Don’t help someone without their permission!

Advice for Children Article Series

Now, offering this advice allows quite a few different ways to interact with the kids including teaching them new words like: “permission,” which many preschoolers don’t know yet. But this also is good advice for children to avoid the misunderstanding of when they offer their help to a classmate but that classmate believes that help to actually be theft.

Here’s an example from our tennis classes:

Little Johnny is tasked with placing as many tennis balls on his racquet as he can manage. It’s a bit of a race between him and his classmates so they are competing for available tennis balls. Assuming all goes as planned, each child will collect a similar amount of tennis balls and we will all discuss how many they now have on your racquet.

Now, if all does not go well, Little Johnny will drop a tennis ball from his racquet and watch it roll away from him and toward another student who is vigorously collecting tennis balls for himself. Little Johnny watches the other student pick up the tennis ball formerly known as ‘his’ and immediately screams “That’s mine!”

Now the other student has a choice to make. He can place the ball on his own tennis racquet and act none the wiser OR he can quickly hand the tennis ball back to Little Johnny which will avoid a tearful meltdown and long explanation from the instructor.

If the other student’s intentions were to HELP Little Johnny by picking up the escaping tennis ball and handing it back to him, then Little Johnny MIGHT understand that he misunderstood the situation and overreacted. If the other student’s intentions were to keep the tennis ball for himself, innocently assuming that any tennis ball on the ground is fair game, then Little Johnny will immediately lose his mind and accuse the other student of theft.

This is our Teaching Moment opportunity. The instructor can explain to both children the innocence of the other students’ assumption of the tennis ball being fair game in spite of intentions AND can share the advice “Do not help someone without their permission.”

If Little Johnny asks the other student to collect the tennis ball in question and hand it back to him, then the other student can safely approach the tennis ball without incident. Otherwise, the other student is encouraged to understand (at least) why Little Johnny lays claim to the errant tennis ball and can make an informed decision on how to handle the situation.

Now we can imagine how this can translate into useful advice for our daily lives as adults and parents.

  • A man in front of you drops a $20 and you are seen picking it up off the ground right behind him. At the moment of eye contact you have to decide to pretend you were picking it up just to give it back to him.
  • You see an old lady carrying bags and quickly run up and grab them from her “to help”… She screams and thinks you are stealing her groceries! (ok this is unlikely but you get the idea)
  • Your child is doing homework and you walk by and give her the answer to one of the questions. You have robbed her of the “aha!” moment of figuring it out on her own and therefore better understanding the material.
  • Say “You should really lose some weight” or “You should quit smoking” to someone… Has anyone received a positive response from this approach?

If someone asks for your help by all means help them. However if they have not asked, be sure to obtain permission before you decide that you are able to help and that they will be even remotely happy about it.

And remember the #1 rule for Ankle Biters Parents: never offer parenting advice without permission.

SjB Oct 19

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *