How to Not Ruin Your Kids in Two Easy Steps

The world’s been a little distracted lately. The highest ranking news story tells of Brad and Angelina. There’s no last name needed because people are so familiar with their story that everyone knows exactly who I’m talking about. And unless you live in a hole, you also know they have called it quits. And there’s an undo amount of concern about the fate of their six children all over the internet.

In all the celebrity news, maybe you missed the Stanford dean’s speech about how parents are ruining their kids. We have pondered the possibility of celebrities ruining their kids with their whirlwind lives, but am I ruining mine? Stanford dean would say some parents are. So maybe the real news gets buried under the fluff of another celebrity split-up we all knew would probably not end well.

You can muddle through the enormity of the dean’s speech or skim down to her two points at the end. Because if I’m honest, I skipped down, kinda screaming in my head as I read: “JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO TO NOT RUIN THESE PEOPLE.”


She complied, and her two points were this:

  1. Give them chores.
  2. Teach them to love.

Well now.

Motherhood can feel a lot like holding your breath underwater, hoping you have enough oxygen stored until you can come back up for air. The big giant gulps of fresh air at the surface give us life while we’re holding our breath in murky water.

It’s all a little confusing down here in the depths.

Before children, I likened motherhood to a glorious backstroke on a sunlit pond. After five children, I liken motherhood to an inglorious belly buster that sinks me farther down in the water than I wanted to go. I’ve done things I’ve said I would never do. I haven’t done things I promised I would do. We cherish our time together and rest, yet somehow yesterday’s afternoon schedule included five soccer practices, gymnastics, dancing and tutoring. I called it a success to not forget a kid.

But the two instructions from the Stanford dean?

That was a little rest for my soul. A little bit of a backstroke on a sunlit pond. A little hope for my weary momma’s heart this week.

The overwhelming crush of things I’ll never manage to complete in their lives dissipates under those instructions. The dean backs up her speech with proof from The Harvard Grant Study, a 75-year and $20 million study that discovered that people performed better when they were taught work ethic at a young age and lived in an atmosphere of love at home.

Thanks Harvard for telling me again what I’ve heard my whole life.

Do Unto Others

It’s black and white. No matter how many different ways you break it down, we do unto others what we wish they would do for us. Have you ever loved someone so hard that it took all your effort, all your energy, and hurt more than you thought possible? Oh, but how I long to be the recipient of that kind of love.

The best kind of love requires the most relentless amount of work. When we teach our children to love well by “doing unto others,” we teach them hard work.

The hardest work is loving others well. The two keys to successful parenting are wrapped up in one verse while Jesus is spilling Kingdom secrets. It’s not a coffee cup phrase or bumper sticker. The hardest work you’ll ever do is “doing unto others.”

We practiced it this morning. With sleepy eyes and tired feet, they trudged into the kitchen, where toast and eggs were served.

“Let’s all help each other pack lunches today,” I said.

At first no one noticed the difference in the instruction. What usually sounds like “Let’s pack lunches” changed to “Let’s all help each other pack lunches.”  The subtle shift was noticed by the oldest, though, who asked “So I can’t just do mine?”

Why, no.

You can’t just do yours. Not today, not tomorrow and not for the rest of your life. This giving of yourself will be the hardest thing you’re ever called to do. It won’t be on a platform and will usually go unnoticed, but the command of “do unto others” doesn’t change.

It’s hard work, son.

Hard for you and hard for me.



  1. Glad to know I’m not the only one worried about ruining my kids! 😉 Great post!

  2. Wonderful post! It’s such a good thing to be concerned about … Especially this day & time!

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