The Hard Truth about Do Hard Things

As soon as one of the girls from my small group sang the praises of Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, I knew I had to read it. After all, how could I go wrong with something that inspired so much enthusiasm in a teen? However, once I started reading it, I ended up getting much more than I bargained for.

Though Do Hard Things was originally written by teens to teens, I was struck by how much parents can benefit from the wisdom and insight offered in the book. In fact, I have to admit that I was really convicted by much of what I read. In particular, the following quote pulled me right up out of my seat, placed me squarely in front of my mirror, and challenged me to take a long, hard look.

“For all of us, expectations are a self-fulfilling prophecy.”  –Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, Pg.41

The more I pondered this statement, the more I had to admit that parents are just as, if not more, guilty than preteens and teens when it comes to setting the bar really low when it comes to what adolescent life should look like. I was especially struck by the stories that were shared about how young some of our most celebrated historical figures were when they accomplished some really big feats. I was left with the following question:

What has happened over time to cause society to expect less and less from teens?

I believe that the ideas presented in this book help shed light on this topic while also providing concrete advice for how to begin shifting our thinking about adolescent life. For that reason, I would love to see all families read and discuss the ideas put forth in Do Hard Things because it would not only strengthen the family unit but also society in general.

A Cautionary Note

Though I love the idea of preteens, teens, and their families raising the bar when it comes to setting expectations, I do want to emphasize one important point. Do Hard Things is not about pressuring your child to be first in everything, but instead it’s about inspiring them to raise the bar while walking in God’s calling. This idea is woven through the book, but I can’t emphasize it enough. Being pushed to accomplish things you were never called to accomplish can not only be demoralizing and depressing, but it can also pull you away from your true calling.

I think the following quote from page 253 of Do Hard Things says it best:

“But if our goal is to glorify God – to point other people to Him and show more of what He can do – then our first priority is to be faithful with what He’s already given us to do, not embark on a big new adventure.”

I also love what 17 year old Elisabeth shares on page 254, while telling her own story:

“What I have found is that in order to do hard things and conquer big challenges, we need to be willing to listen to that little voice the Holy Spirit uses. The more you listen, the clearer it becomes. And in order to do the great thing, you must first be a servant.”

The Challenge

1.  Read and discuss Do Hard Things as a family.

You can take many different approached to doing this, but I really love what one of our friends is doing. She and her daughter are reading one chapter at a time separately, taking notes on the things that grab their attention, and then sharing their insights with one another. However you and your family choose to read Do Hard Things, I think you will glean the most from it through reading it and discussing what you have read together.

2.  Set the example for your family by adopting a “do hard things” attitude.

The old saying about more being “caught than taught” certainly applies here. Though the book does not tie their message of inspiring teens to raise the bar when it comes to expectations to parent behavior, it is certainly true that watching a parent live out the “do hard things” philosophy on a daily basis is inspiring in and of itself. In other words…

Be the change you want to see.

3.  Spend time as a family learning about the lives of members of older generations and compare how expectations placed on them during their teen years differ from those placed on today’s teens.

It’s amazing to spend time with people who grew up during difficult times like the Great Depression or who escaped from their homeland during a time of wartime or great oppression. Take time as a family to read about the lives of people who did extraordinary things during their younger years. Better yet, spend time in person with those who have endured great hardship or who have overcome great challenges in their lives. Take what you learn and apply it to your own lives where applicable.

4.  Commit yourself to learning how God created each of your children and how that impacts the things He has in store for their futures.

I am convinced that one of the greatest disservices we do for our children is to create plans for their lives that we think will make them happy without ever consulting the One who created them. Many times these plans are extensions of our own dreams and have very little to do with what God created them to accomplish. We must realize and accept that God created each of our children with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses and that He has his own unique plan for them. In fact, Psalm 139:16 reminds us:

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Nothing will ever bring our children more joy than discovering and walking in their own unique calling specially designed for them by their Creator.

5.  Create a “do hard things” family plan for the summer.

Summer is the perfect time to evaluate the past school year and to discuss where adjustments might need to be made. Be sure to include your children in the discussion and decision-making process and don’t be afraid to ask some difficult questions.

Hopefully this summary of the action plan presented on pages 223-224 of Do Hard Things will provide some inspiration:

  • Honestly evaluate your life, your family, and your relationships.
  • Decide what negative behaviors or patterns need to end.
  • Identify and connect with people who can help you accomplish your goal.
  • Define one or two key action steps to take and decide how and when to implement them.
  • Acknowledge that you can’t accomplish your plan without God’s help and create a plan to help you stay connected with Him throughout the process.
  • Get excited about your plan and expect success.

Over the summer I will share portions of our “do hard things” family plan. We are already implementing phase 1 of our plan and seeing great success. We will embark on phase 2 in the next few weeks.

Need more inspiration?

Visit the Rebelution website for a variety of Do Hard Things ideas and resources.

For additional inspiration on the topic of raising family expectations, be sure to check out my “Cast a Higher Vision” guest post for Dr. Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc. and Hearts at Home 2.0.

Have a blessed week! –Dawn