9 Things We Should Add to Our Kids Lives to Help Them

The day after my husband and I got matching tattoos, we told our kids over breakfast.

And my straight-laced, rule-following, good-girl first born daughter burst into tears.

I could see the confusion etched on her face as she tried to fit the parents she knew loved God into her framework of right and wrong.

Right then and there, I knew we had made some mistakes.

And getting tattoos wasn’t one of them.

Somewhere along the line in an effort to teach our kids right from wrong, good from bad, we had inadvertently taught them that people who love God don’t get tattoos or don’t (fill in the blank). We had made faith about a set of rules.

More than I want my kids to live by a set of do’s and don’ts, I want them to follow Jesus and from that relationship, they will know what is right and what is wrong. Of course, we teach absolute truth to help guide their moral compass, but living life by strict black and white lines leads towards legalism, guilt and bondage.

And there’s no freedom in that.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote 9 Things We Should Get Rid Of To Help Our Kids. And crazy enough, it was read by 3 million people.

I think I hit a nerve.

But for everything we get rid of, we leave room to add something. I’ve been thinking about things we should add to our kids lives to cut out entitlement and produce well-rounded, grateful, God-loving children who put others first.

9 things we should add into our kids lives to help them

Here are 9 things we should add to their lives to help them:

  1. The words “It’s Okay” Because it is. And if it’s not, we will figure out a way to get through whatever tough spot we find ourselves. Knowing that there is grace to learn and fail is half the journey. Because our kids are going to mess up. And so are we. And at the end of the day, we just need to know that it’s going to be okay because love wins.
  2. Hard work: “A little bit of hard work never hurt anyone” as the saying goes, but it’s the lack of hard work that is crippling this generation. Kids who have never done physical, hard work are missing out on the pure exhilaration and satisfaction of completing something challenging. It’s okay for them to sweat a little. We are one of the only cultures in the world who pays other people to do all our hard work. Save some for your kids. It’s good for them!
  3. Perspective: Without a doubt, this word more than any other, changed our home. When we pull back the curtains and expose our children to different ways people live or struggle too, we don’t have to say much. And this can be done right in our own cities or across the globe. Exposing our kids to the needs of others will not only shift their perspective of what they think they need, it will also remind them of what they already have.
  4. Absolute Truth: I believe there are absolute truths that should guide our lives. I find mine in the Bible. In a culture that is constantly redefining truth, we need a standard that does not change. If we don’t teach our children absolute truth, they will be tossed around with every new wind that blows into their lives. Give them something to hold onto that does not change.
  5. Compassion: When we choose to live and abide by absolute truth, we are going to meet people who don’t. We  need to teach our kids tolerance for those who believe and live differently than we do. Love is more important than being right, even if we don’t agree with other people’s choices, especially then. We can stand for what we believe in without hating those who disagree with us.
  6. Jobs: We have regular chores we all share around the house, but we also have occasional jobs that pay a bit of money. It’s good for kids to understand the value of money because then they will begin to understand how hard you work for yours.
  7. A Bank: Give your kids a piggy bank or bank account or envelope marked “savings” and another one labeled “giving.” Start teaching them the value of saving for something they want and giving some of it away. It’s a lesson that will shape their future.
  8. Opportunity to serve: There is something beautiful that happens when children serve. Find tangible, practical ways to do something for someone else. Here’s a few ideas. It will touch your family in ways you can’t imagine.
  9. Their Own Laundry Basket: When kids start reading in my house, they get their own laundry basket. If you do it all, they will let you. Don’t. It takes a family to run your home, so put your family to work. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be completed.

It’s okay to add these things, go ahead and try it!



  1. 1


    I like your list! There’s so much children can learn from simply being given responsibility for themselves and some control (some–says the control-freak:) over their little lives so they know what to do with it when they’re on their own. Some day in the VERY distant future (for us at least). Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2


    Yes! Such a great list! As parents, we are never going to always get it ‘right’. But we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have with our children to not just ‘tell’ them these things, but ‘show’ them also.

  3. 5


    I am really loving your blog. Thank you for sharing this. I like what you said about when they learn to read, you hand them a laundry basket. My oldest was reading entire books at age 3.5 (which was a shock to us) but she is now 9 and we are working toward autonomy, laundry is next! I tend to only write about what we have done or are doing in our house like The Screens Experiment and The Gratitude Project but how we manage chores and responsibilities and the fact that we don’t give allowances has given me the most feedback. Hope it’s okay to share.


    Thanks again!

  4. 6

    Robin says

    This is a great list. I would like to point out though that numbers 4 & 5 go hand in hand and the world is trying to redefine terms. The world now defines love as completely accepting and affirming as good anything I decide is good. And it redefines hate as anything other than agreeing with me completely. We must turn to the Word of God as our absolute truth. And we must love others and point them to Christ. But know that the world in its brokenness may see our love and call it hate.

