Parents how_to_spoil_dht

Published on July 26th, 2007 | by Gregg Harris

How To Spoil Do Hard Things





At one of our Do Hard Things conferences in Dallas I made the following challenge to the parents in attendance. Alex & Brett thought is was good enough that they decided to share it with everyone here on the blog as well. Read it together as a family if you can and let us know what you think. It’s an encouragement from one parent to another.

Parents, the first thing I want to tell you this evening is what not to do — and that is to hijack The Rebelution or the phrase “Do Hard Things” and use it as a way to nag, or ridicule your young adult as they are living and working with you. I share this because I know how easily this can be done.

As a pastor, I often have to deal in marriage counseling with a couple where the wife or the husband will say things like: “Yeah, love and honor till death do us part. Oh yeah, tell me about it!”

And what are they doing? They’re taking their sacred wedding vows and using them as a way to slap their spouse in the face. That doesn’t do a very good job of enhancing the marriage.

In the same way, as parents you are going to be severely tempted, when you walk into your son or daughters bedroom and you see the ordinary chaos that ensues in that place, to say “Oh yeah, do hard things.” And what you’ve just done is you have, in a way, taken the wind out of the sails of that phrase. You will spoil the wonderful impact of those three words.

So I encourage you to protect it. Use it in a way that does not use it in vain, or in a way that demeans it or makes your kids despise it. With that understanding, pray for your young people. Ask God to bless them. Don’t just pray about them; pray for them. Ask God to work in their hearts and in their minds to will and to do what is pleasing to Him.

And if you realize that you have already been using this phrase in a negative way, I want you to “do hard things” yourself and apologize to your children. Let them know that Do Hard Things is more than just cleaning their room or taking out the trash. It is a mindset that prepares them to expect great things from God as they attempt to do great things for God.

Tell your children that you are here to support and advise and encourage them as they set awesome goals and strive to attain them. Then, sit down together and identify some “hard things” that they may want to do, things that will stretch them in their character and their skills, and cause them to grow stronger and more effective, things that will turn our culture’s expectations of teenagers upside down, for the glory of God and the good of others.

Let them know that you’re the manager/agent and they’re the artist, you’re the coach and they’re the athlete. You help provide the contacts, the finances, and the initial know-how to get their dreams up and off the ground—they provide the passion and the energy. If they fail at first, let them know that you’ll be right there to pick them up, dust them off, and get them going again. You are the launch-crew. They are the rockets. This is the opportunity and the responsibility that comes with being the parent of a rebelutionary. Make every shot count.

So, what do you think? How has the phrase “Do Hard Things” been used or abused in your home? Has it become merely another reason to bring down the laundry every day? Though “Do Hard Things” certainly includes everyday small things, is it wise to focus it on that? What kind of big hard things should teens be doing? What do you and your parents intend to do as a team?


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About the Author

is the father of Alex and Brett, along with five other great kids, all of whom are devoted to doing hard things for the glory of God and the good of others. Mr. Harris is the co-author, along with his son, Brett, of the upcoming book, Raising Kids to Do Hard Things and instructor for a workshop under the same name.



  • Grace

    “In the same way, as parents you are going to be severely tempted, when you walk into your son or daughters bedroom and you see the ordinary chaos that ensues in that place, to say “Oh yeah, do hard things.” And what you’ve just done is you have, in a way, taken the wind out of the sails of that phrase.”
    I’ve been blessed with parents who are usually very gracious when I fail, thank God! But often times I beat up myself, mentally. I look at what I did, compare it to what I wanted to do, and ridicule myself for ineffective labor or wasted time. (Especially when it comes to collage homework!)
    But God said “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” He didn’t tell me that I had to “do it perfectly” or even “do it well,” just “do it with all your might.” That way God can “use the weak things in the world to shame the strong…”

    “Though Do Hard Things certainly includes everyday small things, is it wise to limit it to that? What kind of big hard things should teens be doing?” To me the hardest thing in the world is to pursue God and His will for my life. It is so hard because His will and my will are often diametrically opposed, He surprises me with tasks that I never would have wanted to do. (For example: being the only Christian in a fashion major at a collage that revels in worldly thinking.) I think that God have a very specific set of “hard things” for each of His children and that if they want God more than anything else in the world, everything else falls into place. In my experience, as long as I’m remembering that my purpose is to glorify God by relying on His grace to do His works, it takes the burden off of me leaving me free to share the wonder of His ways with those around me.

