When my kids were young, I knew I wanted to raise them in a family known for their kindness, generosity, and ability to love others well.

I didn’t know how difficult it would be as a parent to live this out though.

  • We want our kids to be kind.
  • We want our sons and daughters to be compassionate.
  • We want our offspring to be loving and empathetic toward others.

But we can’t just want our children to grow up with these essential values and character traits; we must purposely show up in our home, community, and world and consistently show others kindness, compassion, love, and empathy.

How do we prioritize serving others in this busy culture we raise our kids in today?

First, we must mind the gap between what we say we want and how we live.

In my book Parent on Purpose, I wrote about Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project report, “The Children We Mean to Raise,” where research indicates that 96% of parents report that moral character in children is “very important, if not essential,” yet 81% of the kids surveyed said that happiness or achievement is their parents’ top priority. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree, “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

I don’t believe this is what parents genuinely want, yet this truth is our youth’s perspective. Therefore, we must shift how we, as parents, prioritize achievement and performance over character and values.

Raise-Kind-Kids

As parents, we say compassion, kindness, and empathy are traits that we want our child to embody, yet serving others is often the last thing we schedule on our overpacked calendar. Therefore, our sons and daughters learn that we fit in helping others after serving ourselves.

In this me, myself, and I culture that we’re raising our children in, we must create opportunities to serve others regularly.

Weave volunteering and community service into your family culture so that helping others becomes who you are instead of what you do. If we want to raise kind and caring kids, we must emphasize caring for others as we do achieving good grades and winning games.

If we want our children to learn the values of kindness, compassion, and empathy, we have to take the time to teach them how to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic.

To close the gap between what we value and the messages our kids internalize, we must confidently lead our children to opportunities and experiences where they can authentically absorb the values we want them to have.

How can we prioritize serving others instead of it being an afterthought while raising our kids today?

5 Ways to Make Serving Others a Priority in Your Family

1. Be the example

Prioritize serving others in your own adult life first. Let your kids watch you care for people regularly. Always model how you can help make someone’s life easier.

If we want our children to be kind and empathetic, we must embody those values ourselves. As Rabbi Lyle Fishman told us, “Service is caught rather than taught.” What our children watch us do is more important than what they hear us say.

2. Expect your child to help around your home

Before worrying about taking our kids out to volunteer in the community or serve abroad, we must ensure we are teaching our sons and daughters how to help in our homes first.

raise-Contributors-kids-chores

What needs do you have in your home that your children can help fill? Allow them to help around the house by taking out the trash, doing the dishes, or helping take care of your pet. Family members should be expected to contribute and support one another, however, and whenever possible.

3. Communicate about how you live out your values daily

Go around the dinner table regularly and discuss how you showed kindness to another that day. Let your conversations focus on the values you want your child to embody instead of the grades you want to be on their report card.

Have consistent family conversations about how you purposely show kindness, love, or empathy to others.

4. Volunteer in your community consistently as a family

Schedule regular family service opportunities so that volunteering is just something that you do in your family. You may have to say no to something you already have scheduled on your calendar to fit in community service, but remember you want serving others to be a priority, so something else must go.

Talk to others and see where they serve and volunteer in your community. Join a service group at your place of worship, through your workplace or kids’ school. Check Volunteer Match to find local opportunities.

5. Volunteer on Vacation

When you travel, look for volunteer opportunities or places you can visit to teach your children the values you want them to have.

When our family traveled around the USA in an RV for seven months, we purposely visited places that supported our values, such as Boys Town in Nebraska and Give Kids the World near Disney World in Orlando.

The next time you plan a trip, figure out where you may be able to serve that community amidst your family vacation.

  • If we say that we want to raise kind kids, then it’s us who must teach our sons and daughters how to be kind.
  • If we say we want to be a family known for their kindness, generosity, and ability to love others well, we must prioritize opportunities to live those values out consistently.
  • If we say we want serving others to be an authentic part of our family culture, we must show up regularly.

No matter how overextended we may feel, it’s essential to take the time and make an effort to prioritize serving others, which will help our children develop the values and character traits that will make our world a better place.

