Do Hard Things

I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie.

Half Pint was my friend. I cried when Mary went blind and fell in love with Almanzo like the rest of the world.
I didn’t bat an eye watching my TV heroines sleep in a one room cabin, wear their one good “Sunday dress” to every church service, wedding and special occasion. Life was hard on the prairie, days were long, work was consistent, and distractions were few.
I know life isn’t a television show. It’s not divided into 30 minute feel-good segments, all wrapped up with a tidy moral at the end. But there are some wonderful lessons we can all learn, not only from this wholesome show, but from the period in which it was set.
It was a time in our country when children lived under great expectations. There was early childhood and then there was adulthood. Teenagers were often newly married with land and babes of their own, working under tremendous responsibility.
I don’t remember any Little House on the Prairie episodes about “Laura’s challenging tween years” or “How much allowance should Mary get for making her bed?”
Now, I’m personally thankful for modern times and certainly don’t want to go back to the ways of yore (I love the word yore, don’t you?). But in reading Do Hard Things, a book written by two teenage brothers, who have rebelled against the low expectations of today’s culture, it’s pointed out that with money, technology and a shift in work ethic, we’ve made things easy for our kids.
We don’t expect hard things from them.
Instead of expecting greatness, we do something worse, we reward our 10 year old for picking up dirty clothes off the floor and our 7 year old for cleaning his plate. I’m not pointing fingers here, we’ve done it too, but in reading this life-changing book, I realized this has to stop in our home.
My kids don’t need an allowance for being a part of the family. They don’t need a reward for putting away their own laundry (that I usually fold!) They need to be challenged to greatness, pushed away from laziness and mediocrity. Our society expects our kids to do the minimum, filling their minds with low expectations.
We need to expect them to do hard things.
They don’t have to wait until they are out of college to witness of Christ to a friend or turn a certain age to raise money for the poor. They don’t have to expect comfort and ease and be okay with the status quo. They don’t have to be like everyone else.
Doing hard things is, well, it’s hard. It’s gut-wrenchingly hard to share your marriage testimony for the world (and your neighbors) to read. It’s scary-hard to squeeze another $38 out of your budget to rescue a child from poverty. These things are hard, but they are good.
I want my children to know that not only did we expect hard things of them, we did them ourselves.
When I announced I was going to Kenya, I received a comment from a stranger. Another Mom, just trying to make her mark on the world. She and her little girl were touched by a photograph of hungry street children in Kenya gnawing on the leg bone of a cow.
Nanyus boys
They could have just felt bad, even whispered a prayer. But they did more. They have done something hard. They created a company called Mom and Me Baking, a great little cookie bakeshop that profits the hungry in Kenya. In just the first two months of business, this mom and daughter duo fed 150 African people for a week!!
Are you expecting hard things from your children? Aiding them to make a difference and fanning the flame in their young hearts? (If so, PLEASE tell me all about it in the comments!)
In a few days, I’ll be doing something out of my comfort zone (and also have I mentioned, terrifying for me?) I will be asking you to join me as I travel to Kenya.
I will push you out of your comfort zone as you read along, exposing you to uncomfortable pictures and heartbreaking stories from Africa’s largest slum, a place without electricity or running water. A place where a million people survive and put their own sewage in a plastic bag and throw it out the door. A slum that is littered with thousands of plastic bags–
I’m asking you, today, to open your heart……
to get ready to do something hard. For Him.
[This book is written for teens. But we decided not to wait to share it with our 10 and 7 year old. As we read it aloud, we did so with their age in mind and edited out a few parts.]
I’d love to hear about your choice to do something hard in your life….tell me about it in my community and you’ll be entered to win three dozen cookies from Mom and Me Baking!! (this little giveaway is happening in my Blog Frog Community, not on my blog).


  1. 4


    You mentioned this book a while ago and the title jumped out at me. I bought this book and plan on reading it aloud to my 12 and 10 year old boys and then again to the younger children, when they are ready. I cant wait to start this with them. Thanks for mentioning it.

