How Leadership at Home Affects the Rest of Life

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by John G. Miller, author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. You can visit his website and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Have you ever heard—or asked—questions like these at work? “Who dropped the ball?” “Why can’t that department do its job right?” “When will we find good people?”

These questions lead us into the dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination—ones that leaders work hard to avoid while on the job.

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But what if the person asking these questions was also a parent and later returned to their family, asking: “Who made the mess in here?” “Why won’t he ever listen to me?” “When will my spouse help out more?”

Once again, they’ve slipped into a same dangerous trap—but now at home. And in doing so, this mom or dad has taught their child to ask lousy questions such as: “Why aren’t my friends nicer to me?” “When will my teacher give me a break?” “Who’s going to pay for my college?”

Then, the child becomes an adult and finds employment. Soon this person can be found at the water cooler huddle, whispering: “Who’s going to solve the problem?” “Why do we have to go through all this change?” “When is someone going to train me?”

And the problems of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination remain deeply embedded in our society, while a lack of personal accountability persists in our world.

Is it possible that when people at work blame and whine, it’s because they were taught to do so at home? And that these dangerous ways of acting and thinking were modeled for them—by mom and dad?!

Leadership begins at home. Until Mom and Dad choose to practice personal accountability in their lives, not much will change—anywhere.

The working parent who laments the degeneration of society while complaining that younger employees “lack work ethic” fails to understand this: Societal problems, which include all the problems found within our organizations, are rooted in the family.

The unaccountable parent who goes to work and criticizes others for acting entitled, fails to ask, “Am I creating entitled children at home?”

The mom or dad who fails to lead exclaims, “The finger-pointing in our world is a terrible thing!” but does not look inward with the question, “Am I raising children who blame their teachers when they get a poor grade?”

And then there is the parent who asks, “When will my daughter start getting her homework done on time?” but models procrastination at home with the words, “I’ll do it later.”

Parents who are leaders know this: Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers. Dads and moms who accept the mantle of home leadership accept that they—not sports stars, pop culture icons, or Hollywood celebrities—are the role models for their kids.

These are “no excuses” parents. They don’t blame the famous for the “poor example that they set” and would never employ the grand parental excuse: “My child didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, because he got in with the wrong crowd.”

Leadership at home is captured in this statement: My child is a product of my parenting. Any other view of parenting is irresponsible folly. Excuse-making is never part of a leader’s world.

Moms and dads who really grasp that victim thinking is a disease spread from parents to kids—that blame is taught and caught, and that procrastination is learned—know what will happen should they fail to fulfill their job at home.

It is no surprise that we’ll reap a weak workplace where salespeople whine, “I missed my sales goal because our pricing is too high!”, employees lament, “Why doesn’t management do more for us?”, and colleagues point fingers, saying, “Nobody cared about the project as much as I did.”

My wife, Karen, and I have seven children ages thirteen to twenty-nine—six girls and one boy. The youngest three (all girls) are adopted.

Here’s what we believe: Parenting is a learned skill. It’s a developed capability that responsible parents purposely strive to acquire.

Understanding the critical nature of parenting, moms and dads who are leaders ask what we call “The Question Behind the Question,” or “QBQ.” Here are some QBQs that parents who lead ask:

  • “How can I be a more effective at home?”
  • “What can I do today to set a better example for my child?”
  • “How can I learn new parenting skills?”

This is leadership. This is personal accountability. And it all begins at home.

Question: What’s an example from your own life of how leadership at home translates to leadership at work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • kimanzi constable

    At home I saw leadership in how my dad handled stressful situation by being calm and not giving in to his emotions. I saw how he told us to do devotions as we saw him already doing then every morning. He was an excellent example of leadership. Great post, much needed!

    • Joe Lalonde

       Your dad sounds like he modeled leadership well for you Kimanzi. You were blessed!

      • kimanzi constable

        I truly was Joe and that’s what I’m doing with my boys!

    • Kari Scare

      My husband is the same way with our boys. Love to see this in action!

      • kimanzi constable

        Your boys will grow into fine young men and future leaders. I tip my hat off to your husbands, that’s what young boys need!

  • Michael Nichols

    Wow! Great post, John! And great thoughts.

    I have built a number of  “checks” into the spiritual disciplines of my life plan and I review it weekly ( – but its easy to slip into this cultural mentality in our communication. Especially at home. And our parental communication at home is so critical – because we’re developing the next generation of leaders.

    Powerful and thought-provoking.

    • Joe Lalonde

       Michael, with it being easy to fall in the wrong communication mentality, have you developed a system to re-orientate when you do?

      • Michael Nichols

        Great question Joe. The number one thing that has helped me has been reviewing my life plan weekly. It reminds me of what’s important, where I’m headed, where I am, and what I’m doing to improve. Family is a huge part of my life plan.

    • John G. Miller

       Michael, thanks. Yes, “checks” are a good thing to help us stay on track. Society is a powerful influence and it’s easy to stray.

    • John G. Miller

       Michael, thanks for your kind words. Excellent. Sounds like you’re a true leader at home!

  • Patricia Zell

    We, too, have seven children (and my husband’s oldest daughter who has never lived with us). Early on, I discovered two important concepts in dealing with the kids, concepts that I worked on: don’t indulge in hypocrisy and don’t lie to my children. (The last one I had some problems with in that I would “promise” things that wouldn’t work out–to my ears, I was saying “maybe,” but to our kids’ ears, my words were “I promise.”) And, now that our children are all grown, I think they are fairly satisfied with our parenting–at least, they are all productive and fairly happy.

