5 Things That Don’t Matter (In Parenting) As Much As We Think They Do

A friend of mine who is about to have her first baby asked me the other day, “So, what do you think I really need as a new parent?”

“Not as much as the baby aisles at Target will tell you,” I said as we talked about the overwhelming amount of stuff available for new moms and babies.

I have met moms from all over the world and I started thinking about how simple parenting is in other countries. The babies we help in Kenya don’t use pacifiers, swaddle blankets, breast pumps, or baby gear. They have a blanket, some cloth diapers and a few changes of clothes and their moms’ biggest worries for the future include having enough food and paying school fees. The refugee mothers I know don’t stress about birthday parties or the latest and greatest gadgets, they worry about providing diapers.

It’s always good to get a dose of perspective. It’s far too easy to compare ourselves to the people around us and think we’re the only ones not giving our kids everything. It’s good to remember most of the world just wants to give their kids something.

I think we’ve made parenting more complex for the sake of convenience and comfort. And it’s not all bad. Some things do make parenting easier and I’m grateful. But we spend a lot of time and money in the moment on things that don’t really matter longterm. I’m as guilty as anyone. I once bought a machine to vibrate my colicky baby’s bed and returned it. Total scam.

It’s good to step back and evaluate what’s sucking a lot of our time and resources. Here are 5 things that don’t matter in parenting as much we think they do:

5 things that dont matter as much as we think they do


  1. Things that plug in | Oh, we are a technology culture, aren’t we? We could spend ourselves into the ground trying to keep up with all the latest technology, hottest gaming systems, apps and electronic must-haves. It scares me to think about how all this screen time will effect the next generation. Technology is a part of our culture and it adds a lot to our lives, but this constant thirst to acquire the latest item will never be quenched.  Because the next big thing is always around the corner. It won’t kill our kids (or us) to use what they have until it breaks or just live without. We have a rule in our house that you have to wait until high school for a smart phone. Some days this is challenging for my kids, but it’s what we’ve set as our standard. And when we set guidelines, they are easier to follow. Teaching our kids to be content starts with being grateful for what you have, not waiting and wanting what’s around the corner.
  2. Things that are found on Pinterest | There were birthday parties and recipes and toy organization ideas before Pinterest, they just weren’t as pretty, and pin-able, right?  I’m all for good ideas (and I’ve found plenty online), but I think Pinterest can make us want to focus on our parenting imperfections…Recently, I talked to a new mom who was exhausted from spending like 20- something hours planning her first child’s first birthday party–which ended up being cancelled due to a nasty case of Roseola. She admitted to succumbing to the online pressure for a photo shoot, a wardrobe monogrammed with “first birthday” and a lavish party. I did some pretty great parties when my kids were little. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve just learned that it’s not as big as deal as I once thought, especially to my kids.
  3. Things that other people have | This is a hard one, isn’t it? It’s difficult enough as adults to see someone showing off the latest and greatest and not feel a pang of the “gotta-have-its.” Kids are no different. But if we give them what their peers have –for this reason alone–we are teaching them that stuff matters most. We are affirming that in order to fit in or be liked it requires us to be like everyone else. In the long run, the fads will fade-they always do. My youngest struggles with this right now and we are trying to teach her that we won’t buy things to fit in or feel accepted, because in the long run, it will hurt more than help.
  4. Things that make us feel like a better parent | Let’s face it, getting our toddler into the “best” preschool or our 8 year old son onto the “right” football team, is more for us than our kids. Children don’t really care about prestige or influence. And it can be time-consuming and exhausting for parents living up to the pressure to do everything right all the time. I used think I had to help my kids find their “thing” early on. Life is teaching me that God has a plan for my kids. I can do my part and He will do the rest. Our kids learn through success and failure and they need both to be well-rounded. It’s good to slow down and ask ourselves  Am I working on something that will matter in a couple of years?
  5. Things | With Christmas around the corner, kids are already being bombarded with the hottest new toys and gadgets of the season. We just have to visit a Thrift store to see how long some of those trendy items last. Kids probably won’t remember their “big” Christmas gift or birthday toys next year. We usually give our kids 3-4 gifts. This year, one or two of them will be an experience and not another “thing.”  Because will remember the most important things, which aren’t things at all.

As a parent, I am constantly reevaluating what they need and what I should give them and I’m learning in order to really give our kids everything, sometimes it’s good to step back and realize giving them less is giving them more.

To the Parents Who Read This Blog:

Thank you.


That’s how many of you answered my parenting survey a couple of weeks ago. I was humbled by your enthusiasm.