  2. 5


    I've always been a huge fan of the Harris twins, and I'm starting to let my kids (2 and 5) know that I expect them to do certain "chores" without reward, as contributing members of our household. A book that has helped us address the concept of "honor" in our family is Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in you and your family…or something like that :) It deals with tackling our kids hearts rather than modifying their behavior.

    So looking forward to your posts from Kenya, and hope someday I will get to do something similar.

  3. 7


    That sounds like a great book. I'll have to check it out. I've been thinking about kids contributing lately when wondering how much responsibility (chores) to give my four-year-old and two-year-old.

    Something I've commited to do this year which is hard for me is cut my grocery budget in half and make something with beans or rice every day this year. Crazy yes, and maybe not necessary, but as I prepare meals with beans and rice it reminds me how badly I want to get out of debt. And so I keep going.

    I'm excited for your trip and look forward to reading more about it!

  4. 8


    I purchased this book and my ds age 13 is starting it tomorrow as part of his morning devotions. We already read part of it aloud also. My oldest daughter read it too, she is 20. This book and its ideas are great for the whole family

  5. 9

    Anonymous says

    I really wish you would rethink the whole hair dryer thing. It is so inconsistent with "doing the hard thing" Skip the adaptors….and just experience.

  6. 10


    Your post is SO true. In fact, after reading one of the Little House Books I remarked to my mom how much was excpected of the kids, work wise, education wise, and behavior wise! It's sad how our world has continously lowered the expectations of kids.

    Do Hard Things sounds like an amazing book! I plan on checking it out!

  7. 11


    I agree! Too many people think their jobs as parents are to give everything to their children and be their friends. I could not disagree more. While I would consider my children my friends, the love I have for them is more than friends, it is teacher, protector, and simpy put mother. They are not in my care for me to spoil them. They are in my care so I can teach them how the world works, how to succeed in this world, and how to be caring, compassionate, responsible people who can make a difference.

  8. 12


    Great, inspiring post– thank you! I'll be praying for you during your trip to Kenya. When I was there, I also expected (and found) the heartbreaking scenes, poverty, need…and yes, it is real BUT what I also pray for you is that you found what I saw as well…the indescribable joy of a people who have a way of living with hope and faith that I've never seen in the States.
    The love and joy of the women I volunteered with in Kenya for 3 months is as clear in my heart now as it was ten years ago when I went…there is such a beauty in the spirit of Kenyan people…I'm also excited to follow your journey as you discover that too!

  9. 13


    Good point! I completely agree with society´s ease toward children´s lives. Although I´m still not a mother, I remember when I would fuss when my parents refused to grant me allowance for helping around the house. Perhaps this wasn´t as unfair as I´d felt at the time.

  10. 14

    Anonymous says

    In one of Elizabeth Elliot's books she wrote how she was raised. She said there was no such thing as a teenager when she was a growing up. You were a child then an adult. Great post.

  11. 16


    Great post Kristen….I need to look into this book. We never did the allowance thing, and our girls are 8.5 yrs. apart, my oldest (now 22) was expected to do a LOT more than our youngest (13) is expected to do….she NEEDs to learn some HARD things!!….I TOTALLY agree about the low expectations of our youth now a days…..

    Thanks for an awesome post and I can't wait to follow you in Kenya.


  12. 17


    great post! we have always believed that chores & helping out was just part of being in this family- no money rewards. We are still debating the whole allowance thing-its hard b/c on one hand you want to teach your children how to handle money and on the other hand you dont want them to always expect money for doing what they should naturally be doing anyway (good grades, clean room, brush teeth) And honestly I am soooo not wanting to enter the teen years *sigh* Im glad you'll be hitting before we do so I can learn first hand from you! LOL!!

    Praying for you & your trip-cant wait!!!

  13. 18


    Love it! I could say more but you have many great comments here already. We plan to teach all our children to WORK. Because they should. Yay for standing up for hard work!