    I like your points about entitlement and victimization. I see these attitudes as somewhat of a problem in Christianity. As believers in Christ, we are still human beings living in a world full of deception and a world pulled towards evil. Christ didn’t come to wave a magic wand and remove us from the world–he came to give us the ability to overcome the world and, as God’s adopted sons, to manifest His absolute love to our world. We are not victims–we are called to overcome and defeat the evil in our world. Our battlefied is in our prayer closets first and then in the world, as we love God with everything we have and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    • Joe Lalonde

       Great point about Christianity Patricia!

    • John G. Miller

       Patricia, well said. As we say in “Parenting the QBQ Way” … “modeling is the most powerful of all teachers”! Blessings.

    • TNeal

       Your comments, Patricia, about going to our prayer closets remind me of what attracted me to faith in Christ in the first place. At a youth retreat during my junior year in high school, the leaders closeted themselves together in prayer periodically throughout the weekend. Something about their praying for us behind the scenes opened my heart to the Spirit’s influence and prepared it to receive Jesus Christ. I placed my faith in Him at home the evening after the retreat ended.

  • Steve Hawkins

    Great post John. Kids can be the megaphones of their family life. As one teacher put it, “When I meet the parents, I forgive the kids.”

    • John G. Miller

       Ha! Love it, Steve! Thanks for sharing.

    • Joe Abraham

      That’s a great way of saying it, Steve!

  • aeric bass

    I read your post. You share such nice information about leadership. You have done great job.

    Leadership skills

  • Joe Lalonde

    John, you make many valid points on why our society blames others and not themselves. The lack of leadership in the home has grown more and more as the lack of leadership in the home decreases.


    • John

       Agreed, Joe. Amen. 

  • Dave Anderson

    Something I noticed about myself as a leader at work.  I am willing to step up and confront issues.  I am known for speaking out.  Healthy confrontation is part of my character  at work.

    But, at home, I turned into a wimp.  I avoided confrontation to a fault.  Thinking, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.”  I needed the courage to act.

    As time went on, I noticed that in my kids.  They did not do conflict and conflict resolution well.  It was my fault.  That is what I modeled. 

    I am better now.  Actually, my wife is happier now because I do act like “Work Dave” more through healthy confrontation at home.  I have 15 year old twins and this is now a focal point for me preparing them for life.  

    The next 3 years are key at home for me as a parent.  Thanks for the great lesson.

    • John G. Miller

       A humble – and interesting – insight, Dave. Thanks for sharing.  Yep, were all still growing … it never ends!

    • Steve Hawkins

      Good insight Dave. A few years ago, the men’s group at church went through a study called “Men’s Fraternity” developed by a Little Rock, AR pastor. It’s a 3-part study that was very helpful for me regarding similar issues. There were 300 men at church who met at 6AM on a Wednesday morning at the time, and it was an amazing study. You might check to see if there’s a church in your area who is having these studies. You can check them out online at 

  • chris vonada

    Leadership… like everything else good… starts in our heart… “at home”

    “The most significant visions are not cast by great orators from a stage. They are cast at the bedsides of our children.” – Andy Stanley

  • Cyberquill

    The outcome of the leadership I received at home was that I can’t stand “fitting in” and dancing to other people’s drums. Consequently, I turned out quite incapable of dealing with being led at work and couldn’t sustain myself financially over the long term. As a result, I am now living with my mother again

    • Kelly Combs

      As John Richardson said, “Life is on the job training.”  You can’t change your childhood. What you can do is change the negative effects it has/had on you. 

      • Steve Hawkins

        Great quote Kelly. I’m learning that its not the problems I go through but how I react to those problems that helps me grow and move on. 

  • Alan Kay

    Great post, thanks. Like business leaders parents who prefer to ‘control’ their children into early adulthood are sowing the seeds of disappointment. 

    I’ve always used the line, ‘It’s not what you tell your children, it’s what they see you doing’.  Why? Because we have so little understanding of how powerful we are as role models. 

    And, when you do have to ‘tell’ them what to do, ‘How you tell them matters’. 

    I also believe the role of parents is to teach their children to become independent thinkers from an early age, i.e., to think through what they are doing and be an accountable and responsible member of the family unit. This includes letting them make mistakes from which they can learn.

    They best way to take the risk out of letting them learn to self-manage their destiny is to wrap a great deal of love around this approach.  

    • John G. Miller

       Alan, good stuff. As we say in “Parenting the QBQ Way” – parenting never ends, but it changes. We move from building to relating. New skills!

  • Gail Hyatt

    Excellent post. I’m reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad right now and the author uses this same philosophy in the area of personal finance. Instead of saying, “I need more money. Why won’t my boss give me a raise?” he asks a question like, “How can I make the money I have work for me?” No blaming. Taking responsibility. Asking powerful questions. Thanks.

    • John Richardson

      I really enjoyed that book, Gail. One of the best things we can give to our children is a proper attitude about money. Most kids come out of high school not knowing how to balance a checkbook, much less how to save and invest. No wonder we have a nation with tremendous financial problems.

      • Joe Abraham

        You said it well, John!

        • John G. Miller

           Gil, wise thoughts. Yes, parents should not be criticizing kids for bad spending habits if they sit there deeply in debt. Leadership/accountability means it begins with … me!

    • Steve Hawkins

      I read a book recently entitled “The Success Principles” by Jack Canefield who authored the “Chicken Soup” book series. In his book, he says:

      “One of the most pervasive myths in the American culture today is that were are entitled to a great life–that somehow, somewhere, someone (certainly not us) is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time, and blissful personal relationships simply because we exist. But the real truth…is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of life you live. That person is you.” 

      Sort of parallels the same philosophy. 

