When I’m around children, I’m either taking care of them or waiting until they leave. But the other day, without much thought, I actually learned something from a 4-year-old.

It was first thing in the morning when I saw an interaction between two 4-year-olds at the local YMCA. One of the boys was standing there, arms hanging beside him, with a sad look on his face. The other boy asked, “What’s wrong?”

The first boy just stood there, staying quiet with his shoulders hunched forward.

The second boy tried again: “What’s wrong?”

The boy just kept standing there looking helpless.

“What’s wrong, friend?” He asked again. And again, the first boy was motionless and quiet.

Then, the most amazing thing happened. The concerned friend walked a few feet away and started playing with some toys. Within a minute or two, the sad boy came over and started to play next to him. Why is that amazing?

The more concerned boy was being kind and compassionate toward his friend; it seemed as though he genuinely cared what was wrong. But when he didn’t get an answer, he was also being kind and compassionate by walking away. He didn’t become frustrated or angry or lash out or judge his friend for not responding. He didn’t seem to have any kind of thought like, “Well, I tried! If you’re going to act like that, there’s not much else I can do,” which is what some of us would think. He simply did the best thing he could do for himself and the other boy.

How many times have you tried to help a friend, a family member, a coworker or anyone else and got frustrated because they didn’t take your advice, so you walked away saying something negative? How many times have you felt sorry for someone because they weren’t doing well and felt helpless to do anything? Probably more than you’d like to admit, or more than you’re even aware of.

But trying to help has its limits and trying too hard only perpetuates the problem you’re trying to help. My mother used to have a saying, “Enough is enough!” And even though it may feel harsh, mean, or uncaring, there are a lot of times when the best thing to do for a family member, friend or coworker is to just try to be helpful and then walk away when it seems like you’re not helping much at all.

Not in an angry way…but more like a 4-year-old.