I watched my daughter struggle to get a large bowl loaded into the dishwasher. She tried a few ways and then began huffing and puffing, grunting and grumbling. Finally with all her might, she managed to wedge it in triumphantly. But before she could savor her victory, we both heard a loud “POP”! One of the plastic tines inside the dishwasher had broken, unable to hold the dishes in the way she’d forced them in. Frustrated, she turned to me and let out an angry groan. “Honey,” I chided, “I wish you would ask for help.”
Ask for help.
It is something that many of us adults find hard to do, when we let the monster of pride get in the way of progress. But parents, I am here to tell you, we MUST raise kids who will ask for help when they need it. Encouraging them to ask for help, no, TEACHING them to ask for help, is one of the very best things we can do for our kids.
In an episode of Lewis Howe’s podcast “The School of Greatness” last year, shame researcher, TED Talk-er, and speaker/extraordinaire Brené Brown, mom of 2, said that there are only two types of kids you can raise: “kids who ask for help when they need it and kids who won’t. And that’s as good as it gets, to raise a kid who’ll ask for help.”
When I heard those words and then read them again, I was struck with how very profound that statement is, and I instantly KNEW it to be true. Floods of examples from my own young adult life come to mind. I know I have to teach my kids to ask for help at a much younger age than when I learned that it’s necessity was good, a sign of maturity, and not something to invoke shame.
But pride. Pride is the enemy of progress, of vulnerability, and of community. Pride is the enemy of honesty, and it will scream at us that to ask for help is to admit defeat. The Bible has a lot to say about pride, especially in Proverbs. Chapter 16 verse 18 is so often quoted that we might automatically tune it out, but we shouldn’t, because it is as true today as it was thousands of years ago: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (ESV).”
Whether it’s dishwasher destruction, as in my daughter’s case, or school assignment destruction as a child…giving in to pride and refusing to ask for help can result in major career, financial, relationship, and family destruction as an adult. And what’s worse, indeed the very worst thing imaginable for me as a parent, is that pride can destroy our child’s relationship with God. If my child fully believes that he or she is capable of doing EVERYTHING on their own, why would they need God? Why would they need Christ’s salvation? Psalm 10:4 articulates my nightmare scenario for my child: “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God (NIV).”
Those words make me shudder.
So how do we teach our kids to ask for help?
The number one way to teach our kids to ask for help is to let them see us asking for it as well. Teach by example. Embrace your imperfections and be vulnerable in front of your kids. This is perhaps the most dominant theme you will hear from Brené Brown (I’ve heard her speak in person on the topic twice, she’s phenomenal!), and it’s vitally important to helping your kids battle pride. There’s a fine line between showing them your vulnerabilities and being down on yourself, however: your negative self-talk is not going to help your kids at all. However, your willingness to admit you cannot do it all, cannot be perfection to all people, and your willingness to ask for help and accept help when you need it may just make all the difference in their adult lives.
One way I practice this is to ask my children for help. Yes, I as a parent, ask my kids for help all the time. They see me working full-time and still getting them to their activities and appointments, still getting dinner made and being a wife…but I openly admit t them when I am struggling. I ask my big kids for help with my youngest often when I am making dinner or finishing up work. They know they are assigned their specific chores because as a family we are also a TEAM and we all have to pitch in. Recently, I have battled an injury to my left hand and even have to ask for help from my teenager for some of the littlest things, like opening a peanut butter jar or closing a ziploc bag. It is, indeed, humbling.
But it is also 100% necessary for me to ask for help to keep our household functioning. And through it all, I can see that they are watching me as I navigate this injury, and I pray that they are learning that Mom asking for help over and over again is a good thing. I pray that they will generalize this to their own life experiences.
I want my children to be able to fight their own battles and survive on their own in the world, to be capable adults, that is for sure. But I don’t want to err on the side of making them think they can do it all, that they HAVE to do it all, or that they don’t need anyone in their lives,
I am doing the best I can to parent them with what I have…and to teach them that it’s ok to ask for help with what I DON’T have. I know in my heart that is one of the very best gifts I can give them.