      • Barry Hill

        Thanks for sharing that quote! Now I have to go buy the book. :)

        • Steve Hawkins

          It’s a long read, but worth it. Prompted by Mike’s experience with audio books, I eventually bought the audio book and listened to it to and from my way to work. It’s narrated by the author. 

  • Dave

    Thanks for the post, that is so true and sobering to realize. I am guilty as charged and thankful I did start to learn this as a young parent and better shape my actions as a result. Another key thing I believe I have learned, is thats kids sometimes regardless of parents intentions or actions, make some very bad choices. As a mindset, “my child is a product of my parenting” can be somewhat a dangerous position to take, both if kids turn out great (we take the credit) or when they are in challenge (we take the blame). While I don’t advocate shifting responsibility, being fully responsible can put undue blame on parents and remove the onus from children to take ownership of their own actions. There is no doubt however that our actions in whatever context, are evidenced in our kids! Thanks again.

  • MattW

    Great post, thanks!  My children have been a great motivation for me to be a better person.  I often find that when I’m in doubt about doing or saying something, I ask myself,  “Would I be happy with my kids doing/saying this?”  This often clarifies things for me.

    • Jim Martin

      Matt, I have used that same sobering question for a long time.  “Do I want my children to talk like this?”  That has sometimes jolted me back to a better way of thinking.

    • Rachel Lance

      What a great filter, Matt. Thanks for sharing!

  • John Richardson

    I was very lucky growing up that my dad was a great role model. He always had a positive attitude, a great sense of humor, and a love of exercise. When you see things modeled, it’s much easier to follow along.

    • TNeal

       John, until your comment, I hadn’t thought about how my father influenced my exercise habits. While in middle school, I learned to play racquetball and basketball at the YMCA, all thanks to my dad. In high school and later years, I played volleyball with the men my dad played with. In my mid-50’s, I still enjoy playing basketball, softball, and even football. My father exposed me to an active life in my early youth and I’ve followed that example ever since. I just hadn’t thought about it much until now. Thanks for jogging my memory–Tom

  • Kelly Combs

    John, I really enjoyed your post, and I appreciate the link to my post Leadership Starts at Home.  I certainly strive to be a parent who is responsible and raises responsible children. I love your quote, ” Parenting is a learned skill. It’s a developed capability that responsible parents purposely strive to acquire.”

    You can overcome poor parenting (as I did, being raised by a mentally ill, alcoholic mother). And you have to give yourself grace in your own parenting. To paraphrase John Rosemond, God was a perfect parent, and his children still sinned.  

    I try to remember that character isn’t set in a moment, but it is how you live every moment.  I’m not a perfect mom. But I pray that the overall character I model is one that will raise responsible children to the glory of God.

    • John Richardson

      I agree with you, Kelly. Life is on the job training!

      • Kelly Combs

        I love that. As a matter of fact, I liked it so much, I just quoted it to someone else here on the blog (giving you credit of course.).

    • John G. Miller

       Kelly, thanks. Outstanding thoughts. I too grew up in n alcoholic home …. I get it, I do. As we say in the new parenting book, we moms and dads should not “wing it” but learn, grow, and change!

  • Marilyn

    John, what resources do you recommend for parents who want to learn new skills?

    • John G. Miller

       Marilyn, please allow me to suggest “Parenting the QBQ Way” – go here Let us know what you think!

      • Marilyn

         THANK YOU!

        Your e-book is downloading right now. John, I think you’re really on to something here. Too much of the parenting literature is an unhelpful debate about nurture versus discipline.

        As an alternative, I’ve tried to wade my way through Gottman and Seligman on parenting. These authors provide marvelous insight, but not quite enough practical application material to really give me the tools I need.

        I look forward to working with your material.

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  • Cheri Gregory

    As one who rode the family systems/codependence recovery wave of the 80s, I felt equipped to prevent my children from experiencing the inappropriate pain & disappointment of my own childhood.

    Unfortunately, I failed to distinguish between inappropriate pain & disappointment and necessary pain & disappointment. I unwittingly joined the throngs of “hover mothers,” jumping in to help and cushion falls when a good old fashioned struggle was exactly what they needed in order to learn and mature. 

    No matter how much I claimed to be protecting my children, my deepest motive was protecting myself, not my children, from experiencing pain and disappointment.

    In doing so, I actually put them through even more inappropriate/unnecessary pain when they headed off to college, found themselves ill-prepared to launch, and blamed not only their teachers, roommates, and bosses, but ultimately themselves. Our daughter is just now, in her junior year, able to ward off the depression and anxiety that plagued her during her first two  years and truly thrive as an independent young woman.

    • Sandra Mesa

      Yes, great post Cheri I completely agree with everything you have posted here. Thank you for your insight. They must launch as healthy functional young adults.

    • TNeal

       Tough, honest appraisal, and good insights. Thanks, Cheri, for your transparency and your wisdom.

    • John G. Miller

       Cheri, good of you to share. Powerful. Thanks.

    • Jim Martin

      Cheri, I remember once dealing with one of our children and had to make a decision about how to deal with a certain situation.  I remember thinking, “Well it would be easier to ….”  It occurred to me that I was actually thinking about what would be easier for me not better for her.

      I appreciate your insight when you said that no matter how much you claimed to be protecting your children, you were actually wanting to protect yourself.

      I suspect many of us have been there.

      • Cheri Gregory

        Jim — 

        “I was actually thinking about what would be easier for me not better for her.”

        Great distinction!  

        I didn’t realize when I chose what was “easier for me” right in the moment that the long-term consequences were likely to be a lot HARDER for not just my kids, but for me, too.

        My “helping” things work out smoothly for my kids has made them happily help-less. Their version of trying to find a ride home for Christmas Break involved asking a couple of friends and then telling me, “There is NObody who can drive us even part-way.”  

