How to Step Back From Solving Your Kids’ Problems—and Why You Should

Dads often want to be a hero for their kids. The attributes of heroic father may change over time, from clubber of wild boars to breadwinning sole provider to stay-at-home dad with on-point French braiding skills. It’s only natural to want to swoop in and rescue your kids from their problems whenever you can.


But stepping in to save the day has its drawbacks.


In general, every time you solve a problem for your children, you’ve taken away an opportunity for them to learn to work through an issue on their own. Do it often enough, and you’ll have trained your kids to sit back helplessly until you swoop in to wipe up a mess, arbitrate a playground dispute, finish that science fair project, or rig their college applications.


Okay, so you’re a long way from committing fraud, but the point is this: Solving your kids’ problems for them is a slippery slope—one made more treacherous by the fact that dads often gain a self-esteem boost when they can save the day. Playing the hero pumps up your ego and gives your brain little shots of dopamine, so you continue to seek out the reward of seeing your child look up to you in awe and wonder.

When to Take a Step Back

Learning to let go and have your children take the lead on solving problems is something that takes practice. Here’s when it makes sense to stand down and encourage them to try things on their own:

  • When It’s Safe: Obviously, if your child is in danger, you step in immediately. It’s up to you to decide exactly how high your threshold for bumped heads and skinned knees is.
  • When There’s Time to Spare: Letting your kid struggle through tying shoes when you’re already late for school will just leave everyone stressed. Make sure you have enough time to let them work through issues when you hand over the reins.
  • When They Haven’t Asked for Help: Whether it’s because they don’t see the problem (yet), or they’re already working on it their own way, kids don’t always ask for help. Take their silence as your cue to observe from a distance rather than getting involved.
  • When They’ve Practiced the Skills: If your child knows what to do but is insecure about trying, resist the temptation to swoop in—even when they ask you to. Be a bench coach instead by offering reminders and tips.

How to Help Kids Help Themselves

Stepping back doesn’t been abandonment! Here’s how to support problem-solving skills and independence while remaining supportive:

  • Identify the Problem: Teach kids to name the problem first. You have unlimited opportunities to model this in everyday life! When they’re frustrated, start with one basic question: “What’s the problem?”
  • Brainstorm Solutions: At first, take turns with your child to come up with ways to fix something that’s gone wrong. You might give some hints at good solutions, but try not to take over with the “right” answer—at least not right away.
  • Test It Out: Let your child choose the solution they like best after you talk through some options. Let them give it tryeven if you think it won’t work. Experimentation and learning from failure is a major life skill, and natural consequences can be a powerful teacher.
  • Be a Guide on the Side: Your presence and encouragement is the most important way to support your child. Just be there.
  • Work Together: When you’re asked for help, be sure to ask what they’ve tried so far and let them recap the process. Then ask what specific thing they’d like help with. Use language that emphasizes you’ll work together instead of taking over.

Stepping back and letting your children work through their own difficulties isn’t always easy, but it’s a major part of parenting. When you’ve done it right, your kids will be strong, independent adults—which is exactly what you want.

About the author, James

Thank you for joining me for the Positively Dad journey! My name is James Shaw and I'm a husband and father. I live in the Tampa Bay area with my wife, Terri and our young daughter, Naomi. The goal with Positively Dad for us to think, learn and grow. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day and miss opportunities to become amazing fathers. I trust that the conversations we have on Positively Dad will help you see that fatherhood is truly a journey and that we are better together than figuring it all out on our own.


  1. on 07/04/2019 at 4:57 AM

    I need to to thank you for this excellent
    read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it.
    I’ve got you bookmarked to look at new things you

  2. on 07/09/2019 at 2:48 PM

    I’m now not certain the place you’re getting your information, but great topic.
    I needs to speend some tie finding out more or figuring out more.
    Thankls for magnificent info I used to bbe on the lookout for this info for my mission.

  3. backup camera retrofit on 07/10/2019 at 8:34 PM

    I was ale to find good advice from your blog

  4. on 07/10/2019 at 9:43 PM

    Helpful information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site by accident, and
    I’m surprised why this coincidence didn’t came about earlier!
    I bookmarked it.

  5. vintage house restaurant on 07/24/2019 at 4:06 AM

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.

    Thanks for great information I was looking for this information for my mission.

  6. oprol evorter on 07/24/2019 at 3:50 PM

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  7. on 09/11/2019 at 2:07 AM

    First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask
    if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
    I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my
    thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Thank you!

  8. kohls 30 percent off on 09/23/2019 at 3:26 AM

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
    I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of
    your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  9. Nicolitalia.Com on 09/23/2019 at 5:30 PM

    I am not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for great info I was looking for this info for my mission.

  10. Tamara on 09/23/2019 at 9:52 PM

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Many thanks, However I am having problems with your RSS.
    I don’t understand the reason why I can’t subscribe to it. Is there anybody having the same
    RSS problems? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond?


  11. eebest8 best on 10/05/2019 at 7:16 PM

    “Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say superb blog!”

  12. Berenice on 10/13/2019 at 9:06 PM

    I was able to find good information from your articles.

  13. htown junk car buyer on 11/04/2019 at 5:04 PM

    Hi there, a very good read and it sometimes just takes someone to post something like this to make me realise where I’ve been going wrong! Just added the site to my bookmarks so will check back now and then. Cheers.

  14. Jobs on 11/14/2019 at 2:11 AM

    Im thankful for the post.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

  15. Alexandra on 12/15/2019 at 3:48 AM

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is
    fantastic blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

Leave a Comment