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Dad’s View: Helpless or Help Less?

by: Ben Lacy

So, we’ve got this dog. Chocolate lab.  Female.  Craves attention. Bit of a drama queen.  Socially awkward.  Shockingly clever. 

Anyway, due to her allergies (oh yeah, forgot to mention… she is super high maintenance) this 100-pound ball of over-caffeinated fur is an inside dog.  Therefore, her provisions, namely food, water and a gargantuan-sized box of treats, are found in the kitchen.  The dog, Sadie, has developed a great way of advising us when she is out of water.  She goes into the kitchen, grabs the water bucket in her teeth, and chucks it across the room.  Nice.  Sadie acts helpless, since she can’t hop up on the counter and turn on the water.  I’m sure she has dreams of scaling the counter in search of our finest meats and cheeses, but she’s also afraid of heights, and the whole opposable thumbs thing would probably come into play.  However, if we aren’t around, she eventually trots into the bathroom and… well, I’ll just leave what happens next to your imagination.  She’s getting less help, though, so she learns not to be helpless.  If only she could teach our kids…

But first, more background.  Years ago, the fam and I got caught in a brutal, bashing, blistering snow storm somewhere in Colorado.  We had zero experience in this sort of terrain and temperature, and were desperately looking for somewhere to weather the weather.  Out of sheer luck and absolutely no skill (our windows were frozen solid and visibility was somewhere between Mr. Magoo and the dark side of the moon) we found this really swanky hotel.  The valet took one look at us, felt pity for my frozen family, and hooked us up with a ridiculously low rate.  When we got to our room– which was after midnight and after a dozen hours of traveling–I collapsed.  Problem was, the munchkins needed some munchies.  Here’s where I messed up.  I introduced them to room service, which produced a reaction similar to when monkeys discovered fire.  To them, it truly was the greatest thing since sliced bread – or at the very least, Cheez-Its.  Here’s where I messed up a second time.  I taught them that you can leave your tray of dirty dishes outside the door and someone will come and pick it up.  One of our kids really caught on to this process; so much so that they continued this upon returning home.  Yes, you see they now think you can eat meals in your room, put the dishes outside your door, and miraculously they will disappear.  As you might guess, this is irritating, agitating, and–if the Mrs. of the house catches them–quite dangerous!  The kid has requested installation of a dumb waiter to transport food and other merchandise in lieu of taking the stairs; however, so far the only dumb waiter they’ve found is me – because I pick the dishes up.  I should help less, but instead treat the child as helpless.

Another urchin loves to eat, listen to music, play video games, do homework and pretty much every other activity at our kitchen bar.  Problem is, the tyke believes it is an actual “bar” where you can order drinks, snacks, etc. from the “bartender”.  Again, this helpless behavior doesn’t jive well with the parental figures.  But, in the hopes of maintaining a calm and quiet kitchen, I usually cave and keep the water glasses filled.  Again, instead of deciding to help less, I’m letting the kid act helpless (and I never get a tip).

The other kid (we have 3) chooses to adopt an anti-feng shui form of housekeeping by never hanging up clothes.  Ever.  However, instead of constantly reminding them to hang up their clothes, I act as the maid and just do it myself (No, I don’t wear a maid’s outfit, but good luck getting that image out of your head). Again, adopting the philosophy that the child is helpless instead of choosing as a parent to help less.

As a dad, I’ve been sort of helpless at learning to help less, and choosing to do so is a dumb doctrine, an idiotic ideology and requires ridiculous reasoning.  The thought process is totally Nike.  You know, “Just Do It”.  That’s solid advice in sports; not so much when parenting.  And yes, I’ve tried all the traditional methods of persuasion to encourage my kids to do more.  You know, loss of electronics, taking of keys, removing of doors, detachment of finger nails (just kidding), annoying kids-aren’t-like-they-used-to-be speeches, non-specific screaming and lots of veiled threats.  Nope, the only way to make them less helpless is to actually help less.  It ain’t easy at first, but it is way easier in the long run.

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