I closed it after 24 hours because it will take some time to dig into the thousands of comments and answers. I will be spending the next few months pouring over them as I write my next book, a daunting challenge and tentatively titled Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.

Yeah. A parenting book. So, you could say I’ve never felt more inadequate.

This won’t be a book about my successful parenting, I’m writing it from the trenches. Because I figure we hear enough from the experts and sometimes it’s helpful to hear from people just like us.

From the preliminary results of the survey, I can see the similarities in the parents who read here, but it’s the differences that really caught my attention. From atheists to Jesus freaks, from young parents with babies to grandma’s with an empty nest, from low-income to the very wealthy, from those who spoil their kids to those who don’t, we are different. Moms. Dads. Divorced. Married. Homeschool. Public. Strict and Lenient.

It may seem like this is a weakness. 5000 opinions and answers, countless ways we could disagree. But the strength of this community is actually in our differences, not our similarities. This is what makes us stronger: the chance to learn from each other. The opportunity to respect what makes us different.

It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” -Audre Lorde

This survey proved something else:

We love our kids.

We are imperfect, but we try.

We admit when we aren’t doing our best and we try harder.

We want the best for them, even if we don’t always know what that is. But we will keep trying to find it.

That’s the one thing we all have in common.

And it’s enough.

So, if you’re a parent reading this blog, I want you to say thank you and stick around: This is your invitation into the Intentional.

I’d love to know some parenting issues or topics you’d like to talk about here in this space or in my Facebook Community. We may not all agree all the time, but we can learn from one another.  If you have a suggestion or parenting question, leave it in the comment section or suggest something anonymously here.

I’m also starting a newsletter that will have inspiring parenting articles, helpful life links, occasional deals I love, etc. If you’re not already getting my blog posts delivered for free to your email, sign up below:


A Love Story: 3 Things Every Father Needs to Tell His Daughter

Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Including giving and wearing mums at high school homecoming football games. Have y’all heard of this crazy, often over-the-top southern tradition?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mums, it can just be excessive like so many other things in our culture. You could say I’m not a big mum fan. Pun intended.

But I’m not a freshman in high school either. And my daughter is. She casually mentioned her friends were wearing them to the upcoming Homecoming football game, some had boyfriends, others were making their own, and I couldn’t help but note the longing in her voice. When she asked me what I thought, I said, “I think it’s silly to wear one just because everyone else is. You’re going to have fun with your girlfriends and the band. Why not wait to get one until it’s special?” She agreed and we didn’t talk about it again.

I never mentioned the conversation to my husband.

So, I was surprised two days before the game when Terrell whispered in the middle of the night how he was thinking about our daughter, “You know homecoming is this weekend. Our girl is nearly 15 and even though she won’t be dating for awhile, I want to be the one to give her a first mum. I want to be her first date and show her how she should be treated.”

Early the next morning before a long work day getting ready for the Mercy House Gala, my handsome cowboy went and shopped and brought home his first mum for his first daughter.


And when he walked into the house with the big maroon and white floral ribboned thing, I cried.

Because what I dismissed as a silly tradition, he saw as an opportunity to teach our daughter about love.

When he showed her and explained, she gasped and hugged him. And I’ll never forget the look between those two. He said, “I want to be your first.”

And she said, “You already are.”

She ran off to text her friends and tell them about her dad’s gift and she proudly wore it to school on Homecoming day. It’s hanging in the closet because she wants to wear it again next year.

I fell in love with Terrell again that day. In the scope of our busy lives, this is a small thing. Unnecessary. Even extravagant.

Which is exactly why it was such a big deal to her.

A father’s relationship with his daughter is one of the most crucial in her life. And while it may change from toddler to tween to teen, she needs him in every phase and stage.

3 things every father needs to tell his daughter

3 Things Every Daughter Needs to Hear From Her Father:

  1. You can trust me| Daughters need to know that no matter how high their highs are or how low their lows are, Dad will be there. She is learning who she is and she’s constantly changing. But knowing she can count on her father to listen and love no matter her mood, will help her confidence.
  2. You’re beautiful| The correlation between a girl’s self esteem and her relationship with her father can’t be denied. Even on her worst hair day, she needs to know her dad thinks she is beautiful. It’s part of her discovery that true beauty really doesn’t depend on fashion or a clear complexion. It starts with what is inside.
  3. You’re valuable | Value is not a message our culture will teach our daughters. Girls are treated like either owned objects or sex symbols in just about every corner of the world. She begins to understand her value at her father’s knee. She needs her dad to tell her.

He made her day.

And that made mine.