Arizona-Family-Adventures

With its unique landscapes, from the iconic Grand Canyon to the saguaro-studded deserts, Arizona offers a playground for those seeking to embark on unforgettable family adventures. In a world where screens often dominate our attention, the Grand Canyon State beckons us to get outdoors and rekindle the spirit of adventure and create lasting memories with our loved ones.

Consider taking your family on these 9 family-friendly adventures around Arizona.

 

1. Visit the Grand Canyon National Park

Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park is a must if you live in Arizona or just visiting. Kids love signing up for the National Park Junior Ranger program which can be done at all the parks across the country. Read more about the program HERE.Circle-Pines-KOA-Williams-Arizona-Family-Fun

Head north 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix and stay at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams. This campground is so much fun for the entire family and has various types of camping accommodations from family cabins and teepees to covered wagons. (We’ve stayed in all of them and you can get more details HERE.)

Circle Pines KOA is the perfect hub for visiting nearby Bearizona too.

2. Try the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course 

Flagstaff is a popular destination and a 2-hour drive north of Phoenix. A family favorite is the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course which you can read all about HERE.

Flagstaff-Extreme-Adventure-Course-Family-Playtime

3. Stay at The Strawberry Inn

The Strawberry Inn is a family favorite and such an easy drive (under 2 hours) from Phoenix. There are a variety of accommodations for you to choose from which you can read all about HERE.

There are many serene areas for hiking and fishing near here. The Arizona Trail is nearby as well as Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

4. Visit Small Towns Along Route 66

Winslow is a 3-hour drive northeast of Phoenix. You can read about 10 fun things to check out when you’re in the town, plus a historic hotel to stay HERE.

Be sure to get your  Arizona Route 66 Passport to collect stamps along your journey!

5. Head South to Tucson, Arizona

Drive two hours south of Phoenix to enjoy all that Tucson has to offer. We love staying in a cabin at the Tucson KOA where we can swim, and play pickleball, and the kids can rent fun cycles to get around the property. There are many nearby places to visit like Saguaro National Park and Biosphere 2.

6. Hike the Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona is a must-visit destination whether you are visiting or live in Arizona. From Phoenix, Sedona is an easy 2-hour drive north. You can read more tips by visiting HERE.

7. Visit Arizona State Parks

Arizona has so many amazing state parks to visit. Some of our favorites are Lake Havasu State Park, Deadhorse Ranch in Cottonwood, Tonto Natural Bridge, and Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Park.

Arizona State Parks also has a great Junior Ranger program where kids can earn and collect stamps and badges.

8. Adventure in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon was a family favorite during our RV trip around the USA in 2014. We highly recommend checking it out and getting tickets to tour in advance. Read more about adventuring Antelope Canyon HERE.

9. Geocaching anywhere and everywhere!

Looking for an inexpensive outdoor family activity? Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt that gets the kids outside to discover new places. As a believer in the importance of family playtime, Geocaching is a perfect excuse to have a little fun competition together.

What are your favorite family Arizona adventures?

safer-internet-day

We often give our children a technological device with access to email or texting and forget to take the time to teach them about the dangers of cybercriminals.

Email is the most common method cybercriminals use, but more of them are also showing up by text. So we must take the time to teach our teens how cybercriminals operate and their digital attempts to manipulate, influence or deceive them into taking action that isn’t in their best interest.

3 Ways Cybercriminals Target Through Email and Text

Phishing: this is a process where cybercriminals will trick you with emails disguised as coming from a trusted contact or company. Cybercriminals send persuasive emails to get you to provide information or money by clicking on a malicious link or opening an infected attachment. The goal is to trick you into sharing data.

Spear phishing: these are communications that are targeted and appear more personal. Cybercriminals are getting good at mining personal information from the internet or your social media accounts to make the information in the email appear more legitimate. 

Smishing: targeted text messages wanting you to click a link or take urgent action.

Our children must understand that cybercriminals want them to click or open a link to gain access to private accounts and personal information, and it’s up to us to teach them the warning signs, so they don’t fall into their trap.