  • Wow. I really appreciated that message. I don’t have time right at the moment to answer the questions, but I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this.

  • Karen Kovaka

    Oooohhhhhh.

    That’s incredible – in and of itself, and for the myriad of other applications of the same concept. Cheapening words is always a tragedy.

  • Wow…your dad has some wisdom. It is so easy to ruin a phrase and use it for petty, personal gain. I think very highly of “Do Hard Things.” It is something I want to live by, for it is a tangible way to exhibit Christ. However, God needs to be getting the glory in our doing the hard things; we should not try to make someone live the way we do if the Lord has not called them to it.

  • Ella: I’m curious, would you say that God doesn’t call certain people to Do Hard Things?

  • Alyssa

    Here are my mom’s thoughts about this. She says that teens need to be careful that, in the process of doing hard things, they do not leave out family. The family does not exist to serve us; we are to serve the family. And Dad added this, how can we be ready to do very difficult things when we can’t even do the everyday things like clean our rooms and be polite to our siblings? I think it is very easy to just want to do things that will get us public recognition while ignoring the things that are not so easily observed. But before David became king, he served as a shepherd and as King Saul’s servant. However, I’m not completely disagreeing with your dad’s thoughts. Words are easily cheapened.
    But o me an example of a teen doing hard things would be Avery Hitch. She ministers with her family, the music group Simple Grace. She wrote her first book at the age of fourteen and has since written 2 more. However, she would get up at 4:30 in the morning and stay up late at night to write, using her own personal time to do hard things, not time when she should have been serving her family. That’s real sacrifice.

  • Alyssa: Thank you so much for sharing your parents’ thoughts with us! Let them know that our father didn’t mean to say that Do Hard Things doesn’t include small things — just that it doesn’t just mean small things.

  • For me, it’s been rather difficult to think of blanket statements about what “big hard things” we should do. I think that we have to be careful not to tell people they should be doing things which they’re not called to do. I suppose I could say that “we need to minister to others” or “try to make a difference in the world,” but that looks different for each person. For someone, that may be traveling to Nigeria to do missions work, whereas for another, it is just bringing in donuts to work or taking time to talk to someone who looks like they need a friend. (Perhaps this is what Ella meant?) That definitely doesn’t give the missionary to Nigeria any right to think of themselves as being better than the person who stayed home and “just” brought donuts into work; they are both serving where the Lord placed them, and that’s the most important (and quite often the hardest) thing of all. I’ve been driving myself up a wall lately because nothing is really going on at my church (people have been volunteering too much…there’s nothing for me to do ), and, although I have a *ton* that I can do outside of that, I feel like it’s not enough. For a while, I kept looking for something to pour my energy into, and (pardon the cliche), I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, until a very good friend finally told me that I really needed to trust God more and just relax. Right now, the hardest thing for me is to chill out and wait on the Lord and trust that He has me where He wants me, and that He will bring a ministry I can be involved in when the time is right, and not before.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, and blanket statements are possible. The fact that I can’t think of any that apply generally doesn’t necessarily indicate that they don’t exist. Or perhaps I’m including too much under my definition of what “small things” are (I consider the “small things” to be those things that all Christians are called to do daily…taking up our cross and following Christ), so I could have defined myself out of an answer. So, if I am wrong, please let me know. :-)

  • lewsta

    Good point, and one I’d not thought of, that such phrases can be coopted and used to tear down. Perhaps the hardest thing we all of us have to do is to use our time/energies/resources/tongues to build up, rather than tear down. It is far too easy to find fault, and rip away. (makes the “ripper” feel just a bit superior, too, does it not?) Over and over we see the call to love….consider what love “does”–the hardest thing to do. It builds up, does not teat down, does not find fault…hopes and believes all things…..sure, when a kid is so preoccupied they can’t get their game together and cart the laundry downstairs and fling it in the machine, a parent can get frustrated (“have I been teaching them all this time for nothng?”) Perhaps some face time is in order to discuss priorities (note: I said DISCUSS, not declare) and motives. But that’s “harder” than to carp on what was left undone.