Raising Daughters in a World that Devalues Them: 7 Things We Must Tell Them

I took my daughter shopping one night over Spring Break. It’s flip flop and shorts weather down here in Texas about 10 months out of the year, not to mention my girl gets taller every minute. She passed me up months ago.

Shopping with my teenager should be fun. And mostly it is, except for the actual clothes-shopping-part. It’s so hard to find modest clothes. My teen doesn’t even ask for the shorty shorts any more, even though it’s challenging to find anything but in the stores.

“Why do they do it, Mom? Why do so many stores sell such immodest clothes for girls?” She was frustrated. It was a question I didn’t know how to answer. I think about how girls are viewed in this world and in return, how they view themselves. How do I tell my 13 year old daughter that sex sells? But I do tell her. She’s a smart girl and notices that some stores sell padded bikini bathing suit tops to 8 year olds.

It’s time for moms to be offended and stand up to giant stores like Victoria’s Secret and the way they sell sex to our daughters. Their new tween brand is called, “Bright Young Things,” and includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front. Source.

“Our country is replete with an unprecedented number of young girls suffering from eating disorders and body mutilation, while pushing the limits of sexual promiscuity. Is this racy underwear modeled by unrealistically thin girls really the best that we have to offer our girls? In this age when female sex trafficking is becoming a wide-spread crisis, reaching into the depths of our inner cities, is it really responsible for Victoria’s Secret to entice our impressionable young girls with this “come hither” message?

Underwear that reads, “Call me” does nothing but cheapen a girl’s self-esteem while exacerbating the objectification of her God-given femininity. Our children are being objectified by retailers who see them as nothing more than a path to increased profits.”-Amy Gerwing

7 things we need to tell our daughters

We live in a world that hates girls.

Too harsh? I don’t think so. Globally, did you know that more than 200 million girls in our world have been aborted or abandoned in what is being called a “gendercide?” Many who survive, face neglect, violence and most likely sex trafficking. We might feel detached from this epidemic on this side of the world, but we aren’t. The Super Bowl is the biggest day for sex trafficking in the world and most major cities including the one closest to me, is a hub for young girls to be sold into sex slavery.

Coupled with the pornography industry, when you consider every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing nude images of somebody’s daughter, it’s more than disturbing.  Source

Yesterday I read about a young girl who was raped. She was just six years old. I’ve heard of horror stories like these thru our work at Mercy House, but this wasn’t in distant Africa. It was in our county, 20-something miles away. I have an innocent six year old and I am sickened by the crime against this child.

And as if all that isn’t enough to turn a momma gray, the surge of aggressive girls taking the initiative with guys at a very young age, trying to lure them into sexual activity has increased dramatically :

What in the world is happening?

What is going on in the hearts of some young girls that causes them to be so assertive?  I think there are several reasons for what we are seeing: (from Family Life)

First, the culture is supporting it.  Movies, television shows, commercials, magazines, books …  they all glamorize sex and intimacy and the right of young women to go after whatever it is they think will make them happy.

Second, we have a whole generation of young men who are confused in their own sexual identity. Are they supposed to be sensitive or aggressive? Leaders or helpers?  Many young men today are not being taught how to treat a young lady with nobility, dignity, and respect. Many are growing up without a father or male figure to provide guidance.  As a result, some of these young men have no idea how they should expect to be treated by a real young lady.

Third, the breakdown of the family has resulted in a whole generation of daughters who have been abandoned. And in the absence of a healthy, emotional attachment to their fathers and mothers, they’re trying to fill their emotional gas tanks with the opposite sex.

Finally, there’s little or no preparation for adolescence occurring among parents of preteens or early teens.  This may be the core problem.  When you ask parents of preteens how many of them would like their children to have the same experience they had in adolescence, there aren’t many hands that go up.  But those same parents often become increasingly detached as their children move into the adolescent years.

Seven Things We Must Tell Our Daughters:

  1. You are Valuable:: She needs to know she is important and so valued that you will protect her with rules and boundaries because you love her. There is safety and comfort within those restrictions, even when she pushes against them.
  2. Your Worth Isn’t Based on Your Appearance:: She needs to be told she is beautiful–not because she’s wearing a sassy outfit or new lipgloss–her worth is not found in her appearance, the opinions of others or herself. She is beautiful because she was created in the image of God. Her appearance has little to do with true beauty and her worth isn’t wrapped up in looking good or being perfect.
  3. You Don’t Need a Guy:: She needs to hear starting at a young age (but it’s never too late to start telling her). She needs to be told a boy doesn’t complete her, God does. Chasing or enticing or wanting a guy doesn’t make her attractive and it doesn’t make her a woman. The only guy she needs in her life for a long time is her Dad or a father figure until God brings her a husband if that’s His plan.
  4. You Are Amazing:: Our daughters need to hear we are proud of them. She is enough. Tell her out of all the girls in the world, you’d always choose her. Sadly, she will be tempted to spend a lot of time in life trying to prove her value to others. Create an atmosphere where she is loved, just like she is.
  5. You Don’t Have to Believe What You Hear:: She needs to hear your affirming voice in her head. Because there will be mean girls in her life, peers with pressure and adults in her world who will let her down and have low expectations of her. She needs to hear the opposite at home, your voice will lead her to Him and she’ll know who to listen to.
  6. You Have Me:: No matter what happens in life, the ups and downs that will come her way, the losses and gains, our daughters must know we are there for them. She needs to know she can talk to you about anything. Anytime. More importantly, we can show her Jesus.
  7. You Can Change the World:: She needs to know she can dream big and can accomplish whatever she wishes. She can do so with God by her side and she doesn’t need a boy or society to make it happen. She can be anything she want to be with your help. Stand by her, with her and watch her fly.

I’m raising two daughters in this world and my heart cries for Jesus to rescue us all. But until He does, I can’t always protect or shield them, so I will tell them the truth. I can’t change (all this) in the world, but I can prepare them for it.

“Our daughters are precious, intrinsically valuable and deserve better — they deserve to be cherished and protected.” -Amy Gerwing

edited repost from the archives

5 Things Your Teen Wants You to Know

Remember when you brought your first baby home and you didn’t take them out of their carseat carrier all night because you were afraid if they woke up, you wouldn’t be able to put them back to sleep?

So you just watched them most of the night.

No? Maybe that was just me.

I was terrified of that 8 pound bundle of baby joy. She cried loud, fists clenched, purple face and that was just taking her socks off.

I was new on the job, uncertain, inexperienced, scared and she was totally the boss of me.

I was a new mom, trying to figure out what my baby needed. I learned that first night that kids bring out the best in you. And the worst. And this classroom of sticky floors has taught me that God uses parenting to reveal my weaknesses.

She’s gotten bigger and we’ve had our ups and downs. Our eyes have locked in the middle of stand downs. We’ve comforted each other, and loved our way back to one another. We have an imperfect relationship. I’ve learned a few things, but some days I feel like that new mom, trying to understand my teenager.

5 Things Our Teens Want Us to Know

I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve discovered 5 things our teens want us to know:

1. They are tired, the exhausted kind: Every time I see another parent of a teenager, I ask them about their teen’s schedule. And I get the same answer: it’s brutal. We held off a lot of extracurricular activities when my kids were younger and I’m so glad we did. Because high school is a whole different game. My daughter is in marching band and she has very long days and is up more than 20 hours on game days. Even without this extracurricular, her academic work load is heavy and then there is homework and projects. We may not be the norm, but across the board, teens don’t get enough sleep and they require more than most think. I’m cautioning her not to add more to her plate, letting her sleep in on the weekends, and mostly, acknowledging that she is tired and needs to rest.

2. They want time alone, but they don’t want to be alone: Teens need space. They want a place to listen to music, read or just relax. I’m learning to give my kids this freedom to unwind. At the same time, teens don’t want to feel alone in the world. They want to know we love them, we understand or we care even if we don’t get it.

3. They thrive on change. Sometimes: The scene goes something like this in our house: “Mom, I love eggs. Can you fix that for my breakfast?” I stock up on eggs and by Wednesday, “I never ever want to eat another egg.” And I’m like, huh? I read recently that teens thrive on change, but don’t stay at one place long. It’s part of their growth and development. Everything in their world is changing constantly–fashion and friends and they figuring out who they are. Remaining unchanged- a constant source of consistency will help them in this sometimes turbulent season.

4. They want you to look for the best in them, even at their worst: We all have horrible, bad, no-good days. I don’t want someone to summarize or stereotype me based on one of these and we shouldn’t do that to our kids either. Call it what it is and start every new day with a fresh start. Don’t hang yesterday’s bad day over their head.

5. They need you to try and understand their world: My favorite time of the day is at night when my older kids are in their rooms. After giving them some time alone to unwind, I like to enter their world, crawl on their bed and just wait for them to talk. They always do. I’ve learned important things going on in their lives when I’m quiet enough to listen. And I’ve discovered they want me to know them.

I love this time in my life with my teens. They challenge and inspire me. They make me laugh and sometimes, cry. We are learning together and making mistakes along the way. But I want them to know I’m on their side. I’m for them.

And sometimes, the best way to tell them is by listening to what they aren’t saying.