DOWNLOAD MY FREE SPOT THE SCAMS WORKBOOK 

 🚩 IDENTIFY THE RED FLAGS 🚩

Questions to ask yourself to determine if the suspicious email is legitimate…

  1. Does the subject line lure you into urgency, asking you to act fast? 
  2. Does the content evoke emotion, making you feel that you must act immediately? 
  3. Did it come at an unusual time outside of business hours?
  4. Are there typos or grammatical errors?
  5. Can you verify the sender, or does the email address look shady?

Stay alert and stay skeptical! Listen to your intuition, and don’t take any action requested in an email or text unless you are confident the communication is legitimate. Teach your child to always run it by you if they aren’t sure before clicking on any link or following any action.

DOWNLOAD MY FREE SPOT THE SCAMS WORKBOOK TO VISUALLY TEACH YOUR TEEN THIS IMPORTANT LIFE SKILL!

 

Joy-jar-family-tradition

Another annual calendar has been replaced, and another 52 weeks are ahead.

We want a more peaceful home, a loving and connected family, and to make memorable moments throughout this year ahead. But the truth is our busy, overwhelmed, distracted lives can easily hinder us. 

Yet, there are simple things we can do to create more joy and purpose during these days of raising our children and building our family legacy this year and beyond.

Start an Annual Joy Jar

I am a big fan of turning an empty glass jar into a treasure. (Read my blog post on 4 Ways to Create Meaningful Traditions in a Glass Jar)

Our annual family Joy Jar is one of my favorite simple glass jar traditions. It is simply a container on our kitchen counter and is a vessel to put mementos of fun memories throughout our year. 

family-tradition-joy-jar

Things you will always find in our Joy Jar are…

  • Ticket stubs (although they are rare anymore with the invention of apps and the internet)
  • Wristbands from events
  • Hotel room keys
  • Shells, rocks, acorns, or other treasures from time spent in the great outdoors

… you get the picture.

The goal is to go through the jar as a family on New Year’s Eve or Day and reminisce about everything you have done. So often, we feel like we’ve done very little, and doing this sparks our memories and gratitude for the many, even small, things we have done individually and together.

Now, you’ll want to add a little fun to this.

    1. Involve the kids in compiling things for the Joy Jar, although you will want to be the keeper of it so that all things that have little relevance to activities you did in the new year don’t end up there.
    2. On New Year’s, sit at the table (we usually do it over dessert) and pass the jar around the table, having each person pull something out. We cheer if we remember the memory or had a part in it. 
    3. After everything has been poured out, I like to put the contents into a Ziploc bag, mark the year on it, and throw it in my bin of things we will most likely never look at again. Or, some years, I throw everything away. 

joy-jar-family-tradition

It was amusing this year watching my college kids scramble to their wallets or bedrooms to try and find a few things to add to the jar since they live out of state most of the year. 

The point is FUN. CONNECTION. JOY. GRATITUDE. EASY. MEANINGFUL.

We all want and need more of these things in our lives and homes, so why not start a simple tradition like a JOY JAR in your home today?

Do you have this tradition or do anything similar?

Summer break is undoubtedly a great time to relax and vacation, but it’s also the perfect season to purposely teach your kids the life skills that will serve them well today and when they leave your home one day for adulthood.

Whether you have toddlers or teens, take the time over the summer months to teach your kids the life skills they may be lacking. During a busy school year, we sometimes don’t have an opportunity to teach our sons and daughters the crucial things they need to know.

Here are 11 life skills to teach your child this summer and beyond

1. Make a bed

Start simple. “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never be able to do the big things right. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” said Naval Admiral William H. McRaven in his University of Texas at Austin 2014 commencement address.

kids-make-bed

Teach your kids to start each day by making their bed, reinforcing the fact that little things matter.

READ: WHY YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR BED

2. Write and send mail

In this digital age we are raising kids in, we forget to teach our sons and daughters the basic skills of addressing an envelope properly or where to place the postage stamp. Do your kids know how much stamps cost or where to buy them? A perfect summer field trip might be to the post office.

kids-send-summer-postcards

This summer, have your son or daughter send postcards to their grandparents or other loved ones when you are traveling or mail them from your hometown. What thank you notes need to be written and mailed off to family and friends?

