Help, But Don’t Make Them Helpless

There is so much to do. Your kids have to be dressed. They have to eat. They have go to school. They have to do well in school. They’ll need jobs. They’ll need to figure out finding a home, finding a spouse, navigating the difficulties of the world.

There is so much to do…and they are so bad at all of it. So where does a parent draw the line? How do you know where to help, what to handle for them, what to tell them doesn’t matter and they don’t have to worry about?

Of course, there are no rules. No one can give you a perfect list: Pay for their college, but not their car. Cook them food but don’t do their homework for them. Clean the kitchen but not their room.

So maybe instead we should look for a good principle to follow instead. Perhaps this one from Plutarch would work: “A leader should do anything,” he said, “but not everything.”

Our job is to help our kids but not make them helpless. We want to teach them how to do things, not necessarily do them for them. That means encouraging them to make their own decisions, that means modeling the right behavior, that means showing them that the only person to blame in life is ourselves (and no one else).

A great leader is never above rolling up their sleeves. Like a great dad, they’ll do anything for their family or their organization. But they also know they can’t do everything. It’s not good for them or for anyone else.

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