24 Lessons I Want To Teach My Daughter (Before She Leaves Home)

I sat straight up in bed in the middle of the night, heart pounding.

“What is it, honey?” my husband asked groggily.

“Do you think she knows not to call boys? Have I told her that yet?” I asked.

He sighed.

It’s hard letting your daughter turn 15.

I remember being 15 years old. I think I cried every day that year, always trying to figure out how I fit in a one-size fits-all world.

She is more woman than girl now and she longs for independence and understanding. I’m learning to give her a little of both. She is strong—the change-the-world-kind.

24 Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughter (Before She Leaves Home)

Three years. That’s all I have left with my daughter at home. I long to teach her so many truths. Even though I know life is a great teacher and she’s got my stubborn streak. Yeah.

Last week at church, I watched a mom hug her 30 year old daughter goodbye as she and her family prepare to be missionaries in Africa. I cried seeing the look of pride and brokenness on the mother’s face. I don’t know where life will take my daughter, but I’m holding on a little tighter and learning to let go a little more every day.

And I’m making a list of the lessons I want to teach her (or continue to) before she leaves home:

  1. Less is more–less makeup, less skin, less perfume, less selfies
  2. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely: Life can be lonely, but you are never alone because God.
  3. It’s okay to be alone.
  4. One good friend is better than 10 who just like your new shoes.
  5. If in doubt, always wash your clothes in cold water.
  6. Failure is often a better teacher than success. Even though we usually prefer one over the other.
  7. Don’t pursue a guy. If he’s into you, you’ll know. You don’t have to call or chase or change who you are. Just wait. The right one will come (you know, when you’re much older).
  8. You are (skinnier) than you think  (prettier, taller, ____ fill in the blank). Embrace your looks. It’s a great way to say thanks to God. Looks aren’t everything, so don’t make everything about the way you look.
  9. Always carry a little cash in your purse.
  10. Make your bed. You’ll wake up one day and want your kids too (ask me).
  11. Compounding interest.
  12. People are more important than things. Always.
  13. Laugh at yourself.
  14. There’s nothing shameful about pausing or quitting a career to become a mom.
  15. A boyfriend doesn’t make you something you’re not.
  16. Save more than you spend.
  17. Procrastination always catches up with you.
  18. Serving and giving to others feels immensely better than serving and giving to yourself.
  19. This life is temporary. God is eternal (remember that on a hard day).
  20. Don’t wish away time. It’s a gift.
  21. Don’t waste your money on glamour and beauty magazines that tell you what you’re not.
  22. Be grateful for everything.
  23. Believe this: you were created to do something that matters. Don’t waste your life on things that don’t.
  24. No matter how far you travel away from me, I will always, always be closer than you think.

Maybe We’re Missing Something Very Important in This Parenting Thing

It was a hot February day in Texas. We only had a handful of volunteers and hundreds of needy refugees had already formed a line, so everybody had a job. Even our kids. Especially our kids.

From across the parking lot, I watched my 14 year old give directions to the handful of kids barely taller than her waist. This small army of children were  in charge of the mound of toiletry and hygiene items we were sharing with refugees in our city.

I blinked back tears as they divided the supplies into over 100 paper sacks.

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They sorted donations, led refugee families around the free garage sale, and collected their vouchers for needed items.

They worked for hours and never complained.

Earlier in the weekend, I felt guilty for roping my family into all this extra work. What started out as a simple yes, ended up being a time-consuming-several-day event that is now an on-going service project.

Volunteers helped us organize and sort a truckload of donations, spread out on our driveway. When my 6th and 8th grade kids got off the bus, their friends asked if we were hoarders.

I think that might be called Junior High persecution.

sorting donations

As I watched my kids work hard in preparation for that day, jump in and serve refugees and navigate a language barrier, I quickly realized they didn’t need an apology for not making the weekend fun! filled with more stuff! just for them! all about them!

It reminded me how healthy a bit of hard work is for all of us and how rewarding it is to serve other people. 

As parents I think we’ve missed something very important in our culture. In an effort to make family a priority and give our kids what we didn’t have, we’ve become a child-focused culture. In many ways, we’ve lost our purpose. The sense of entitlement our kids exhibit is fueled by a parenting model that is obsessed with giving our children what they want and by making our kids the center of our lives.

In a way, we are just too into this parenting thing. We used to have birthday parties where A CAKE made it special and now it’s an EVENT. We used to pass out store bought Valentine cards, now we have them professionally printed with photographs and candy and goodie bags and mylar balloon bouquets. We used to play outside with sticks and get dirty; now kids have a variety of expensive game systems and a lot of technology at their disposal.