READ: 5 REASONS YOUR KIDS SHOULD WRITE THANK YOU NOTES

3. Pack their camp or travel bags

Whether it’s their sports bag or camp duffle, our sons and daughters need to learn to pack their bags with the contents they need without our help. If your child is younger, you may need to make a checklist for them to follow until they are in the habit of gathering everything by themselves. Older kids can make a list for themselves if need be.

The more you hold your kids responsible for their tasks, the more accountable they will become. 

READ: 5 REASONS TO MAKE SUMMER CAMP A PART OF YOUR FAMILY PLAN

4. Tip wait staff

Most parents know to teach their children proper restaurant etiquette- to look at the server in the eye and order their meals for themselves while politely using their manners.

But, many times, we forget to teach our children how to tip. When you eat out this summer, take the time to show your older children how to figure 15%-20% of the bill so they can confidently tip the server when they are out to eat with friends or on a date one day.

5. Make money

If our children drive a car, carry around an iPhone with a data plan, or wear name-brand clothing and shoes, they undoubtedly need to contribute to paying for these privileges.

Even if we can afford a comfortable lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that we should hinder our child from learning the valuable life skills of working and earning money. 

Can you come alongside your son or daughter and help them resell things online or start a business washing windows or mowing lawns? I’m also a big advocate of having teens get summer jobs in the community- at local restaurants and retailers like we used to do back in the day. 

READ: WHY MY TEENS WILL SPEND THE SUMMER WORKING IN A RESTAURANT

6. Manage money

If our children are going to make money, they need to learn to manage it.

Help your child open a bank account eventually attached to a checkbook or debit card. Teach them how to go into a bank branch and talk to the teller and help them manage their account online.

If your child isn’t old enough to work yet, another way for them to learn to manage money is by giving them a consistent monthly allowance. Don’t pay your child for their performance or for doing chores. But instead, provide them with an allowance for being a valuable part of your family.

READ: 4 TIPS TO GIVING KIDS AN ALLOWANCE

7. Contribute to the household

Everyone in our home is expected to pitch in, for the good of the family team, without getting paid a stipend for it. If you live in the house, you get to help take out the trash, empty the dishwasher, help with meals, and clean this or scrub that.

raise-Contributors-kids-chores

Your child should have repetitive contributing work that benefits the good of the entire household and not just responsibility for caring for their stuff.

8. Fill out paperwork

Come alongside your tweens and teens and begin teaching them how to fill out their camp, sports, and medical paperwork to the best of their ability now so that they are comfortable filling out their job and college applications one day. 

Filling out paperwork is a pain that none of us enjoy, but it’s a fact of life that our older children can certainly handle.

READ: 3 THINGS YOU NEED TO TEACH YOUR HIGH SCHOOLER BEFORE THEY GO TO COLLEGE

9. Know pertinent information

I was driving my daughter’s friend home, and she couldn’t tell me where she lived. The 14-year-old knew her address but couldn’t tell me the major crossroads near her house. Her cell phone was dead, and she didn’t know her Dad’s phone number either.

The adult kindly driving our child home shouldn’t need a data plan to get them there. Our child should know parents’ phone numbers and how to direct an adult to the vicinity of their home without an app. Teach your son or daughter the major crossroads near your home and how to navigate the local area using their brain instead of a device.

10. Make a meal

The summer season is a perfect time to teach our sons and daughters how to navigate the kitchen.

Our younger children can make and pack their lunches for camp, while our older ones can come alongside us and learn to cook dinners for the entire family once in a while. It’s also essential to take the time to teach your child how to navigate the grocery store and shop smart.

Grab my Kitchen and Summer Skills Lists in my ‘How to Create A Summer of Significance Printable Pack HERE!

Be sure to check out my interview “How to Launch Your Teen on Purpose: Teaching Life Skills to Your Teens Today That Will Prepare Them for Tomorrow on Kids Cook Real Food!

