I know helping kids is part of our job as parents and I know that children of course sometimes need our help. Very often though they actually don’t, but we give it anyway. Whatever it is that you give your children, from presents to attention to praise, you set a bar which is perceived as the normal level and if you drop below that it is experienced as a lack, a withdrawal or a punishment.
You can see how this setting of expectations works with a child who is given too much materially and becomes ungrateful, we call those kids ‘spoilt brats’ and tut tut about over-indulgent parents. But we live in a culture that suggests that over-giving in all those other areas is a cut-and-dried black-and-white positive thing – ‘You can’t give a child too much praise!’ (yes you can) ‘Children need lots of time and attention’ (but also space), ‘Help your child to understand what they’re feeling underneath’ (No! Don’t! There is nothing but they will find something if you push hard enough, just to please you!) ‘Keep reassuring your child that…’ (No, stop with the reassurance! They’ll wonder why they need so much!)
The more help you give a child, the more helpless they feel, and the less responsibility they need to take for managing their own stuff. The hidden message a child receives from too much help and advice is ‘You are not capable of working this out for yourself’ or ‘This problem is so big you need adult support’. Standing at the school gate hugging and listening to your crying child sends the message ‘You’re right. School really is too scary and difficult for you today’. Continuing to allow a child into your bed at night sends the message ‘It really is too hard for you to sleep alone’.
Helping kids too much fosters dependency whereas assuming a child has the intelligence and the resilience to deal with stuff gives them the chance to work that muscle and become self-sufficient.
And of course, as we all know, being offered unsolicited advice every time you express a negative feeling is just bloody irritating.