  5. 7


    So true! Children want to feel needed & loved. I would add that is especially true for my child with autism. He needs to learn these things as well even if he learns it differently. Everyone is better off being a Jesus filled member of society.

  6. 8

    Mary Bates says

    Glad to see that good ol fashion morals and hard work are finally sinking in to the generation of some parents raising kids these days. Half the kids that were raised in the 50’s & 60’s had dad’s with tattoos . Nothing knew in this country. They all got them over seas & in NYC when they were in the military. Nothing new under the sun just the way each generation looks at the sun is different. Keep up the good work . Being a good parent isn’t hard it’s just hard work !

  7. 10


    I love this list! I’ve got a baby girl, but I’m hoping to learn from others like you and maybe not have as big of a fight on my hands! Thanks!

  8. 11

    Sara P. says

    Kristen I was just thinking about # nine last night. I don’t let my kids do as much of the chores as I should because it’s just easier if I do it. By easier I mean not having to stand over them making sure they do it the way I want it to be done. I really need to stop doing that! The most surprising thing about parenting for me has been that yes at times it is an inconvenience. I need to step up to the plate and love my children enough to teach them how to be self-sufficient. Even if that means having to listen to whining and crying for a bit! Thanks for the reminder! I AM getting better at saying “No” at Target. I usually walk out with a screaming child but oh well. The stares stop when we get in the van and pull out if the parking lot! :)

  9. 14


    I love this list. One I would add, is don’t keep kids from failure. I think as parents we try to shield our kids from failure believing it will hurt them. But a lot of successful, joyful adults embraced failure early in life as a learning opportunity. Failure doesn’t have to be a negative, it should be a positive step in the direction of growth.

  10. 15

    Tammy Lofgren says

    The only thing that I would add is personal responsibility. Teaching your children that they are the only one who can choose to do something or not. Teaching let your yes be yes and your no be no is an important ingredient to a healthy life. Teaching them proper ways to deal with others and how to destress in a positive way is a much needed tool that can help not only your kids but the parents as well.

  11. 17


    I’ve tried a “kid’s” laundry basket before and it wasn’t very successful. I love the idea of individual laundry baskets! I think that would really allow them to take responsibility for themselves in a way that they are absolutely ready for. Thank you for the great idea!

  12. 18

    maria says

    I adore your lists. They are spot on! I don’t know when this happened but I seem to have become socially awkward. My husband and I are easing back into God. We found a local church that does a soccer league. They give out trophies to every kid at the end of the season. I voiced politely that I think there is huge value in teaching kids how to lose. You would have thought that I took the Lord’s name in vein. I love your blog. You make me feel that I have a space in God’s world just the way I am. Thank you for this. ( btw I have 7 )

  13. 19


    As a public high school teacher, a mom to teens and a wife to a hubs with a terminal illness……I agree with every item on your list!!! I have seen how hard work is often rarely expected with teens these days. And if they grow up with parents who make hard work , serving others and absolute truths a priority the teen years can be easier. :) I would also add to your list, the ability to say “NO” to our kids. Saying No to them is ok, even if they don’t always like it!!
    Thanks for posting this list!! :)

  14. 20

    Heidi says

    I have my 8 year old on the Dave Ramsey Commissions system. Similar to what you’ve said in your post. He has 3 envelopes, Give, Save & Spend. He has “Jobs” he is supposed to accomplish every week, a total of 5 for now, each earning $1. If he doesn’t do the job, forgets or we have to remind him, then he loses that $1 for that job (there are no chances or reminders, no one is going to remind us adults to do our jobs). He also does “chores” these are just tasks around the house he has to do, like making his bed, cleaning his room, putting the clean dishes away and any other small task I ask of him, these “chores” are his contribution to the house hold and are not payable responsibilities. He loves the system because he gets to decide what to do with his money that he’s earned. I’ve watched him struggle with where to allocate the money. But when he finally saved up $100 for a custom Seahawks Jersey, he was so excited and he really thought about whether he wanted to spend $97 on a custom jersey or $70 on a normal player’s jersey, he asked me what I thought he should do and I told him “its your money, you earned it, you decided what you want to do with it” he said ok and bought the $97 jersey but when he got it he really treated it with care, he actually took it off before eating (because he didn’t want stains to get on it like the other custom jersey I bought for him 2 years ago for Christmas). He is really starting to have more respect and appreciate for the things he has. He also LOVES being able to give money during Sunday school and he’s also given money to a few homeless people and helped out when the local fire stations were doing their “boot fundraiser”. He is also excited to put money in his save envelop because for his birthday next year, Feb. 2015, we are going to open a savings account for him and let him bring all the money he has saved over the last 2 years to the bank and open his own account, he often says, “I cant wait to see how much I’m saving!”

    This is a great post of many things to give our children in order for them to become responsible, contributing, caring citizens. I really feel if we change the way our children see money we can truly change the world.

  15. 21

    Lynn says

    I can see why your daughter cried. If I go back in time and think what I would have felt like in that situation, I’d have wept too.

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