        I half-jokingly said, “I’m going to send up some posters offering $50 per space to have you post in the dorm!” to which my daughter responded, “Like THAT is ever going to happen!” 

        What a lightbulb moment that was for me! She wouldn’t go through the inconvenience/embarrassment of taping up a couple of posters, but she’s was perfectly fine with me driving 8-10 hours out of my way and spending $100 on automobile expenses. 

        Needless to say, I quickly “helped” them learn an important vocabulary word for college kids without drivers licenses: Greyhound.

  • Kari Scare

    We are constantly talking to our kids about how they act at home now and how it will look when they are adults in the workplace. My husband relays examples of his staff who act like kids and how frustrating that is for him. Sometimes, often actually, I feel like I am so strict on my boys, especially if I get into the comparison game. But then I see how a behavior or attitude my kids have now looks on an adult, and I am renewed in my vigor to teach them godly character. I’m not perfect, but I am guided by the One who is. This post gave me renewed dedication to my parenting approach.

    • John G. Miller

       Kari, you and your hubby sound like QBQ parents to me … and that’s outstanding! Keep it up!

      • Kari Scare

        Thanks for the encouragement. I am noticing lately that being a QBQ parent makes us not fit in with a lot of other parents. Sometimes, we feel on the outside, but we stand firm knowing we are doing what’s right.

  • Info

    Wow! Convicting but SO necessary! Thank you for putting this out there!

  • Joseph Iliff of SeekOutWisdom

    This post reminds me how important the proper use of grammar is. The problem is a “thing”, not a person. The solution should be an action taken by “I”, not “you”, or the nebulous “someone”. How you craft you words, and how specific you can be is so important.

  • Joe Abraham

    This is a much needed post for the hour! Thanks for writing it, John. 

    “My child is a product of my parenting” – that’s a powerful truth. I like to add another line to it: “My parenting is a show case of my leadership!”

    • Kelly Combs

      Great quote Joe! 

      • Joe Abraham

        Thanks, Kelly. But isn’t that true!

    • John G. Miller

       Excellent, Joe! Agreed! And thanks!

      • Joe Abraham

        Welcome, John. Once again, thanks for writing such a timely post. Also, thanks to Michael Hyatt, who is not around for sometime, for sharing such wonderful posts here!

  • Agatha Nolen

    Good post, but leadership also applies to the husband’s approach to his wife. There isn’t a good answer when the husband is critical for his wife not sending out thank you notes when the garage never gets cleaned out. What you are suggesting here is less judgment and more personal responsibility to God for our actions. Everyone watches more what we do than what we say.

  • Bob Hamp

    This is a great post, and not a topic I see often. Way to hit it directly and clearly without sounding blaming and whiny!! You modeled well what you taught, while simultaneously hitting on a point our whole society, myself included, can grow in. Change our family we change our world! Very well said.

    • John G. Miller

       Bob, so kind. It’s just the way Karen and I see it and glad you like and appreciate that view. I’ve been teaching Personal Accountability in the mkt for 16 years and it reelly does begin at home!

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  • Smesa

    Wow, What I have been saying all along. I am evolving to become so much more as a parent. Thank you Michael.  Leadership in the home is the key that opens the door to success in our childrens’ lives.

    • Sandra Mesa

      Godly Leadership I might add.

  • Sonya Lee Thompson

    I loved this post!!! As the parent of six children myself (five girls & 1 boy), I can so relate. Whenever we see a recurrent discipline issue, we stop and ask, “What can we do better, or change in our parenting to stop this?” The best parenting advice always starts with introspection from the parents. Refreshing to read this, thank you John!

    • John G. Miller

       Sonya, love your enthusiasm – you sound like a wise mom! Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Barry Hill

      I have 6 too! Awesome! You have 1 boy among all your girls? that is so great!

  • Daren Sirbough

    Great post.

    Slaying your Demons at home could be translated to Slaying your Demons at work. Being on the offensive with the first few hours of your day could really help you to run the rest of your day well. Helping others take responsibility for their own life through your example and mentoring would also help.

    • John Tiller

      Daren, you remind me of Michael’s 
      Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast post.  

      Great point!

      • Steve Hawkins

        As a demon slayer, it’s all about wielding your sword at the right time. Some demons will just see your sword and run, whereas others will test you on your combat skills. 

  • TNeal

    I remember a mother being upset with me as a pastor because I didn’t teach her son the 10 Commandments in Sunday School. I taught him about Jesus, salvation, etc., but I missed out on that particular lesson. My thought was pretty simple (but not courageous enough to say out loud). “If it’s important, why don’t you teach him?”

    After that conversation, my wife and I spent time memorizing the 10 Commandments with our elementary-age son. The mother had a good idea and I put it into action in our home.

    An additional blessing came out of the exchange with the mother. I had the opportunity to speak to her son about what he had learned in class. During that conversation, I had the privilege of leading him to Christ in their home with Mom and Dad present.

  • gail.purath

    This article is a bit ironic…starts out with a warning about “dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking” and then goes on to blame parents for their adult children’s bad habits. When are adults responsible for themselves?

    We all have parents to blame, so I guess that would make us all victims of our parents’ less- than-perfect parenting. 

    I’m disappointed in the continual way we keep weighing parents down with more and more guilt.

    It’s not Biblical.

    According to the Bible, it’s not heredity and environment that make or break a person…it’s their personal choices.  Joseph had miserable parenting and a hugely dysfunctional family, but he just kept making the right choices…and didn’t blame anyone.

