Teachable Moments

Ask for Help Like a Preschooler

Asking for help isn’t my privilege, it’s my right!”, said every preschooler everywhere.

When we were raising our children, I learned the best example of asking for help came from my children when they were preschoolers.  They were masters of asking for help. And I had no idea how many answers and great ideas for life I had until these tiny quiz-show hosts showed up.  I had lots of help and information to give – or at least, they thought I did.

“MOOOOOM –  where’s my red sparkly shoes?”
“MOOOOOM – do we have the peanut butter that crunches when I step on it?”
“MOOOOOM – what’s wrong with the dog? He’s throwing up!” (as I’m in the shower)
“MOOOOOM – what are we having for dinner?” (asked before breakfast)
“MOOOOOM – where’s Dad?” (as they literally just walked out of the room he was in)
“MOOOOOM – I can’t tie my shoes.  Help me!”

Now that I look back on those years, I’ve actually come to love how my children asked for help.  Never did my preschoolers qualify their questions with, “Hey Mom, I’d love to have you help me, but only when it is convenient for you or if you have all your felt needs met first.”  Nope – if they needed something, they told me WHAT they needed, they told me HOW they wanted it, and they obviously told me WHEN they wanted it (usually, right now). They were very clear and offered no apologies.  

I think adults, including myself, can learn from their child-like innocence when they demand the world – or whatever else they need.  Here is what I think these little ones are assuming that may be of great benefit for us if we just consider their uncensored wisdom.

  • They do not feel worse about themselves because they ask for help.  They feel just as good about themselves after the question than prior to when they asked it.
  • They have no sense of guilt for asking someone to help them.
  • They do not take responsibility for the other person’s life; if whomever they are asking can’t say “yes”, they assume that person will say “no” (but of course they are hoping they’ll say “yes”).  
  • They do not worry about someone being inconvenienced.
  • They’re happy to dialogue with you about the situation to see if you can understand why they need what they need.
  • If someone says, “ yes”, they don’t say – “are you sure?”  If you say “yes”, then you mean “yes”. If you say “no”, then you mean “no”.
  • And their general assumption is, aren’t we put on this world to help each other?   (If you ask them, they will probably help you and if they ask you, you will probably help them.)

If I could pick one verse that would succinctly embrace this preschool wisdom in a nutshell, it would be Philippains 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Looking at this verse puts our preschoolers’ perception of asking for help in a biblical perspective.  

  • This verse does not negate our own interests; in fact, it embraces them.  The verse does not say – “you should never consider what you need; you don’t count.  As a Christian, ignore all your needs.”. Nope – it doesn’t say that. You have legitimate needs – ask for help!  For more clarity, let’s consider: 
    • What is the context of this verse?  Look at Philippians 2:3.  It says don’t do things with a motivation of selfishness or vain conceit.  This is where we can ASK like a Preschooler, but with much more maturity. Be aware not all you needs or wants are fair to put on others.  
    • How can you look after you own needs if you don’t know what they are?  There is a quiet assumption underlying the first part of this verse that you have actually taken the time to consider carefully what it is you need (not want) and will take responsibility to look after them.  We usually put ourselves first in our flesh. Be self-aware, but again – ask for what you need!
  • Look to your needs, but ALSO to what others need.  
    • How can you look after another’s needs if you don’t know what they are?  This is where those of you who don’t like to ask for help or feel bad when you do, you’re not helping the body of believers around you.  You’re actually stifling community. Ask for what you need, friends – not every single one of your needs is selfish or fleshly!
  • What would be a great way to live out this verse like a preschooler?
    • We could live this out by a.) we are good at letting others know what we need and b.) we are good at paying attention to those around us and either due to discernment or asking directly, we are aware of other’s needs.  Either way, we could assume it means we are aware of others and how we might be able to help and taking responsibility for our own needs appropriately.
  • Last thought, due to what we know from the rest of Scripture, we know that the “look” is not a mere observation, but it is attention intended for action.  For example, Luke 3:11 reports that if someone has a need, we should be about helping and giving to one another. Acts 2:44 shows the church meeting one another’s needs generously.  Bottom line, a Christian that honors God is one that pays attention.

Dear Reader, what can we take away from the preschoolers in our life and the biblical record when it comes to asking for help?  If we struggle asking for help – we need to move beyond ourselves and ask for help.  If we struggle not helping others – we need to move beyond ourselves and ask others how we can help them.

May this week be a week of authentic community in which we are asking and receiving help. How blessed we are to have one another through this thing called life!

Fondly yours, as always – Elizabeth

P.S.  Do you know anyone who might benefit from thinking this “asking for help” issue through?  Perhaps it would be helpful to send this to them or let them know about this blog. I know it would be a blessing to me to build our community as we seek out all the teachable moments God has for each of us. 

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