  14. 20


    Great post! Part of the reason my dh and I decided to have kids before finding financial stability was so that, should hard times come round again, we wouldn't need to adjust our parenting style to account for it. Ezra has few toys, because we simply can't afford them. And ya know what? He's most interested in empty bottles, moving chairs, and toilet paper tubes anyway. I want him to grow up learning about the world as it actually is. We also have chosen not to edit fairy tales for content for him. We read the original Grimm, because we believe that it is important for children to grow up knowing about life and death, that terrible things happen to good people, that punishments are not fun, and that people have to do really hard stuff before they can have their "happily ever after."

    Someone above mentioned allowances for teaching the value of money. When my dad was a kid, his mom would sometimes send him to the store with the list and money to do minor shopping for her. I like the idea of having Ezra with me at the store and then having him deal with checkout. Even if it is my money, he'll see how it works that way.

  15. 22


    What a great post. I would like to get that book. I wholeheartedly agree with you about life being hard and that it is okay to do hard things and work hard.
    I am looking forward to following your journey in Kenya and will keep you in my prayers.

  16. 24


    I love the post and everyone's comments. We do not give our kids an allowance or reward them for things they should be doing. But when they ask for somthing like time with friends or a shirt or toy, we discuss it with them and compare notes on the good things we've noticed about them – have they been consistant with completing their resposibilities, kind to others, done what was asked without an attitude? The kids will even admit to their own short comings. Our two older girls are responsible for cooking Friday night dinner including finding the recipe, verifying we have the ingredients, making a shopping list if anything is needed, and calculating the cost of the meal and what they need to buy to complete it. They also have to be resonable about what they make because of allergies or availability of ingredients (like the arugula in a dish they wanted to make but none of our stores carry). Their ages? 10 and 12. The younger ones, 4 and 7, set and clear the table. Everyone helps with the dishes and folding laundry. They no longer complain but take pride in what they can do. I told them long ago that I was not put on this earth to be their friend, I am here to be their mother and my job is to love them and to make sure they can survive on their own when they leave my house.

  17. 29


    Awesome. I started reading your blog/following you on Twitter when the Kenya bloggers were announced. I am so glad to have found you!

    Such a good lesson, even for those of us who are not yet parents.

  18. 31



    I have to admit that I'm a little nervous about your trip to Kenya because I know that it's going to challenge me in new ways. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being willing to do the hard things! It's inspiring and motivating to me!

  19. 32


    Kristen, I am so with you on this. Last year I sat down with Daniel, our 7 year old, and we talked about what he could do to meet the needs of the local people we work with. He thought maybe he could make cards; then maybe make cards and sell them to friends and family back home and use the money to fund a friend's education.

    We are still working on growing this service project- his own service project. Even though we are missionaries, our kids need to be personally involved in ways that they "own."

    Also, I will be sharing your link on my blog while you are in Kenya. I heard the story of Compassion's president- he was an MK and suffered some terrible things. Anyway, I'm going to share his story on my blog before the 4th to give the heart of Compassion. I'm pumped for you! God is going to be so big to you! (and I'm a bit envious of that :))

    Lots of love and prayers…

  20. 33


    So glad to hear a mom of young kids saying these things!!

    We are firm believers in "Do Hard Things" in our house.

    We read the book about 1 yr and half ago and my 14 yr. old son and I drove out to Chicago to the Harris brothers conference. SO good!

    I actually put my boys to the test last summer with a "life lesson in perspective" week. Sort of a life in poverty week where they lived and worked outside all day. They had two meals which consisted of only beans and rice which they had to cook themselves over a fire.

    I'll leave a link to my post with pictures and such if you are interested. It was a powerful week for both my boys spiritually and has helped in the shaping of the young men that they are becoming.

    What a task we have as mommas to raise the next godly, valient leaders of this generation!

    By the way, just came across your blog recently and am looking forward to reading about your Kenya trip!