11. Laundry from start to finish

  Teach your child the task of doing their laundry from start to finish.

kids-laundry-chores

  “Very few people have a washing machine that’s more complicated than a tablet. If they can work an iPad, they can do laundry,” said childhood expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa, whose eight-year-old son made a YouTube video teaching college students how to do laundry.

Take the time this summer to teach your child to do their laundry from start to finish. 

READ: 8 THINGS YOU SHOULD STOP DOING FOR YOUR TEEN

We must remember that one of our main goals as a parent is to teach our children what they will need to know when they leave our home for adulthood. Use summer break as an opportunity to strengthen your son or daughter’s set of life skills.

What life skills will you be striving to teach your child this summer?

High school graduation time can be such a busy, bittersweet season. We must take the time and make an effort to find simple ways to celebrate our children and show them how valued they are.

Take the time to do the little things that can make a significant impact and make your graduate feel loved on their special day and beyond!

Here are 6 Ways to Create More Meaning for Your High School Graduate

1. Create a School Years Photo Album

What have you done with all of those school pictures through the years? Take the time to gather them and quickly put them in my You Are Loved School Days Keepsake Album for an easy yet meaningful graduation gift.

Get more information or purchase your You Are Loved School Days Keepsake Kit HERE! Everything you need to effortlessly create it is included, minus the photos.

2. 18 Letters of Love

For our daughter’s 18th birthday, I asked 18 women who have influenced her life to each write her a letter telling her how much she is loved. A collection of letters of love is a perfect idea to do for a graduation gift as well.

You could even ask loved ones to include their high school graduation photos and talk about what life was like for them after graduating high school and any advice they have for your child!

I laughed and cried reading all of the beautiful sentiments of love and encouragement expressed to our daughter in these cards. I’m so happy I took the time to ask family, friends, employers, and other mentors to contribute to this meaningful gift that will last a lifetime.

3. Create a Childhood Clothesline

If you have saved special clothing items from your son or daughter’s childhood, pull them out of the bin and hang those items from birth through their senior year on a ‘clothesline’ for their graduation celebration. This display made such a great decoration for our sons’ graduation, and all I had to buy was the clothesline and pins.

4. Display Childhood Photos and Yearbooks

My motto is to use what you already have to create meaningful celebration centerpieces. Pull out the yearbooks and display adorable photos from the past. Add a little confetti, and you’ve got a perfect celebratory table setup.

Why not recreate a precious photo from the past and then display them together?

5. Purchase Unique to Your Graduate Decorations

Nothing makes a person feel more special than something dedicated solely to them. I order personalized high school and college logo embellishments from my fellow writer friend Marybeth Bock for my graduates. Purchasing Class of 20** tableware in school colors also brings more meaning to your setup. I like to order our graduation partyware from Oriental Trading.

6. Give Personalized Gifts

My go-to gift for the graduates in our lives is personalized stationery with the graduate’s name and college logo from Arizona-based mom Pretty Paper Club. Or how about a new Bible embossed with your graduate’s initials?

What ideas do you have for making high school graduation celebrations more meaningful?

Allowance-financial-literacy-game

When I was growing up, the subject of money was taboo. It’s no wonder I struggled with overspending and compiling significant debt as a young adult. I worked two jobs, yet I didn’t have the skills to properly manage my money because I’d never learned how to do so. 

Therefore, I knew through my financial struggles that I wanted to do my best to raise my children with stronger financial skills. What they then did with that knowledge would be up to them as adults.

How can we raise money smart kids today?

We can teach them from a young age (or as teenagers) how to earn, spend, save, and give their money away.

Money-Quote

5 Ways to Raise MONEY SMART KIDS

1. Model conscious spending habits

Let your children see you consciously save, spend, and give away your money as they grow up in your home. Let them see your spending decisions match your values. Talk about how you choose to save money in one area so that you can spend in another.

Maybe you purposely buy a less expensive car or house than what you can afford so that you instead have money to take a memory-making family vacation or have money to give away to people in need.

Perhaps you teach your kids how to stretch their dollars by modeling the value of shopping at thrift stores, resale retailers, and consignment shops. Shopping second-hand is good for the environment as well as for our wallets.

