Say I'm cooking and I ask a family member for advice or support. Instead of only answering the question or playing an assistive role, they just step in and do all the cooking for me. What would you call that category of unhelpful/undesired help? If that's too narrow for a single word, perhaps as a more broad description, what would you call it when someone just solves a person's problem instead of helping the person learn to solve the problem themselves?

In a sense, the opposite of the sentiment in the "teach a man to fish" proverb that people commonly (incorrectly) attribute to the Bible.

A word I considered is "enabling". In certain contexts helping someone in a way that ultimately harms them might be called "enabling", but that doesn't quite feel like the right word here. Maybe I'm being too picky.

An example usage might be: "I was cooking and asked my dad if I had the temperature right, but he ended up cooking the entire meal instead. I really wish he would help instead of XXX."

  • Perhaps: I really wish he would help instead of micromanaging. Mar 14, 2021 at 23:09
  • Micromanaging works. I thought of "solve my problems for me", since it seems to carry the connotation and meaning I was looking for, but it's a bit too long. In a related question, I found some potentially applicable words. "Overhelping" is a somewhat constructed word but seems to work. I think "disservice" might also kinda fit.
    – ofShard
    Mar 15, 2021 at 17:34
  • I think "enabling" in the social sense has been co-opted by AA... Mar 15, 2021 at 18:41

3 Answers 3


In British idiom we often use take over in this context:

"I really wish he would help instead of taking over"

to take over = to replace someone or something


take over = phrasal verb ; If you take over a job or role or if you take over, you become responsible for the job after someone else has stopped doing it.

His widow has taken over the running of his empire, including six London theatres.

He took over from his uncle as governing mayor.

She took over as chief executive of the trust.


and a final example chosen at random:

Sometimes she helped Henrietta, the cook, whom everyone called Miss Hen, and on weekends Thrower often took over the cooking. She took over the cooking fulltime when Miss Hen died. And she stayed on for more than 50 years, until the Hollanders died, then worked for one of their children.

Washington Post

To give a negative feel, you might in some contexts use arrogate, as in "He arrogated the task to himself" but the word is just not used enough nor understood widely enough to qualify well. usurp is another possibility but with more limited meaning.

arrogate = to take something without having the right to do so:

"They arrogate to themselves the power to punish people"


usurp = to take power or control of something by force or without the right to do so

"He frequently usurped the powers of the commander, to whom he felt superior, especially if the latter was a non-party person"


  • 1
    I wouldn't have pegged this as a strictly British idiom; I'm from the northeast of the U.S. and that usage is perfectly familiar to me.
    – user888379
    Mar 14, 2021 at 23:06
  • Thanks for that; I was not sure of the universality of the idiom. And thanks to Laurel for tidying up my haste.
    – Anton
    Mar 14, 2021 at 23:45
  • This certainly works grammatically and captures the mechanics of the example. I wonder if there's a way to phrase it with a more negative connotation.
    – ofShard
    Mar 15, 2021 at 17:37
  • I considered two other words with more negative overtones but felt they lacked common usage or were too restricted. I have now modified my answer to show them.
    – Anton
    Mar 15, 2021 at 18:24
  • @ofShard I'd say "taking over" in this context definitely has a negative connotation.
    – user888379
    Mar 15, 2021 at 19:09

I’d use the expression:

take somebody’s ˈplace:

do something which another person was doing before; replace somebody.


“I was cooking and asked my dad if I had the temperature right, but he ended up cooking the entire meal instead. I really wish he would help instead of taking my place/replacing me.”


This may not apply to the "cooking example" provided by the OP but does seem to cover the question (so far as the title goes) well.


To treat (another) in a way that discourages independent thought or action, as by overindulgence.

[American Heritage Dictionary]

  • 1
    This does somewhat capture the sentiment, yes. I'm not particularly attached to the cooking example, but it was the first example I could think of.
    – ofShard
    Mar 15, 2021 at 17:36

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