Thursday, January 15, 2009

Don’t Rescue the Kid! Breaking the ‘Dysfunctional Trio’ Triangle

Have you ever had one of your children, a friend, or someone you know who’s suddenly misplaced something due to their own lack of organisation skills? Or maybe it’s someone who’s had life not turn out quite as they’d planned; an unexpected road-block has been experienced… problems.

The instant temptation is to fix the situation for them. But, unbeknown to you, perhaps, is the phenomenon that I will call the Dysfunctional Trio.

I will show how “rescuing” someone from a problem of their own doing or not reinforces dysfunction, negating the building of resilience.

The three roles are:


This can often be simply a problem itself, but can often be an actual person in the role of bully. Their part for the victim together with the victim’s response creates the problem.

Victim (of self-pity, cowardice, their own folly etc)

The victim is by definition, defenceless and pitiable. This grates at most of us, because we see the pathetic nature of the victim when self-pity drives the character of victimisation.


The natural response is we want to help the victim. But, we don’t realise that our “helping” by fixing the problem is not really helping at all.

There is a proverb that illustrates the point lucidly:

“The hot-tempered must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.” –Proverbs 19:19 (TNIV).

Substitute ‘hot-tempered’ with any other manner of issues and the same principle holds--they’ll learn nothing but the fact that rescue is but a cry away.

Correct Action: Cruel to be Kind?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way of doing this. It takes courage to stand our ground and resist the temptation to rescue someone from their own folly.

This doesn’t mean we can’t be empathetic to their feelings, coaching them perhaps to create their own solutions.

By not rescuing people, we break the potential cycle of dysfunction, which can only be good in the long run for all relationships and individuals concerned. We help build resilience in people this way.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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