching them to give to others before satisfying themselves will show them how to love others well.

Sound off: What things have you been doing for your children instead of letting them handle on their own?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some chores you don’t like to do? Why is that?”