This quote by Jerry Seinfeld made me laugh because it’s so true. But then it really made me think.

The bedtime routine for my kids is a royal coronation jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi circle of emotional support. I have to read 8 different moron books to my kids. Do you know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? DARKNESS. My parents would yell “Go to bed!”

We’ve all probably done the bedtime dance. I remember one of my kids had to have a certain color of pacifier to HOLD in her hand before she’d sleep. So, clearly, I’m no expert here. I’m learning from my parenting mistakes, too.

But in centering our world around our children and giving into their demands, we foster entitlement.

Most entitlement begins because we lack the courage to tell our children no or because we don’t exhibit the strength to keep our no a no

We continue to enable entitlement by rewarding our kids for everything they do.

We may be taking away the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from genuine achievement.” Jason Walsh, a special education teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessed this firsthand during his school’s fifth-grade graduation ceremonies. Some students received as many as 14 different awards. “The majority of the students didn’t know what their awards really meant,” says Walsh. The honors “didn’t reinforce a specific achievement—but a sense of entitlement and of being great.”

Kids don’t need more stars and stickers.

They need more hard work.

Kids don’t need more activities.

They need more unstructured time.

Kids don’t need more stuff.

They need more opportunities to give their stuff away.

Kids don’t need more store-bought or manufactured fun.

They need freedom to create their own.

Teaching our kids about serving

I looked at my exhausted, dirty children who gobbled down sandwiches in the car on the way home after our full day of serving, grinning silly and full and I didn’t feel bad at all. 

Because I realized I had given them something money couldn’t buy. I had offered them something more valuable than the latest technology or hottest brand. I had given them perspective. And opportunity.

A few days later, I wanted to reward my kids. I’m definitely not against a pat on the back. But as I offered a small token for their great attitudes and hard work, it occurred to me they didn’t need a sticker or star or reward from me for serving others. It was time for me to change the way I parent.

Because working hard and serving others was their reward. Just ask them.

 

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

What I Want My Little Girls To Know About My Wedding

Dear Daughters,

A few months ago you were both in a wedding and between that and all the popular TLC bridal shows on Netflix and the breathtaking wedding boards on Pinterest, it’s got you asking questions about my wedding.

So, I want to tell you about it.

First of all, it was ugly.

No, really, it was. It was 1994, so that didn’t help.

Neither did my temporary romantic love for the Victorian era. My accent colors were mauve and forest green. Yeah. They were interesting colors against the burnt orange pews of the church and twinkling Christmas trees on the stage. (It was a December wedding).

The bridesmaids wore handmade mauve tent-like dresses that could accommodate an array of sizes, including a very pregnant bridesmaid. I’m pretty sure they were burned while I was on my honeymoon.

I had always planned on wearing a long-sleeved ivory Victorian gown. But instead I fell in love with a white off-the-shoulder sequined contemporary one. I had multiple themes going on.

Remember when you found my dress in a box in the attic a couple of years ago and asked if you could try it on? That kind of stuff is hard on moms.

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The reception was in the small, dimly-lit fellowship hall. There wasn’t dinner or dancing or enough satin to cover the drabness of the room. There was some sort of Sprite punch, a delicious wedding cake, groom’s cake (with a plastic fisherman on top) and some mixed nuts.

There weren’t party favors or sparklers. The guests threw birdseed as we ran to my blue Isuzu compact car, awash with ridiculous writing and a condom on the muffler (your Uncle’s contribution). I can still remember the look on the pastor’s face as we waved goodbye.

We immediately stopped at a fast food restaurant where I dumped a pint of birdseed from my underwear on the floor of the bathroom. That was wrong. But it was itchy.

I can’t think of a single pin-worthy picture from the day.

It wasn’t trendy or lavish.

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There wasn’t a dance floor or fresh orchids and chandeliers hanging from trees.

But I wouldn’t change a moment of it.

Somehow even with our less than glamorous wedding photo album and honeymoon on an extreme budget to exotic Arkansas, your dad and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this Christmas.

Because we understood that a marriage isn’t about a wedding.

We discovered that a lifetime of love and commitment trumps an event any day. We learned that starting our new life together debt and doubt-free was a gift to each other.

Yesterday, I read that 70% of girls creating wedding boards on Pinterest, aren’t even engaged yet. With every other marriage ending, do we have time for all this planning and pining for one perfect day?

It makes me sad that the world you’re growing up in concentrates more on the wedding than the marriage. It’s over in a sunset and it’s easy compared to the long marathon of becoming and staying one with your one and only.

I want you to know marriage is more than a venue or a menu. It’s far more than The Perfect Day or saying yes to the dress.

