[openbook booknumber="ISBN:9781601421128 " templatenumber="1"] What do you think of when you think of teenagers? Do you think of rebellion? Bad attitudes that really stink? If you don't have teens yet, does it strike fear in your heart? Is it an age that you are not looking forward to? If so, check out Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations (Multnomah, 2008) by twin brothers, Alex and Brett Harris. Once you've read it, then pass it on to your kid and go through it with him/her. After reading this book, I realized the "typical" teen doesn't have to be my kid. Instead, I found that the teen years can actually be ones full of hope, if we approach it differently.
Although this book is directed at teenagers, I think that it is best read before your kids hit this age. And like I said, read it yourself first before you hand it over to them. It will give you some ways to connect and challenge your child as you interact and talk about what is in the book.
So, what are "hard things"? Well, it depends on who you are. What is hard for one person may not be hard for the next. The book is full of examples of teens doing things that are way beyond what our society at large expects of them. The brothers highlight five types of hard things: 1) things that take you out of your comfort zone, 2) things that go beyond what's expected or required, 3) things that are too big for you, 4) things that don't pay off immediately, and 5) things that go against the crowd. They devote a chapter to each of these, with plentiful examples.
Even though I am (way) past the teen years, I personally was challenged by the message. The one chapter that spoke to me most was chapter 8, entitled "Small Hard Things" (#4 in the list above). When I was a teen, I wanted to do big things for the Lord, but if I was honest, I really wanted to make a name for myself.
When that desire never really materialized, I began to wonder what I was doing, "just" being a stay-at-home mom, doing things that no one ever noticed or saw. But according to the boys, this is exactly the point. Sometimes we are called by God to do things that no one will ever know. This, for an ambitious girl, is the hard thing that I am having to face. Will I still do the ordinary things in life with a joyful heart, even if no one says thank you, praises me, or pays me for it?
As a society, we tend to expect very little from our teenagers, and (not surprisingly) they deliver. This book has challenged me as a parent to expect more from my teens, not less, and see how they will rise to the challenge. And I have not been disappointed.
Sure, Janna still likes to sleep in and I still have to remind her to be kind to her younger brothers. But after reading the book, I have seen her look at her life differently as well. She has stepped out of her comfort zone in helping out with various church ministries and service opportunities. As she sees the Lord's faithfulness as she does so, she is challenged to keep moving onto harder and riskier projects.
When the twins wrote this, they were seventeen, doing exactly what they are challenging their peers to do. There are points when they do sound their age, but for the most part, what they share is mature. They sure have inspired me, a 40-something-year old! Maybe they might challenge you too as well. If these teens were doing things like this, then what's to stop me?
Bottom line: We as parents have an opportunity to inspire and challenge our teens to rebel---not in the customary teenage way---but against the low expectations of this culture. Just imagine what God might be able to do with kids who see beyond themselves and are willing to dream big dreams. Watch out!