    • Rob Sorbo

      The parents do have some responsibility–“Raise up a child in the way he should go,” “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” “Fathers do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged,” “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Prov 22:6, Prov 13:24, Colossians 3:21, Prov. 29:15).

      I agree that each person must make their own choices, but it’s the parents that teach how to make good choices. Part of teaching is modeling good behavior, which I think this is what this post is about.

      • GailBP

         Somehow I thought my comment was lost and reposted it below a little differently but same basic content! Not sure how that happened.

        Anyway, I agree that parents have a responsibility to God for the way they behave. But they aren’t responsible for their adult children’s choices/attitudes/behavior.
        I think I worded it better in my second comment…There is far too much parent-blame going on in our culture.
        Too much weight is placed on parents…none of us will measure up completely…and too little responsibility is placed on the individual.

      • John G. Miller

         Rob, well said and … Amen!

    • John G. Miller

      Parents need to own what they’re building and young adults need to own their choices. When EVERYONE practices personal accountability, the world is a better place!

  • Rob Sorbo

    Great post. I’m not a parent yet, but I know this is something I’ll want to model.

  • Time With Tracy

    Excellent post, John! Parenting is such a learned skill. There are days I wonder where’s the user manual that the stork forgot to drop off with the babies? Thank you for encouraging me to continue learning and working to improve how I model behavior.

    • John G. Miller

       Welcome, Tracy. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Jim Martin

      Tracy, I think I have asked this question for almost every stage that my children have been in.  “Where is the user manual for dealing with teens, young adults, etc.”  One thing for sure, those of us who are parents are called to be learners because the different stages can be encouraging but also challenging.

    • Barry Hill

      If you find the users manual will you let me know?

  • Nsanetznik

    Loved this post.  Where are the strict parents?  I remember mine.  The said when you begin a job finish it.  If you open it close it.  Simple rules that last a lifetime.  I taught them to my children.  They are teaching their children.  So the beat goes on!

  • GailBP

    While parents are always responsible TO God for the way they treat their children, they are not responsible FOR their children when their children reach adulthood.

    This article talks about “dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking” but then goes on to blame parents for their adult children’s attitudes and behavior. I especially disagree with the statement: “My child is a product of my parenting.”

    Good parents can have bad children and bad parents can have good children.  We see this in the Bible and throughout history. I recognize it in the lives of many of my peers (I’m a grandmother).

    Biblically, it isn’t environment or heredity that determine a person’s life attitudes…it’s their choices. Joseph had terrible parenting and a hugely dysfunctional family (favoritism, rape, incest, murder, jealousy, early death of his mother, a father with multiple wives, etc.) but he made the right choices and didn’t blame anyone.

    Since no parent is perfect, we could all blame our parents for our bad habits and not take personal responsibility for our actions.  We could even blame our parents for our bad parenting.

    We need to quit weighing parents down with guilt they don’t deserve and let individuals take responsibility for their attitudes and actions. 

    • Jeedoo

      I agree with much of this post, but also take issue with “A child is a product of my parenting.”  I am involved in a prodigal ministry, and I have watched many families who basically practice good parenting, modeling a vital Christian life, teaching their children right values, using discipline appropriately.  Most of their children grow up to be responsible adults.  But some don’t.  Each person has a free will and can make their own choices.  

      I think we can not put all the responsibility for choices a child makes on the parenting skills of the parents.

      • John G. Miller

         All good points. Yesiree! Thanks for sharing!

      • Barry Hill

         Well said!

    • John G. Miller

       That’s cool, Gail – we can disagree. But Karen and I – with our 7 kids – stand by the belief they are a product of how we raised them. Blessings.

  • Theresa Ip Froehlich

    An instructive post!

    I agree that “My child is a product of my parenting,” but there is another piece of the puzzle. This is the child’s choice. It has always puzzled me how parents who raise multiple children (sometimes as many as 6-7) have most of their kids thriving in life but one likes to play the victim and repeatedly makes poor choices.

    The other piece is the child’s perception or interpretation of your role-modelling. While one child may interpret a parent’s compassion as a one-time empowerment, another child may choose to see it an encouragement to perpetuate dependency.

    • GailBP

       I agree.  Our choices as adults are more important than how we were parented. And how we relate to God is ultimately the most important aspect of our attitudes/behavior.

      • Steve Hawkins

        Learning how to make wise choices should be a class taught in our schools. Maybe the class could include interviews with people who made bad choices down the road to instruct those early in life to avoid that path. 

        • John G. Miller

           Steve, yes, it should be taught young and we are striving to do that here:

  • Cynthia Herron

    Wow, what an excellent post! Thank you!

    Lack of personal accountability in today’s society is so commonplace, it’s almost become the norm. And coming from a background in human services, I’ve well seen how the blame game does indeed begin at home. In abused/neglected youngsters, it seems to be a survival mechanism. As those children grow into adults, it’s a “learned” response–a way to cope, deny, and meander dysfunctionally through life just as their own parents and grandparents before them did.

    Shifting to the other end of the spectrum, the laid-back parent who takes the “I want to be my son/daughter’s best friend” approach is also dangerous. Those parents have just willingly handed the ball back to the opposing team. The “It’s All About Me” team. Except when I don’t want it to be. Then it’s someone’s else’s fault.

    I had wonderful role models in my parents. I learned, too, that when I make a mistake to admit it, own it, and move past it. Admitting a faux pas is a pride-killer sometimes, but it’s a key leadership trait, as you pointed out.

    • Jim Martin

      Cynthia, you describe two common approach’s to parenting very well.  Children suffer from both extremes.  Thanks!  

    • John G. Miller

       Cynthia, wise thoughts. Thanks for them all!