And I know you will probably want all of the above some day. And that’s okay.

I just want you to spend more time praying than planning. I want you to sacrifice more than you spend. I want you to understand your commitment to the man of your dreams is more than a certificate—it’s a covenant to God.

Most of all, I want you to know love. The kind of love your dad and I have that lasts through heartache and headaches. I want you to know that you are loved. You don’t have to earn or achieve it. It’s not dependent on a good hair day or bad. It’s not something you can lose. Whether you’re swept off your feet or remain a confidant single woman, you are enough.

I have seen how fast time flies. I know the days are long and the years are short. I put away the toys and clothes you outgrow regularly. I know while I write this, one of you is practicing eye shadow upstairs and the other is practicing cartwheels in the yard, and I will blink and it will be time to give you away.

You are just beginning to dream. Don’t stop.

And on this regular Monday, I want you to know that my wedding wasn’t much.

But my marriage is more.

Love,

Mom

 

This week, I’m reposting some of my most shared blog posts of 2014 with you. Thanks for being a part of this community. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Christmas, Kids & Entitlement

I’ll never forget the year I told my husband not to get me anything for Christmas.

It was the year he got me exactly what I’d asked for.

Nothing.

I watched my kids open their gifts, snapped pictures of their excited faces, made a big breakfast feast and I waited. I knew he was going to pull out a surprise gift.

But he didn’t. And I was disappointed.

Inwardly, I felt like such an ungrateful brat. He was doing exactly what I told him, but the problem was I still had expectations. I still wanted…something.

A couple of days after Christmas, he brought home a belated gift and I said thank you, but I’d missed the point of Christmas and we both knew it.

A few months later, I traveled to Africa for the first time and my life–and my expectations– wrecked me.

There are expectations with Christmas. And with expectations, comes disappointment. And disappointment is the breeding ground for ingratitude.

We’ve had our fair share of all of the above in our house.
Christmas, Kids and Entitlement

You’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the parents who’ve “canceled Christmas” this year. In their words, “Here is why – we feel like we are fighting a very hard uphill battle with our kids when it comes to entitlement. It is one of the biggest struggles as a parent these days in middle class America. Our kids have been acting so ungrateful lately. They expect so much even when their behavior is disrespectful. We gave them good warning, either it was time for their behavior to change or there would be consequences. We patiently worked with them for several months and guess what, very little changed. One day after a particularly bad display of entitlement John said, “we should just cancel Christmas.” And, so that’s what we did.”

The reaction on the Internet to their decision has been epic and opinions split parents down the middle:

Jeannie Cunnion, who wrote “Parenting the Wholehearted Child,” told Fox News that Christmas gifts should not reflect a child’s behavior — in fact, an undeserved and unearned gift, like the gift of Jesus, best encapsulates the Christmas spirit.

But Ericka Souter, an editor for The Stir, told Good Morning America that Henderson is a “hero for parents with bratty kids all over the country,” encouraging parents and children to make a habit of volunteering and donating clothes and toys.

We all know how hard parenting is… we question our kid’s behavior along with our decisions on how to handle it regularly. But if I’ve learned anything in this parenting journey, I’ve discovered that entitled kids start with parents who entitle them.

I spent the first few years as a mother giving my kids everything I wanted them to have whether they needed it or not and I failed to see that I was creating an atmosphere that I would later try and change.

We live in a culture that thrives on getting what we want and our children are a natural result of that. And let’s face it, we are entitled ourselves. We may not always throw a fit like I did a few years ago, but we live with expectations.

While I understand the frustration of wanting to pull the plug on gift giving because of ingratitude, here are 4 ways to battle entitlement this Christmas season:

1. Give back on Christmas Day | Look for a way to do something tangible for someone else on Christmas Day. For 6-7 years, we’ve taken treats to the local hospitals that took care of our youngest when she was born premature. It’s always a great way to stop in the middle of celebrating and remember someone else. Invite a single person over for Christmas dinner or visit someone who might feel forgotten…

2. Don’t forget to create opportunities for hard work | Grace and salvation are free, but stuff we want isn’t. Sometimes this is more obvious at Christmas (especially if we don’t get what we hoped for). Here are 15 ways to teach kids about hard work. (Christmas break is a great time to start).

3. Look for the lesson -When entitlement rears its head, look beyond the demand. | When my kids expect more than I give them, my first reaction isn’t to look for the teachable moment. But I’m learning that’s often what I need to do. I understand I’ve created some of the problem and it’s to be expected in our culture in certain situations. Offering perspective is often a great way to remind kids how much they already have.