Explain to your kids that the less you spend on material items, the more you have to spend on experiences that matter. Be conscious of what you choose to spend your money on because your children are paying attention.

2. Consider ways for your child to earn money

There are so many ways to help even young children begin to earn their own cash today.

Teach your children the value of recycling and that by helping our environment, you can also build up your bank accounts. When our kids were young, we lived in California, where recycling plastic water bottles and aluminum cans can earn you cash in hand.

Now we take our already-read books to Half Price Books and our outgrown clothes to consignment shops for the kids to earn cash. Our older kids sell items on online sites like Offer Up, eBay, or Poshmark.

How could your son or daughter begin to earn their own money before they’re old enough to get a job in the community?

3. Give your kids a consistent allowance to manage

Giving an allowance is a way that we can begin to teach our kids how to save, spend, and donate their money.

An allowance isn’t earned in our home but instead given as an opportunity for our kids to learn how to budget. Our kids are learning how to manage their money, and the goal is for them to see that there’s not an unlimited supply of cash. They are learning to make choices when it comes to their spending and saving.

READ 4 TIPS FOR GIVING KIDS AN ALLOWANCE 

One weekend our daughter used her allowance money to go to the water park with her friends. When she came home, she said she couldn’t believe how expensive it was. She would never know those waterpark outings were expensive if we continued to pay for them.

Allow your child to feel the pain of their spending choices now while the stakes are low.

4. Have your child open and manage their bank account

It’s a good idea to have your children each open a bank account early in life. After beginning with a savings account, they can eventually begin a checking account, possibly with a debit card attached, so they can start to learn how to use banking tools successfully before leaving home.

Teach your children how to deposit and withdraw money in the bank and online. I prefer my kids still go into the bank branch and work face-to-face with the tellers, even though most of the transactions could be done online.

5. Invest in tools to help you teach financial lessons

Engage your children in learning about important financial concepts in your mission to raise Money Smart Kids.

The Allowance Game was a family favorite when our kids were growing up! If you’ve got elementary school-aged kids, grab this board game at Lakeshore Learning HERE.

Allowance-financial-literacy-game

How are you striving to raise Money Smart Kids in your home?

Promposal-Production-Is-it-Modern-Day-Chivalry-or-Nonsense

It’s that time of year when teenage boys around America are expected to put on a production to ask a girl to the traditional high school dance.

Is the Promposal modern-day chivalry or plain nonsense?

After a long day of school and varsity baseball practice, my son and his friend trudged through our house carrying an armload of art supplies and poster boards.

When my son should be spending time on his physics homework or hanging out with his grandparents who are visiting from out of town, he has to design a sloganed poster to invite his girlfriend to the upcoming junior prom.

Promposal-Production-Is-it-Modern-Day-Chivalry-or-Nonsense

My parents, who attended high school prom together, can’t believe this is what’s going on today. Knowing teenage boys don’t naturally do this sort of thing, my Dad asked his grandson and his friend if they feel like decorating posters? 

“Not really. But, the girls want us to do it.”

Sure they like the girl. Sure they want to take her to the dance. It’s been a high school rite of passage through the generations. Neither my Grandpa, my Dad nor my husband ever had to invite their date to prom with anything other than their words, so why are our sons now expected to conjure up a themed presentation to ask a girl to the dance?

As if teenage guys don’t have enough on their plate today, they must now come up with a cheesy proposal production as is the societal norm. He’d better not think of asking a girl to the dance without at least a decorated poster board in hand or he would be considered unthoughtful, uncaring or rude.

Why are our sons expected to put on a proposal production to ask a date to prom?

What happened to just a good guy asking a sweet girl to the high school dance?

How come that’s no longer acceptable?

Why do we insist on turning what should be a simple invitation into a production today?

Because there wouldn’t be anything post-worthy for social media if there weren’t a production, and we all know how much everyone loves a good curated photo for the feed.

And forget the decorated poster board. Some take it to another level buying oversized teddy bears, shoes, jewelry, and the list goes on. I’m sure the bigger, the better. Check out this post or your kids’ social media feeds if you don’t believe me.