  • Jeanie

    Good article and I agree except that I also know there are times when children make wrong choices despite their parents’ best efforts.  We are responsible for being the best parents and examples to our children, and it IS a learning process to become a better and better parent.  However, we are not responsible for the bad choices that children make as they become more and more self-aware.  If there is rebellion in a person’s heart, they will refuse the best of help until they have finally become sick of themselves.  I used to worry that I was not a good enough mom everytime my child acted up, but someone pointed out to me that God is a perfect parent, yet he’s got a whole lot of disobedient children.  Does He see that and say, “Oh, no!  I’m a failure as a Dad!  I wish I would have been a better parent!”  Yes, I know He never makes mistakes and IS a perfect parent.  But, there is a valid point here that taking responsiblity for how another person chooses to live their lives does have its limits.

    • Barry Hill

      Great points. In 15+ years of youth ministry I have seen teens with amazingly loving parents absolutely disrespect and rebel against their wishes and commands. I have also seen teens who have parents that could care very little about them, and their future, turn into the most amazing adults you have ever seen. There are no guarantees in life— right? But, as a parent, I want to try to give my kids the best tools to go out in this life—knowing that the choice, one day, will be theirs!

      • Steve Hawkins

        I agree.

  • Mark T. Dutton

    Great truth that can change our society… including my home! Thanks!

    • Barry Hill

      Mine too!

      • John G. Miller

         Mark and Barry – mine too! :-)

  • Scott Wimberly

    Awesome blog today Mr Miller. You got right to the heart of the matter. I really have learned some good stuff from this, thank you!

    • John G. Miller

      Scott, too kind. Glad you enjoyed it. It really does come from the heart, both mine and Karen’s!

  • Travis Dommert

    One place I’ve found some great parenting advice…Sunday school.  Our church has a group called “Homebuilders” which I joined 5 years ago.  Married couples with young kids.  Great place to gain and share wisdom.

    Indeed, parenting has taught me more about life and leadership than any corporate training program!

    • Jim Martin

      Travis, you are so right.  Being a parent will teach a person great humility and the need to continue to grow.  I never realized I knew so little until I became a parent.

  • George Gregory

    This is such an important post. 

    The spirit of the age is that it’s always someone else’s fault. We don’t have to be perfect – but our kids need to see us sincerely, and from the heart doing our best, and being accountable in our lives. It’s better to try something and fail than to try something and then shift blame. I believe the only real failures are when when we give up, give in, and blame others. Our children will see this.
    To have values, and consistently follow them, speaks volumes to children. It’s what they will feel and accept as the norm for their own lives.

    • John G. Miller

       George, solid wisdom! Thanks for chiming in.

    • Barry Hill

      I agree. We are not perfect, and we shouldn’t we try/appear to be be perfect, but lead our children by example in our successes and owning our mistakes. Great point!

  • Jason Stambaugh

    Great post. You kept me engaged to very end. With a 7 month old at home, I’m starting to think more deeply about how I interact with him and my wife. I get that making excuses and pointing the finger are viral, negative activities at home. 

    From your experience what are some specific viral, positive activities ? 

    • John G. Miller

       Laughter, Jason, lots of laughter. A home full of laughter – and joy – is an outstanding place to be!

    • Barry Hill

       I’m a fan of Twister! Twister+6 kids+2 parents=fun!

  • Paul

    My family camped alot and I also was involved with Boy Scouts.  In both environments we were often encouraged to, “Leave it better than you found it.” 

    While not a big thing, I usually pick up trash on the way into the building where work or if I’m out on a walk.

    • John G. Miller

       Good example of ownership, Paul. Excellent!

  • Steve Hawkins

    “We are apt to forget that children watch examples better than they listen to preaching.”
    — Roy L. Smith

    • Barry Hill

      Yes, life is more “caught than taught.”

  • TheStableGuy

    Great post John! I always say “when you see the kids, you see the parents.” I believe it’s more important to work on yourself than anything else. I am very intentional when it comes to maintaining quality time with my wife and kids as well as develop quality relationships with my colleagues at work. I strive constantly to mirror the same standards, morals, and values that I model at home wherever I go. I love the point you made John about personal accountability. Accountability is in many places today taboo. Kids and adults alike shy away from being responsible for their own life. I spend a lot of  time with my children on this subject because of the lack of leadership in the homes ergo today’s  schools. Without a doubt leadership definitely starts at home. What helps in my opinion is creating a safe environment for your children and when the storms of life come they know where they can seek refuge. Likewise at work I look for ways to model a “different spirit.” There’s a quote that says, “you cannot lead where you do not go, and you cannot teach what you do not know.”It’s our responsibility to take the lead and to teach others to do the same; starting at home. 

    • John G. Miller

       Well, Stable Guy, I like your thinking. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jill Farris

    Excellent article. I like to quote from the Velveteen Rabbit and say that our children make us “real”…you can’t fool them and they are our message to the world of what we really believe. It is by the grace of God that my husband and I have eight children, four of whom are adults serving and making a difference in the community and the world. I speak and write to women and consider my children to be my “credentials” as fallible and imperfect as all of us are!


    • John G. Miller

       Jill, 8??? Wow, that’s something. Sounds like you and your husband have done a wonderful job!

  • Barry Hill

    Great post! With 6 children 10 and under I love the idea of understanding the “questions behind the questions!” This post was a great reminder that leadership at home has huge implications! Thanks, John! 

    • John G. Miller

       Thanks, Barry. Glad you liked it. Had fun writing it!!! Blessings.

  • John Tiller

    Excellent post today, John!  I was privileged to hear you speak years ago at a leadership conference about the QBQ concept.  Today, you have given us great examples of effective QBQ’s that we can ask ourselves in order to make a better future for our kids.  Thank you!  