4. Make gratitude a way of life all year long | When we make gratitude and thankfulness a priority all the time, kids are more apt to show thankfulness when they get what they want and when they don’t.

Christmas and kids go together. And in our culture, entitlement right along with them. My family will be opening gifts on Christmas morning probably like yours.  Everyone might get exactly what they want or maybe they won’t. But we can start teaching our kids the true meaning of Christmas by making entitled moments teachable ones and thanking them for grateful ones.


Dear Neighbor:

Driving around looking at Christmas lights is one of our favorite family traditions every December.

And we love the houses with Nativities the most!

Last year, we started a new tradition. Every time we saw a house with a Nativity in the yard, we put a note on their door. My kids loved sneaking up and blessing our neighbors with an anonymous thank you. Yours might too!

It’s a great reminder to our kids to keep Jesus the reason for the season and it’s really fun trying not to get caught.

Go, ahead, try it.

dear neighbor printable

Click to print letters of your own and start a new Christmas tradition today.

Don’t Make Me Take Away the Nativity and Other Things Moms Say In December

I met Cindy at Walgreens.

She recognized me from the back cover of my book, Rhinestone Jesus.

That happens all the time.

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We stood in front of the store and talked for 20 minutes. Two weeks later she showed up for our monthly Fair Trade Friday packing party.

Someone asked her how she met me. She said Amazon recommended my book to her. “I bought it because years before, I’d read Kristen’s first book, Don’t Make Me Come Up There!
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Dont Make Me Take Away The Nativity

Do you know what my favorite story was from your first book?” she asked me while she stuffed bags.

I was sure I had the answer: “The time our dental hygienist gave me good news and bad news: your daughter doesn’t have any cavities, but she does have head lice?” I asked. “That seems to be everyone’s favorite. We found a new dentist, by the way.”

“No,” she answered. “My favorite is the one about the black light spy toy your kids got for Christmas and you wanted to see if it really worked and you discovered pee all over the bathroom,” she laughed.

Y’all. This is called fame.

It comes at a price.

I still stand at the foot of our stairs and yell, “Don’t make me come up there.” Often.

Dont Make Me

And I’ve reached an all new low with some of things I’ve already said the first week of December.

“Don’t make me call Santa,” which gets an eye roll from all three of my kids and a reply of, “Why call Dad? He’s in the other room.” Backfire.

“I don’t care if your friend’s Elf on the Shelf poops peppermint candy, we still aren’t buying one.”

“Please don’t dip your fingers in the Advent candle wax.”

“What are you talking about? These break and bake sugar cookies are homemade.”

“I don’t care if you’re nearly grown, you’re taking a picture with Santa.” #holdme

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And the other day, I actually said, “Don’t make me take away the Nativity,” when I discovered my 7 year old dragging around the rope attached to the wisemen’s camel pretending it was a black mamba trying to eat baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus survived that attack. Unfortunately, one of the wisemen didn’t.

Motherhood is not a joke.

Especially at Christmas.

 

What are some things you’ve said so far this month?

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World:

I lay awake with an unsettled feeling. I searched my mind going over my day, picturing names and faces until I settled on one of my kid’s tucked in bed upstairs.

Yes, that’s the one. She’s keeping me up tonight.

I thought about the tough day, the words we’d flung at each other and I prayed for her. And I prayed for me.

The night before I started thinking about how expensive college is going to be and stayed up an extra hour pondering it.

Two nights earlier, I didn’t rest well because of a tension headache from overthinking all I needed to get done.

The week before that is was the flu, strain A, that put a feverish second grader on a pallet wheezing through the night and I slept with one eye open.

I keep a notepad next to my bed and it’s always got something on it in the morning. Some worry, some reminder, some whispered prayer, something to do.

This morning’s said, “Call ortho. Tell son to stop eating chips.”

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World

Every season of parenting is different and the same. We never move past the worry, the wonder, the what-the-heck-am-I-doing-wrong thoughts, or the bone-tired weary responsibility of raising these little people.

We work hard.

We love harder.

We look ahead at the weeks To Do List of grocery shopping and cleaning and baking and thawing that turkey followed by weeks of Christmas shopping and tree decorating and merry making and we are tired. And not just the sleepy kind (although yes, what a day in bed wouldn’t fix).

Exhausted.

Bone-weary, worn out.

Can you feel it? The noise, the never-ending piles of laundry, dishes and demands.

And some days I think we just need permission to leave the worry and the doubts, the fear and the unknown. To walk away. To turn it off. To say no. To take time for ourselves. To lay down the burden.

Here it is.

Here’s the permission to rest, to be quiet, to reflect. To be.