    bottom line, I believe, is to continually keep in view walking out the heart of a servant. And keeping straight one’s present calling. Living at home, there would naturally follow some obligations/responsibilities that would not necessarily follow in a college dorm or shared housing situation. Full time work would carry a different set than full time school, or being part of an in home family business. “Hard things” abound in EVERY setting…there is always someone to serve, build up, encourage, help, lead, listen to. Love builds up…and THAT is hard. Its easy to coast, especially when there are things to “do” at every turn. Leave it to Mr. Harris to see this, and point it out. Excellent.

  • Laura

    How True!! There is nothing that spoils a good theme and use it to nag. I mean, i really like the fact that there is a teen youth movment that encourages us to not be kept back by stereotypes (and started by teens), but when your parrents use it to they’re advantage, it makes “Doing hard things” seem revolting. I’m not saying that I hate my parrents. I don’t. However it’s REALLY annoying when they turn something around to be used as nagging. Thanks for the message!!!!

  • Phoebe

    As I read Michelle’s post, it crossed my mind that prayer is the hardest “small” thing we can do. Prayer puts our focus on God. To truly pray, we must “trust God and just relax,” as Michelle said.

    I’m asking myself in my soul right now, just how much do I believe prayer is really and truly vitally important? Do I really believe that it is one of the best hard things I can do?

  • Sorry, guys, I didn’t make myself super clear in my last comment. I do believe everyone should “Do Hard Things.” Our world would definitely be a better place if we all “lived outside of the boxes” the world has dictated us to be in. I was just trying to say that God has different times for each person to do this, and we cannot try to get ahead of His plan regarding people.

    I really hope that clarifies my previous comment. Normally words come easy, but they aren’t right now!

  • If I can, this might best clify my two comments. I just don’t think you can go preaching at a person to “Do Hard Things” if the Lord has not begun to open their heart to the idea. Perhaps that sounds harsh of me; I am not trying for it to be. I feel that the Lord needs to be working (even if silently and internally) in a person before you should be jumping on them to “Do Hard Things.” I can use my experiences that my whole family would find: if we encouraged our unsaved family members to “Do Hard Things” and be different, they would not embrace it.

    I guess for my family continuing to be the black sheep regarding Christianity and still showing love is one way we can “Do the Hard Things….” for it sure isn’t easy. Yet, I have to remember Christ was rejected too.

  • How encouraging! Is your dad going to make the same plea at the Indianapolis conference?… I hope so.

  • Angie I.

    For some people, being nice to their siblings and cleaning their room does constitute Doing Hard Things. It does for me. And when I read about people like the young lady Alyssa mentioned, I get really discouraged. I want to be one of those people who write books and play music and minister to people and all that, but how can I do that when I still have trouble helping my Mom do laundry?

  • Tiffany

    Angie I.: I can totally sympathize with thinking, ok, i can hardly do my school and daily chores and all with a good attitude, much less write books, but i think that alot of times we may think that to minister we HAVE to move to Africa, or start a traveling ministry, but alot of times some of the most meaningful ministry is when you CAN do the laundry and school work with a good attitude and you can minister to your siblings by being patient and loving even when the are.. umm, annoying :) and you can help out extra when you can. Sometimes you have to have the desire to do more, then, instead of just jumping into writing your first book, you can work up to doing more and more of what you and your parents see as “Doing Hard Things” and ministering. Does that make sense?

    Also, I totally agree with alyssa when she says that you don’t want to replace family time with “serving the lord” I have seen this alot and even at times in what i want to do, i look at it and see that it would cut into family time. :)

    Anyways, i know i am late looking at all this and posting about it and i am not sure if it all makes sense, but i do think that the way alot of teenagers act, doing their own sports, and extra things doing the minimal work to help out is definetly NOT doing hard things! :) Helping out with laundry never crosses some of their minds! It is sad.

  • Laura

    Mmmmmm…. I will try and try again to have good attitudes even when I despise cleaning Bathrooms!