  21. 34


    What a nice surprise as I was reading through this post. That is my good college friend that has the Mom and Me Baking Co…truly a great cause! Thanks for featuring her, she deserves it.

  22. 36


    I love a good, meaty post and a good book recommendation.

    Um, Almanzo is mine though, since like, the 2nd grade. And don't forget the episode when Laura mud-wrestled Nellie and Almanzo called her a little girl. Pretty tweenish!

    I'm also a bit nervous about your trip. I don't know if my heart can handle it! Thank you for taking us with you. Please give them extra hugs and kisses from me.

  23. 37


    I LOVED Little House on the Prairie when I was little and still do! I've managed to find all of the seasons and watched them from episode one to the final show LOL

    This really sounds like a book I need to get my hands on. I agree that kids in America have it so easy these days and we're definitely NOT doing them any favors!

  24. 38


    Kristen, I was just thinking this same thing (right down to Laura Ingalls and the Harris brothers!). My daughter was shocked that during Laura's time kids should be "seen and not heard". And while I'm grateful for the parent-child relationships we see today (and did not see then), there is something missing that our children need—it's the "hard thing"–the ability for kids to grow into MORE than they can ask or imagine.

    Great post.

  25. 39


    Thanks for replying to my email. Similar ministry, but a different site than the one I wrote to you about. Check out

    This book looks great. Thanks for the recommendation.

  26. 40

    Anonymous says

    I will have to pick that book up! Sounds great. I wish I was able to make the trip to Kenya with you all! Brad is extremely excited and I'm a little bit jealous. :)

    Lisa Ruggles

  27. 41


    I love this post! I totally agree. We want to teach our kids to do hard things. We have a huge value for missions and social justice. We don't want to shield them from poverty. We want their heart to break for poverty. All of our kids have been to Haiti. Our two oldest accompanied us on a house-building trip to Mexico at age 1 and 3. As they get older, we want to do mission trips on a regular basis.

    We have also made the decision to eat rice and beans for every lunch. Not as an experiment, but as a lifestyle choice. That money can be better spent by serving others (and rice and beans are nutritious, too!)

    It is so hard to give kids perspective in the privileged world we live in. I am still learning. Thanks for challenging us more!

  28. 42


    It is seriously so crazy that you wrote this post and titled it what you did.

    Over the past several weeks our pastor has had this phrase he keeps using…

    "Are you willing to do HARD THINGS for God?"

    It's come about in part to my husband speaking at our church. He is a foster parent recruiter for the state and he was in relative foster care himself growing up and he shared his testimony at our evening service one week. It fanned the flame of passion in our pastor even more and has since, been asking us as a church what hard things will we do for Christ.

    Thanks for encouraging the blogoshere to do the same, Kristin, in whatever capacity it might be.

  29. 43


    I'm not ready to leave my little ones (2.5 years old and 7 months old) to go on another mission trip just yet, but I totally commend you for doing so. It's just not where I feel God is leading me right now, although I went to Haiti in college and it was an amazing experience.

    Thanks for this post. As I read, it seems like such a simple concept, yet so profound at the same time. In small groups that I lead, I hear over and over that "God knows we're human" and "we all make mistakes." I don't for a second discount the awesome grace of God. But, sometimes we use those phrases as cop-outs. God's grace covers us, but he certainly expects more of us. Thanks for the reminder, especially as it relates to our children.

  30. 44


    What a total surprise to read through your Africa posts and find a picture of children I've met out in the Maasai Mara where my daughter and her husband minister! And the Mom and Me Baking Co. is my oldest daughter and one of my 5 granddaughters! I wrote about this for Exemplify Online Magazine. Here's the link:
    The article begins on page 36.

    My daughter and her family are coming back to the states for a one year furlough after being there for 4 years. They arrive on March 30. I'll get to hold my 4 granddaughters, one of which I've yet to meet.

    I've wept as I've read your entries because I can relate. I've been there twice, made friends that will be with me forever. My life and the life of my family will never be the same.

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