We can kill ourselves trying to create a perfect holiday season or rest in the fact that perfection is overrated.

Dear Exhausted Mothers of the World

This week as we prepare for company and cooking, family and friends, let’s put ourselves on the list.

God didn’t tell us to be thankful.

He told us to give thanks.

And we know all about giving, don’t we? 

We give our kids the last cookie we were saving for ourselves.

We give them our hoodie off our own back because they are cold at the park. We shiver through.

We give to our children first. Because that’s what we do.

Giving thanks might just sound like another thing on our list. Someone else who needs something from us.

But here’s the beauty of giving him Thanks when we’re empty, tired and worn down, worried and burdened:

In exchange, He gives us rest. 

‘But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
I’m taking my own advice to rest with my family this week. We are tucked away for a quiet few days.  I’m letting go of a lot of things…
This week, take a moment to put your feet up. Trade your worry and doubt for peace and rest. Give God your exhaustion and He will renew you. “He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s,” Psalm 103:4
Remind yourself you’re a good mom.

Happy Thanksgiving.

What I Want My Teen Daughter To Know About What She Sees on the Internet

We gave our daughter a smart phone three days before she started high school.

She’d been asking for one since the 5th grade.

So, it was sort of a big deal for all of us.

We said no about 243,000 times during those years. We had our reasons.

Sometimes it’s fun to get to say yes.

She eagerly signed the contract we presented and agreed to our restrictions.

For the last three months, we’ve navigated this new season with our teenaged daughter. We’ve reminded her to plug in her phone in the kitchen by 9pm. We’ve asked her not to walk and text, to be present in conversation and not on her phone all the time in the car. We’ve not apologized for the parental restrictions that slow down her phone. As we’ve monitored her texts (yes, all of them), we’ve been pleased that she’s honored God, us and herself. We’ve exchanged payment for her bill for babysitting her little sister so we can take regular date nights. We asked her not to pin hair tutorials during geometry class anymore and we’ve reminded her to call friends instead of text entire conversations. We said no to Facebook, but yes to Instagram. Yes to Pinterest, no to Snapchat.

What I want my daughter to know about what she sees on the Internet

We monitor all of it.

It’s been a whole new world and a lot of work. We’ve had some tension and tears and taken the time to talk it out. Allowing our daughter to have Internet access and some social media has made me really glad we waited until now and it’s really made me question allowing it all.

But this is her world and rather than resist it, we’ve chosen to journey it with her. Every family needs to carefully consider the consequences of saying yes and no. Passive parenting and technology don’t mix well. We know our daughter will see good and be exposed to bad and we want to help her navigate her way through both.

Because there are things on the Internet I don’t want my daughter to see.

What I Want My Daughter to Know About What She Sees on the Internet

I don’t want her to know about the millions of pornographic images that degrade and demean women. I don’t want her to know they exist because people want to see them.

I don’t want her to count her worth based on how many Instagram likes she gets or how friends rank her occasional selfies. I don’t want her to feel defeated because she doesn’t measure up on Pinterest.

I don’t want my daughter to see viral nude pictures of Kim Kardashian and know that some women choose to devalue themselves for money and attention.

I don’t want my daughter to see herself as the Internet sees women.

I want her to see the beauty I have seen on the Internet.

I want her to see the women who help those in need.

I want her to see the people who use it to change the world.

I want her pin pictures of fair trade finds and capture selfies of her high school Bible club. I want her to keep tweeting about the Compassion kids we sponsor and share Scripture on her feeds.

I want to her to know that her worth is not based on followers, fans or friends. I want her to believe her beauty is not defined by pins.

But she won’t learn this on the Internet.

Culture reminds our girls regularly they have to work harder, try faster, do more, to get ahead. Media values beauty over brains.Whether or not you’ve given your daughter access to the Internet and social media, don’t doubt for a minute that it’s influencing her. Ask your 5 year old what a selfie is and see what she says.

My daughter doesn’t really want me in her online world. But that’s not enough reason for me to stay out of it. I allowed it and as far as I’m concerned, it’s my job to be involved.

She needs to know this about what she sees on the Internet:

  • She is worth more than the perfect selfie.
  • She is beautiful with or without a thigh gap.
  • She is enough, with or without the perfect winter Pinterest wardrobe.
  • She isn’t valued by shares or what others say about her.
  • She is valued because she is valuable.
  • She is lovely exactly like God created her.

And she doesn’t need a filter to prove it.

When we allow our daughters online, we are essentially giving them the choice to believe what they see or say what they believe. Some days it’s not an easy or clear choice.

And that’s why they have us.