Parents: It’s Time to Be Nice to Our Kids & Tell Them to Do Hard Things

I think deep down, we all really know: we (collectively, as a culture) are hurting our children with the notion that the teen years are nothing but a time to have fun “while you still can.” Implying, of course, that growing up and all the things that come with it, really stinks.

It’s so deeply ingrained that none of us is exempt from feeling it, even if we inherently know it’s not the way it should be.

Reading Do Hard Things has got me really stoked about this subject. The bottom line? People live up to the expectations created for them. And in this case, “teenagers” meet the low expectations we’ve set for them and that is tragic.

It’s notable that throughout history, until the last 70 years or so, there wasn’t really a recognized adolescent period. There were children, and then there were young adults (or youth). And the expectations were much higher; the idea that there was a period of time where young people were supposed to mainly just play and be entertained, was unheard of. (Read a few biographies of young men and women who lived prior to the 1900’s to get a glimpse.)

Yet now, we religiously guard and defend this “teen year life” as an inalienable right, (Go have fun! Sow your wild oats! You only live once!) feeling sorry for the few that seem to have more responsibilities than the average teen. God forbid they even begin to pursue marriage before their mid twenties.

The Harris boys make the sensible point that our youthful years give us our strongest, most energetic and passionate years, a time when teens should utilize that advantage to “do hard things” instead of succumbing to the low expectations of society. They are foundational years too, that launch us into committed adulthood, and it should behoove us to challenge our teens to prepare well, not squandering this time.

So what does it mean exactly to do hard things?

What can a “teenager” do besides squander 7 or 8 years on Instagram or video games?

The possibilities are endless, but here are just a few:

-A young man whose mother is a facebook friend of mine challenged himself to write out the entire Bible. And my WORD look at his beautiful penmanship! (I’m going to assume that link is public–sorry if you can’t see it. Here are the final moments as well as his thoughts.) He shares about how proceeding through the writing process so slowly allowed him to digest God’s Word in a way that reading does not.

-Learning new skills–musical, computer-related, business-related, writing, mechanics, how-tos, whatever the interests are. The Internet makes it particularly easy to learn things now, so there’s very little excuse for the motivated.

-Campaigning for a cause about which they are passionate. Writing letters of influence, organizing fund raisers, speaking out against injustices of our day.

-Investing in the lives of others. Whether it’s serving the local church, the local ministry, your neighbor, a widow you know, and even siblings, helping people is a constant need, and an investment well worth our time. Eternally speaking, it is the essence of the Gospel.

-Setting personal goals of spiritual, physical and emotional growth.

-Reading good books. Books are life-changing. Our kids need to be digesting good books, even if we have to make them.

Encouraging our young adults to make the best use of their energetic, single years is good for ALL of us. It’s good for them and it’s good for those whose lives they will impact by their efforts.

One side note: there are some children, despite your desire for them to be wise and “do hard things” and despite your diligence as a parent, will not choose the higher path. We parent, not to be successful, but to be faithful. Don’t be disillusioned if one (or more) of your children don’t get it. Keep doing what you know is right, and encouraging all of them to rise above the low expectations our culture has set. Remind them that YOU believe in them, and watch how far they will fly.

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13 Responses to “Parents: It’s Time to Be Nice to Our Kids & Tell Them to Do Hard Things”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this post and the practical ideas! I tried the link to see the handwritten bible verses but I got a Facebook post about fried pickles 🙂

  2. Carla says:

    Outstanding article. Well said and very needful. Please keep posting these wholesome articles that brings sweet fragrances of wisdom to us all. God’s continued blessings!

  3. Ha ha–Rebecca, I’ll see if I can find a public one.

  4. Rebecca, can you see it now? And I added another one. For some reason, comments aren’t replying the right way.

  5. 6 arrows says:

    Good book — Do Hard Things. I gave it to my son when he graduated from high school.

    Thanks for this post. Great reminders.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Oh thank you Kelly! It works now.

  7. Diana says:

    This was awesome – thank you!!

  8. Jennifer says:

    I think people believe in adolescence now because they understand more about psychology, that there is in fact a period of transitioning and teenagers are not adults (most of them). They used to have way too much expected of them, like marriage and fighting in wars before they were even 18, but they have always been capable of great things. The anti-gun Parkland kids have proven both that teens can change a lot and how much damage they can do if their passion is based on ignorance instead of knowledge.

  9. Caroline says:

    My daughter is almost 21 years old, and from the age of 15 was expected to work a summer job and a small number of hours during the school year, take the most challenging high school classes she could handle, continue piano lessons and swim team, visit and engage with our neighbors (young and old), and help around the house. We live in a community where most of the people have a higher income than we do and where it is customary to give children their own (new!) cars as soon as they have a driver’s license. It is also common for children younger than middle school age to have a cellphone. We did not engage in either of these things. We had the only kid in our part of town who took the school bus to and from school through the 12th grade – and she didn’t complain! She is going to be a senior at a competitive liberal arts college in September, and is working at a plumb of an internship this summer while still working at her ‘normal’ summer job three days a week. That means she has one day off per week- and she can handle it because she’s young, energetic, and was raised to be a hard, uncomplaining worker. It pays to expect a lot from children and teenagers so that they will become mature young adults who contribute to society in positive ways. Sorry for the very long post. In short (or rather long!), I agree with what you said in your post 🙂

  10. Caroline,

    Thank you for your part in the contribution to another hard-working, non-complaining citizen. Good job, mama! Yes, they can handle the challenge and are so much better off for it.

  11. Jennifer says:

    Wow, that’s quite a long list for a high school student.

  12. Caroline says:

    🙂 Yes, she was a busy high schooler, and now is a busy college student. I’m proud to say that she has focused on her studies, a sport, a work-study job, and learning about the people and the community where her college is located instead of the negative stereotypical things we always hear about students her age engaging in. It’s great to have a child who really communicates with her parents and appreciates what she’s been given and what she can do in the world with the talents she was born with. Being a parent is the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life.

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