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atlantis's avatar

How do you know when you have helped someone too much, either making them too dependant or hurting yourself?

Asked by atlantis (1862points) June 22nd, 2009

Basically, there is no limit to human compassion and kindness; nor to human endurance. But when is it too much of a good thing?

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21 Answers

MrKnowItAll's avatar

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Chinese Proverb.

atlantis's avatar

@MrKnowItAll Yeah thanks man. I already knew that one.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately. We let our son and his girlfriend move in with us three years ago, and even though they couldn’t pay their own expenses, they had a baby. When Sonny got a good job, we bought a house on his promise to make the monthly payments, but he had consistently made partial payments over the past two years, but that didn’t stop them from having another child. I even gave them my van, free and clear.

I love my grandchildren more than I can say, but I hate having to pay Sonny’s expenses, and skip going to the beach for my 35th Anniversary.

Judi's avatar

When you hinder them from being the best possible person they can be.

RandomMrAdam's avatar

There is a line drawn that varies depending on who you ask on what is too much . I have many friends while I was in high school that never had jobs, or purchased their own cars, or paid their insurance and what not and I was particularly envious of people like that then, but not anymore. I feel that parenting isn’t just giving your children everything they want but rather things that they need because for one, if you pay for something yourself, you are more likely to take care of it much more than if it was just given to you. This teaches responsibility and the work ethic that when you put forth effort then you reap the benefits of your good work.

As far as your question goes, I think that if you are putting yourself at a disadvantage to help someone, you should ask yourself Is this really necessary? and see if there is any alternative in which you can help that person in a way that the person grows as an individual and doesn’t get him/herself into that situation again. Say Johnny is given a car from his father and Johnny never changes the oil, checks the fluid levels, or anything else regarding the regular maintenance of the vehicle and the vehicle breaks down. If the father just buys him another car, Johnny isn’t going to learn from his mistakes. But lets say that instead, father makes Johnny get a job and save up to buy a car that is probably not nearly as nice, but if I were a betting man, I would say that Johnny takes care of that car because he worked hard to get it and probably respects it much more because it’s his and he earned it.

@YARNLADY I am sorry to hear about the situation (or at least the downfalls you experience due to the current situation) but I’d imagine that if Sonny wasn’t given such things like a house to live in without paying full rent’s worth, that he would definitely have thought twice before having a second child. I hope that soon Sonny straightens up a bit and takes more of his responsibilities to life the burden from you.

RandomMrAdam's avatar

Basically, do not cripple someone by doing them constant favors and not letting them learn from their mistakes because you are hurting them more than you are helping them.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

When they turn around and file a protection order against you in your own house. That hurts. Particularly when you did nothing out of the ordinary.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

@YARNLADY Take the house back and find a paying tenant. You have stepped beyond the line. They can live in the van.

marinelife's avatar

If you think you might have crossed that line, you probably have.

cookieman's avatar

If their mail is arriving at your house – you’ve gone too far.

I tease but I know of what I speak (and can empathize with @YARNLADY).

I deferred to my wife’s wishes (and Italian guilt) as her nephew lived with us for seven years while he was supposed to be earning a degree. Long story short, he never finished any degree and did nothing but mooch and cause problems.

He’s attempted to return a couple of times since he left but I have permanently closed that door.

YARNLADY's avatar

@walterallenhaxton I will not do that. He is currently living there with his wife, two children, her mother and grandmother, and a young man on SSI they found along the way. There are already too many people living on the streets because their families are too greedy to help them.

rooeytoo's avatar

The condition you are describing sounds like co-dependancy. Melody Beattie ( has written books on it. It is when you give and have expectations of a return which sometimes doesn’t come and then you become resentful. The part I find odd is that the person to whom you are giving usually ends up resentful as well. I guess because they don’t want the burden of your expectations. I don’t know, life is so complicated.

But if you feel this way, definitely pick up one of Melody’s books, they are very worth reading.

boffin's avatar

How do you know when you have helped too much, making them too dependent…
When the Raccoon knocks on the door in the middle of the night because the kibble bowl is empty…

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

When they take money for college expenses and then make the least possible effort for good grades.

When they forgo paying bills with your money so they can instead take vacations or buy drugs and then ask you to pay the bills to save their ass.

When they take over a decade to finish grad school and refuse jobs “beneath” them in the meantime.

When at 30yrs old they have to ask me how a credit card works because they want to start being responsible.

fireside's avatar

Helping someone has gone too far when you are actually doing more harm than good because they are not learning how to take care of themselves. The typical line for teachers and social workers should be when they care more about the person than the person does. Otherwise you just drive yourself bonkers trying to bail out a boat with a sieve.

@YARNLADY – I would start sending an invoice each month. Then even if he doesn’t start paying, it will be a reminder. The harm in this case was that you now resent the help you gave him and he seems to have forgotten about it or taken it for granted.

walterallenhaxton's avatar

@YARNLADY I know you won’t. The man on SSI has sufficient income to contribute to his payments. I don’t know what other income is coming in there but there must be some.
I hope it does not go bad on you like it did for me when I did not charge proper rent but just shared expenses. I wound up with a run down condemned house and when the roommate left she did her best to get me locked up as well. I was living as I had for all of the 12 years. Then the explosion.

I haven’t a clue as to why she did it but I suspect that she was staying around to take advantage of the cheap place to live and it kept her from living the way she wanted to. So she kept on until she blew up.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I always keep this side effect in mind when helping people and I generally have a good grasp on when it all becomes too much, when they become dependent and I let them know

wundayatta's avatar

When your help takes their autonomy away.

Mariah's avatar

A question I’ve had on my mind a lot lately, from the other end of things. I’m 17 and have been extremely ill as of late, to the point where I’ve been bed-ridden and extremely dependent on my parents. They’ve had to do just about everything for me and they’ve suffered emotionally throughout my illness… I know it’s not my fault, but I can’t help but feel guilty. I just know I need to find a way to give back and show my appreciation.

cookieman's avatar

@Mariah: Kid, if more people were as thoughtful as you appear to be, the word “mooch” would cease to exist.

I’m sure your parents love you very much and are primarily concerned with your health.

Best of luck with your illness – I hope you feel better.

wundayatta's avatar

Some, perhaps even most parents bring kids into the world because we really, really want them. We are happy to do anything to make their lives better. Anything! I don’t think there is an objective reason for you to feel guilty, although I do understand your feeling.

It’s not your fault, as you said, that you’re sick. Let them take care of you, and concentrate on getting better. You’ll have a chance to return the favor. Trust me.

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