  • Gabriela

    Well, I don’t really share a lot of this with my parents,so I’m not sure how they would use it. I love this way of looking at “Do Hard Things” though and pray that this message reaches lots of parents. Smart

  • Emily Scheerer

    This is an interesting perspective on it, and while I agree that it shouldn’t be a nagging kind of thing I am asking my dad to be a part of my goal to do hard things. I know that for me personally I will probably run out of steam by Christmas, because I’m lazy and it will be ‘hard’ for me to continue alone. So, while I can see the point, I think most of us should share this with our parents because it’s not about doing hard things alone, it’s about community.

    *Sorry if someone already said the equivalent to this, I haven’t read all the other posts yet

  • Sarah Pena

    “Has it (hard things)become merely another reason to bring down the laundry every day?”

    Well for me it does mean much more than that but it does help me “bring down the laundry”. When I have to do a job I think, “Do a hard thing!” and I pray for God to help me do it. It makes it a lot easier.

    Brett and Alex,

    Man is your dad good! I went to a homeschooling convention last July where he was one of the guest speakers but I had decided to go to some different sessions. Now I am really regretting I didn’t make the time to hear him. :(

    God bless!

    Sarah. :)

  • Jon T

    Angie I.: I can sympathize with that kind of thinking too, but I think that it is probably a lot easier to do hard things when you have already done something really hard. :) Part of the reason that I reached that conclusion was because I read a story about two young people who traveled the whole Appalachian Trail. They said that after they were through, they just felt like they could do anything.

  • Alli P.

    My family, and my mother specifically, really appreciate ‘DO HARD THINGS’. It makes it much easier for me to kepp on track, because they know I’m trying and they usually keep me accountable. I think before I can do BIG Hard Things, I need to learn to do LITTLE Hard Things, such as keeping my room clean, and submitting to their judgements as my parents. After God has brought me into submission in those areas, Then I can be a more moldable piece of clay for God’s glory.

  • Peggy V (a mom)

    Point taken….But dearly beloved children, I don’t think his point is for parents to not ask their kids to do things. I usually err in that direction. I was buying velcro shoes for my sixth grade son….. As a single, low-income mom, I usually think that their life is “hard enough” let’s just survive and I ask them to do too little. Every once in a while I realize that if I keep this up they will not be able to even care for themselves and their living space when it is time to move out. Or worse yet they may never move out and on to adult life.

    I think the point is not to take a kid’s excitement about “Doing Hard Things” and use it sarcastically or negatively and undermine their attempts to put it into practice.

    When I was a teen I would think about taking out the garbage, but somehow my dad coming along and telling me to take out the garbage made me not want to do it.

    In the army one time I had overnight duty, the sergeant in charge wasn’t getting along with me, she waited until morning to tell us to strip, mop and wax a large floor after we had been awake all night and it was time to go. I was so angry, but the First Sergeant who understood the situation, still said that we still had to do it. It was a hard lesson that I still look back to after all these years. Sometimes we don’t want to do it, we think its not fair, but we still have to do it. It’s the right thing to do.

    Everyone want to do what they want to do. They want to choose the “Hard things” that they want to do and maybe……forget the (maybe not so) hard things that they don’t want to do?

  • G-Man (a dad)

    Man, I really appreciate you guys at Do Hard Things. I just periodically browse your website, because it’s like a BIG shot of encouragement. Encouragement to encourage my 3 teens (well, oldest is 22). Sir, thanks for the reminder. Sarcasm=Discouragement. Encourage by creative support. Pray for them. Thanks again!

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  • Corinna

    The problem is when many Christians write only about the pastors, missionaries, teachers, nurses, musicians, and writers…and they forget that God has called some to be dancers, painters, chemists, botanists, engineers, deacons, physicists, mathematicians, inventors…etc.

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  • Caleb

    Wow, this blog is fantastic! The Harris brothers ace it every time.

  • I worked with an antivaxer but it was prior to the Wakefield study. His arguments against it were a bit on the nebulous side. The general idea was that healthy kids were perfectly capable of fighting off childhood diseases without the aid of vaccines (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and that those vaccines were more likely to cause disease. Of course, this was the same guy who would routinely bring in “chemical-free” (i.e. rancid) snacks to share.

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