The Line Between Helping and Hurting

It’s no grand secret I don’t enjoy parenting.

Unlike others I know, it was most definitely not my “calling” in life. I never intended to have children, never saw it as my mission or legacy in life. Kids are generally selfish, messy, and exhausting. I actually prefer old people. Truly…. Like in their 80’s and 90’s. So much wisdom to share and absorb. They are uninhibited (much like children), are unpredictable (much like children), and often see the wonder in the “small things” in life (much like children).


But, since I co-created three humans, I’m on board for this emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting ride. But holding on for dear life I might add.

I think the biggest lesson I’m learning as a parent is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

As I reflect on my upbringing back in the ’70s in Central Florida, I’ve come to better appreciate that my parents could have provided more of what I wanted – had they chosen to. I was raised in a solidly middle-class family with what I’d call a very predictable routine based on very clear values. Predictability was the guiding force behind all of my parent’s decisions, mainly because they were both raised without it.

My parents could have bought my brother and I more, nicer, better stuff. More elegant clothes. Newer bikes. Better summer camps. But they didn’t.  Intentionally.

I was always frustrated and a bit confounded when they held back, knowing (or at least believing) they could spend more on me.

But like me now, they faced the same dilemma, “how do you balance the desire to provide better/more for your children than your parents did, while not crossing the vital (but invisible) line of spoiling them? After all, the key lesson many of us learned from our own parents was watching their work ethic which they transferred to us – which we need to transfer to our own children. We want to offer our children more in life than our parents did, while still instilling in them the skills, patience, and discipline that our own parents did.

I see the same principle at work with leadership in our professional lives. As leaders of people, we’re often tempted to rush in and save the day. It’s easy to fall victim to the adage, “if you want it done right, just do it yourself”. Many of us were even taught that in our careers, as leaders, our job is to do the “hard stuff” and protect the team from the difficult, messy stuff. I’ve been tempted to just throw money at the problem to solve it as opposed to letting the team member struggle, flail, and even fail—which is where most of our learning in life develops—personally and professionally.

We could all do more for our teams (and our children), but the question is should we?

Have you “dusted” that vital but invisible line so you, as a parent and leader know when you’re crossing it and to quote Liz Wiseman, the author of my all-time-favorite leadership book, Multipliers, multiplying the talent around us versus accidentally diminishing it.

Principles of effective leadership have not changed, but when some team members are co-located, some work from home, and even more follow a hybrid model, leaders must apply those principles differently. 

About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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