    • John G. Miller

       John Tiller, this is John Miller … has a nice ring to it! Thanks for the kind words. Where were we???

      • John Tiller

        Hey John, 
        Sorry for the delay, I was offline this weekend.   It’s funny, I can’t remember which conference, but I can’t forget “QBQ”!  It had to be either a real estate or leadership conference, but I’m not sure which one.  Our similar names had me do a double-take when I read your post, too!  Thanks again for writing the article.  You really helped some people!

  • Peachique

    I am a procrastinator and get to things when I’m pressured for time … I do see this reflection in my oldest child and it often irritates me …. it’s a good look in the mirror.  Much to think about … thanks for posting.  In fact, I’m procrastinating right now … I should be getting ready for work!!!!!  

  • coachbillhart

    Love this post John. MAN, I love these words. As an executive coach, I find the fallout of the lack of personal responsibility as the fuel for most frustration for leaders and others. “QBQ” is an oft-quoted book in sessions and John Miller is a voice of reason on the streets of insanity…

    Mike, thanks for selecting an awesome guest blogger!

    • John G. Miller

       Coach, wow – thanks so much! You know, QBQ! is just Matthew 7: 1-5 in action, that’s all. :-) Blessings.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    John! It all started with my dad. He was my motivational force and inspiration. I can never think of reaching this height in my life without him.

    • John G. Miller

       Amen, Uma – dads are critical!

  • Diane Yuhas

    While I agree with this post in general and believe that good parenting is extremely important, I must point out that children exercise their own God-given will.  Parents must model and guide their children, but ultimately a person chooses their own way in life. We must exercise caution in polarizing blame at either end.

  • Brian Dodd

    Great post!  I don’t think you can separate leadership in any area of your life.  However, the most important leadership role I have is as husband and father because I am sending people forth into a time I cannot.  Everyday I set precedent.

  • He4gavu

    When my son and daughter were very young I soon learned that tying to get in the middle of their little squabbles with each other was fruitless. All it did was end up with a lot of finger pointing on their side and a lot of frustration on mine. So I came up with the idea of making them sit on the “Love Seat” (which we very handily happened to have), until they could work out their argument between themselves. At they end of it all they had to be able to tell each other that they were sorry – and I didn’t accept any of that stuff where they just said it. It had to be genuine, and they had to look each other in the eye and mean it. Then hug each other. and be able to say what they were sorry for. Transition today….my son works a lot with youth, and is wonderful with counseling, especially the troubled ones. My daughter is such a good proleg solver and works so well with people that she has had several promotions, and is usually the person asked to train new personnel in her job….as well as having many people seek out her advice on a personal level.

  • jason

    God is so good!  Earlier today I was speaking to my cousin, who is the proud daddy of a beautiful 3 year old, and to the man who will be marrying into our family in a few months, and I was encouraging them about their manhood, and specifically, how we as men are watched by our children and spouses on how we ‘walk in our decisions.’  And now I read this great article on ‘home training’, and the responsibility we have as leaders in our home.  Thank you so much for the article, and thanks be to God for the affirmation and confirmation as well.

    • John G. Miller

       Jason, thanks for the wisdom. “Walk in our decisions” – I like it!

  • Kapilbhatia

    I am no different from most of you. I too have been a victim of stress, blame, procrastination since early childhood. I am 31 right now & have a 4 year old son. I am still not able to understand why  life’s simple matters are not simple for me. But I have modeled leadership in my family for the next generation & trying to battle it out for the old generation too. I try to keep things as simple as possible. I am greatly inspired in my life as i have incorporated personal accountability.

    • John G. Miller

       Excellent job!

  • William J Spencer IV

    I realize that excuse started with my actions. 

  • Garrett Miller

    John a great post. It is what my wife and I call a ‘nose bleeder’ b/c it hits us both right in the kisser and stings a bit. We love your books and philosophies b/c they cause us to look in the mirror and effect our surroundings and take responsibility. We are attempting to model and teach our children the same. Just this morning one of our children was complaining that the reason a note was sent home about his behavior is b/c the teacher was having a bad day. If we don’t address this now with some QBQ intervention he will be the same sales guy complaining that clients are not buying because marketing, management or fill in the blank…..stinks. 
    Thank you for giving us the tools to be better parents.

    Garrett Miller (no relation) author Hire on a WHIM 

    • John G. Miller

       Garrett, too kind. Thanks! You’re right: Parents need tools and QBQ is a good one. Thanks!

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  • Brandon Coppernoll

    If I could say anything from my childhood that sticks out to me would be my father never accepted “it’s too hard” as an excuse. He always challenged me to think differently about my approach and encouraged that I don’t give up just because “it’s too hard.” Now I seem to find and relish the projects that are difficult and thrive in those situations.

    • John G. Miller

       Sounds like you had an outstanding dad, Brandon!

  • Myke

    Ingesting article, but I would disagree with the opening questions. In the workplace “Who dropped the ball” and “Why can’t the department do its job right” are both valid–and needed–questions to ask.

    It’s not assigning blame or being a victim; it is geared towards figuring out the disconnect(s) and fixing them. I ask both of these questions all the time as a way to process something that went wrong. The I use this information to correct the mistakes.

    • John G. Miller

       Myke, analyzing a problem and doing “root cause analysis” are one thing and the intent to complain, whine, and find culprits is another. Pickup our QBQ! book, if you would, and you’ll see what were teaching here about the danger of lousy questions. Blessings.