The promposal production seems like another great way to try and one-up each other too. Oh, your guy only decorated a poster for you? Well, check out what my man (or his Mom) did for me…. and the comparison game is on. Just what our youth need.

I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around the concept and why we’re accepting this nonsense to be commonplace now.

What type of marriage proposal are girls going to expect one day if they need a song and dance to accept an invitation to a high school dance?

Our daughter said she thinks the promposal idea is “cute.” I explained to her that it’s adorable when she and her girlfriends make posters for one another’s birthdays and bring them to middle school to celebrate. There is nothing cute about expecting a young man to design a presentation to ask you to prom.

Let’s stop putting pressure on kids to have to put on a post-worthy show for what should be a simple invitation to a timeless high school event.

Let’s put our efforts into raising confident and kind young men and women who don’t need a showy production to feel good about themselves or to enjoy their lives.

Let’s begin to tell our kids that a post-worthy promposal production is not necessary.

I love this time of year. Our Arizona weather is just perfect; the kids competitive sports are over (or should be, ahem… soccer…. that’s for another post) and my husband’s hockey job is coming to an end after yet another season. Our evenings and weekends tend to be more relaxed making time for bike rides around the neighborhood, board games and the occasional little league baseball game and practice. We all welcome this simpler pace.

Simplifying is one of the main reasons we are pushing pause on our normal existence. People either think we’re out of our minds for wanting to do this cross country RV trip as a family or others say they are envious and would love to do it. Many tell me stories of how they traveled around the US every summer hitting different spots with their families growing up. Family travel builds connections. It says to each member you are important and worth investing in.

I’m aware that what we’re about to do is not feasible for most people financially or time wise. I am fully aware of the blessings we have been bestowed in order to pull this off. I don’t take any of that for granted. I thank the Lord every single day.

But, if we’re being honest… how many people would really do this trip if they could? One friend called it very courageous and that’s stuck with me. I think she’s right. What we’re about to do definitely takes courage on many levels.

Right now, I relish my Mondays because after hectic weekends alone with the kids, my house and time is quiet once everyone is off to school. I can actually think straight. I know a lot of us, whether we stay home with the kids or not, relish that time when the kids go off to school and we’re alone with ourselves. There’s not going to be a lot of quiet time in 43 feet of living space with 6 people up in it for close to a year. Whoa. There will be a lot of prayers going up for patience I’m sure.

Let’s look at it this way. What if you found out you only had a week left to live, or a month or even a year? Would you be so worried about sending the kids off to school every day? Would you still race around to all the sports practices, games and lessons? Or would you drop it all and do what you’ve always wanted to do with them, whatever that may be for you?

See this is how I look at this trip. Do I really want to be home (road) schooling per say? Not exactly. Like I said, selfishly I enjoy those quiet hours of each day that are mine and that the kids are actually being taught by licensed individuals. But, I will have many quiet hours ahead of me. With four kids born within 18 months, our home is going to get quiet fast.

Parenting in the day to day can feel monotonous. Take time to think about the heart of your family and what you want your kids to take away when they grow up and move to the next phase of life. Think about simplifying your family routine. I say stop the madness even just for a little while. Push pause. I don’t think you will regret it.

Our 13-year-old triplets are living without cell phones. What kind of parents are we?

Let’s pause and take a close look at our kids.

  • Our oldest is all about the social and would be unable to focus on anything but that device, so he’s out. He is not mature enough. 
  • The middle man would probably rarely look at the thing, but he would most likely lose it in the first week anyway. He is not focused enough.
  • Our third born is responsible enough for a phone, but is the one to say, why do I need one anyway? Not interested enough. 
  • And baby girl just turned 11 and, in our book, is way too young for such a device. Not old enough.

According to these four, they are the only 13-year-olds left on the earth without a cell phone. They don’t realize this, but this is precisely the point! Don’t you want your family to be different?

Here are 10 Reasons We are Not Getting Our 13-Year-Olds a Smartphone

1. Smartphones are a privilege

When did our parents allow us the same privileges and material items that they had when we were growing up? That would be… never.

