Doing Less, Because You Care

How often do you find yourself taking on extra work just because “It’ll be quicker if I do this myself?”

Or even worse, because “no one else will do it right?”

I’ve seen women (and men for that matter) around me who do this every day both in the workplace and with their children. I’m guilty too! Especially if you’re a mom trying to manage things around the house, sometimes it really does seem easier and faster to just take care of it yourself. But I can’t tell you how many of my children’s peers touched their first load of laundry in college!

In our rush to get things done or our desire to make others’ lives more comfortable, we’re not only creating extra work for ourselves, we are inadvertently depriving our children of opportunities to gain confidence and learn valuable life lessons.

My friend, Kay Wills Wyma, sees this as a huge societal problem. She wrote a great book called “Cleaning House, A Mom’s 12-month Experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement.” In it, she writes that:

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced the failure to take personal responsibility is an endemic issue for our culture. As our kids age, the youth entitlement problem leads to a needy society, incapable of critical thinking; incapable of making decisions; incapable of problem solving, creating, deducing, finding cures. Being overserved leads to atrophy of personal initiative. No wonder our kids opt out rather than dive into responsibility-laden opportunities.

It’s not just an issue of evening-out the work load either. It’s about showing people (especially your children) that you believe in them and in their abilities. Think about it, if your boss only ever assigned you the easiest possible tasks at work, and never held you accountable if you made mistakes or missed deadlines, what message would that send to you? Sure, at first you might enjoy a break from hard work, but eventually you’d recognize this treatment as insulting evidence of low expectations.

When I worked at Trammell Crow Company, I sometimes observed this kind of behavior among some of the top MBA recruits we hired whom we expected to become general business leaders on a fast track. Instead of learning to be true leaders who delegate to team members, give honest feedback, and find opportunities to help others learn and grow, they hoarded the “important” work for themselves and worked extra hours to make sure that it was up to their standards. As a management style, this strategy was disastrous, it led to low morale and distrust and competition among team members. Individually, these managers tended to have pretty low job satisfaction and a high “burn out” rate.

Burning out at work is one thing, but as parents, we can’t afford to burn out. And a low “parenting satisfaction rate” won’t do us or our kids any favors! If we want to build up our children into Godly, self-reliant adults, we can’t treat them as if they are weak and incapable. That means entrusting them with responsibilities. Sometimes it means seeing them mess up, and giving them the gift of experiencing consequences and even hardships.

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Are you doing things for your children or employees that they should be doing themselves?