  • abdul krishna

     My name is Sonia and I Live United States. I have worked for Frank for over 10 years without promotion,leave or any good benefits. He treats me like hell and promises to make my life a more living hell in Boston if I ever got out of his Advertising agency,making sure I do not work for any other firm in Boston for the rest of my life. I am a single,widowed mother of two kids and I can’t afford to lose my job. i was so down cast and i felt the world has come to an end for me being stuck in this old,unhappy and unfulfilled job but my friend told me about a spell caster that helped her sister out in getting her relationship back,a good job and favor in any of her endeavor but at first i was scared but i have to give this man a trial because I needed a promotion badly and one was coming up at the moment. I ordered a spell from this great spell caster that made me a happy woman. I became Frank’s favorite just three days after he cast my spell. I have been promoted and enjoying every part of my job for six months now. I want to testify to the good works of the Prophet of Goddess and I will forever be grateful to his good works because he restored my lost happiness in my job and i am happy today because of his good work. Contact him in any problem on his website or or He is always there to assist you.

  • Bev

    I passed this article onto my three sons. All are wonderful men who love the Lord, are gainfully employed, and have a great work ethic. I sometimes look back to the days when we raised our sons and think, I wished we had done this with our sons, or spent more time teaching them this or that, or just more time talking about the really “important” things in life, etc. You get the picture. But then I look at them and I can’t even express how thankful and how proud of them we are today.  Then I received this message from my youngest (27 yr old) after he read John Miller’s post on Michael Hyatt’s blog. “Thanks Mom for sharing.  Agreed!  And THANKS Mom and Dad for setting great examples and pushing us hard through your love.  Much appreciated! Love, C”  We are blessed. I hope young parents come to know that how they lead in the home forms their children into the kind of adults they will become. 

    • John G. Miller

       Bev, how wonderful of you to pass it on to those you love the most. Honored!

  • DentalAccountant

    Yeah this is really true! I agree that leadership starts at home. And this kind of training helps your whole family right? Thanks for sharing this post. It is really helpful.

    • John G. Miller

       Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.

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  • Danny L. Smith

    After 7 years of practicing QBQ, I’ve learned that as important as it is to ask others the “right” question, it’s even more important to ask yourself the right question. The first book my wife saw me purchase over 25 years ago was “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter.

    John Miller’s QBQ has been an instumental tool in the continuous process of getting what I say to myself and others done well. A work in process, but I’m much better because of QBQ.

    Thanks John.

    • John G. Miller

       Danny, too kind! Be good!

  • A concerned parent

    I read this and I originally passed by it and read the other blogs.  But, all of these blogs are related and the one about 5 ways to listen better actually caused me to come back and ask this question here.  I raised 4 daughters as a single parent and up until about 3 years ago I honestly thought I was the worst parent alive because of issues that happened with my daughters and also because I knew some of the mistakes that I made and one of the mistakes was not listening to them.  At any rate, it took me years to come to terms with the fact that regardless of what happened then, I can’t change it so move on.  And, I have or I am (trying to).  
    One of my now adult daughters came to me regarding a situation and before she was done I interrupted her with questions.  She got frustrated and said that this is the reason why none of them liked to tell me anything because I never heard them out.  And, I know she has a point.  Now, my issue is this:  I don’t hear them out because they speak foolishness (and please believe me there is no better word).  Instead of recognizing their parts in a situation they want to point fingers.  I don’t go for this tactic and I never have.  I have tried to teach them that regardless of what someone else does, you do what’s right and thank God that you are able to–or something along those lines.  They said that I equate everything with God and I don’t understand them, etc.  So, I shut up and let her finish.  When she finished I didn’t say anything.  She asked me what I thought and I stated that I had already told her…and she got mad some more.  Question:  These are my children and I love them dearly, but am I really expected to listen to nonsense in the name of good parenting?  I’m really concerned because I now have 10 grandchildren and I just don’t see me listening to hand me down foolishness.  I have prayed and I believe that God has shown me some things, and then I read posts like yours and I almost go backwards and begin to question myself and God.  
    Any insight that you may be able to provide would be most appreciated.

    • Garrett Miller

      It is great to hear you ask for insights. Being humble and looking for answers is the first step. Your question is a deep one and I’d not do it justice in this space. I’d recommend reading John Miller’s book (the original poster) Parenting the QBQ way? It is a very easy and practical read. You’ll learn how to listen for the real issues and ask the right questions. By sharing the QBQ philosophy with your children you will give them the tools for success in life. We speak QBQ around our house. Though it is humbling when I hear from my 12yr daughter, “Dad that is not QBQ!” 
      I still have much to learn.  Hope this helps.
      Garrett Miller (no relation to John)

      • A concerned parent

        K, thanks Mr. Miller; I will get a copy of that book as soon as I can!
        Stay Blessed!

        • John G. Miller

          Garrett, thanks for your recommendation. Concerned Parent, we have adult children too – and we know what you mean. As we say in our new “Parenting the QBQ Way” eBook, “parenting never ends, but it changes. We move from building our kids to relating to our kids.” Foolishness or not, you we can’t change our adults kids and sometimes have to ask The Ultimate QBQ! – which you’ll learn about in the QBQ! book Garrett suggested. Blessings!

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  • janeey davis

    Thank you for fantastic post. Its really great post . In every family head of the family is the main leader of the family. I really appreciate your perfect example of leader ship.
    indesign training

  • LeadershipSkillsHQ

    Leadership at home is when I see my dad putting others before self. He was a blue collar worker earning minimum wages to pay for a decent roof over our heads, meals on the table and most importantly good education. He understood the importance of good education. There were times when me and my brother wanted to quit our studies to help him out – he has a prosthetic leg. But he was adamant (and sometimes outright vehement) about us finishing our studies. I’m glad we listened. God Bless his soul. (We miss u dad!)