This isn’t the case anymore. What do young kids need with a cell phone, and why are we, as parents, so concerned about being able to communicate with our kids constantly? Our boys are away at church camp this weekend, and it is strange not to be able to reach each other. But it’s okay, and I think it is healthy for all of us to learn to do so.

2. Smartphones hinder delayed gratification

I want my kids to learn to wait for something. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Just because you turn 13 and because it’s what everyone has and is doing isn’t a good enough reason. Every child who jumps in the car with us to go anywhere whips out their phone, and mine lean over to assist in playing their game of choice or checking out social media post updates.

It saddens me that kids no longer know how to ” be.” I know we are happy when they have these gadgets in hand because it honestly means more quiet time for us, but I also know it can be detrimental. Can you imagine a road trip without a gadget in our child’s hand? We don’t even want to consider it.

3. Smartphones can be a crutch

The other night, our daughter’s best friend texted her Mom (who was out to a nice adult dinner) at 10:00 p.m., saying that she couldn’t sleep and wanted to go home. Boy, do I remember feeling like that a time or two growing up at sleepovers? The difference is that I had no cell phone to call my Mom, so I pushed through.

And you know what? I made it through and learned that it wasn’t so bad after all, or I realized I didn’t want to do that again. I learned a lesson either way. I love this girl and love her parents even more, so this isn’t a judgment, just an observation of what we are creating, and I notice it regularly.

4. Smartphones distract students at school

I was in one of my son’s 6th-grade classes, and the teacher had to tell students that they could use their phones to research the project, but she would be walking around to make sure no one was texting or using the phone in any other way.

Do teachers today really need one more thing to worry about?

I had to sign a waiver for a different teacher asking if the students could use their phones in class. I signed it and checked the no box, considering they don’t even own phones. A few weeks later, the teacher called to tell me that I was the only one who said no and that I may want to rethink my answer. So she returned the form so I could say, Yes, my sons can use someone else’s phone in class. 

5. Smartphones hinder social relationships

Where we live, ‘dating’ is rampant in middle school. It is easy to fall into a ‘relationship’ behind texts and social posts today. I remember having an eye for boys at this age, so I get it. But, I certainly wasn’t telling ANYONE about it besides my very best friend, who was telling me her deepest secrets at the same time.

We are losing all innocence by giving kids too much too soon. My kids need to mature, figure out who they are, and become somewhat secure before they can navigate a relationship over texts and Snapchat.

6. Smartphones should be for working people

Why are we willing to fork out our hard-earned money each month so our youngsters can have a phone and data plan? We’re not kidding when we ask our kids how they plan to pay for this privilege. We as parents need to make sure we are creating a desire in our kids to work toward something so that they can buy the things they want one day.

7. Smartphones prohibit independence

Our kids don’t need phones because everyone around them has one that they can use. However, when they try to use a friend’s phone from the bus or school to try and plan a hangout, I have to remind them that this is why they don’t have their own phone. We can talk in person when they get home. Our musical son has to go into the school office once in a while to let us know that his lesson got done early or was canceled so we can pick him up.

Yes, a child can still use the school’s landline. Otherwise, our son must sit outside and wait for you….old-school style.

8. Just because we can afford a smartphone, doesn’t mean we need to buy it

Yes, we can afford phones and family data plans. But I think this is another powerful message to our kids—just because we can afford something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to spend our money on. Our kids have become very aware of people (from friends to the working poor who receive free meals at St. Vincent de Paul, where we serve) who don’t have “money” yet have iPhones. They would never be able to observe and question this with a phone in hand.

9. Smartphone ownership can cause entitlement

Kids should not feel entitled to own any material item. When they are 15, we will also discuss not buying them cars. Before you feel too bad for my tweens, they are still a part of their iGeneration, as they each own an IPAD and have Instagram accounts. It is good for our children to begin learning to tread the technological waters but in moderation.

10. Why do they need a smartphone again?

I know people have absolute reasons for their children to own phones—having an only child, older siblings who have them, or kids who are going back and forth between homes due to divorce. To each his own, and only you know your family dynamic. Our family doesn’t have a good enough reason right now.

What age do you think is appropriate for buying a child a smartphone?