Queens Banning Tik Tok

Our current news cycle is full of stories about Tik Tok. Government officials are threatening to ban the site because of foreign influence and its negative effects on children. In reading the comments on articles about this issue, many mothers and fathers express how damaging and addictive Tik Tok has been for their children.  Many seem eager for the state to step in.  G.K. Chesterton once said, “Without the family, we are helpless before the state.”  But the comments coming from these families instead show they feel helpless without the state. But do we really need the government to ban Tik Tok?  

I am not an expert on these matters but it seems like it’s in society’s best interest to get rid of Tik Tok.  Nonetheless, banning it seems like an exercise in futility. When the underlying culture has a desire for such content, another Tik Tok will soon emerge.  Sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook can be equally destructive.  Supply will always meet demand. 

So what are we to do considering the ready supply of damaging technology, the insatiable appetite of addicted youth, and the mountain of evidence showing us that these platforms damage our kid’s minds, destroy their self-confidence, and undercut the values taught in our homes? (If you feel these concerns are exaggerated or just the age-old fear of  change – go on TikTok, do some simple searches, and see what sort of narcissistic, immoral, and demeaning content is readily available to young children.)

To seek solutions, I turn to a topic to which many busy moms can relate.  Due to a variety of reasons: stress, poor willpower, and convenience foods, it seems like every other week I am starting a new diet – seeking to undo the damage accrued over the last week. On those rare occasions when my diet is successful, the key to success lies in two things: ensuring that I control both my demand for junk food and my supply of it. I have to psychologically prepare before a new diet – I have to be motivated to actually stop eating junk.  But I also have to actually get rid of the supply. If chocolate chips are accessible, then when the stress descends, I grab a handful. But if they aren’t there, I’m unlikely to drive to the store to get some.

Faerie Queen,  Briton Riviere

Influencing Demand

I believe in order to overcome Tik Tok, and all the other destructive pulls upon our children, we would be wise to remember what a “family” can really be –  what it is meant to be. As  Chesterton explains, 

“The “state” is made up of a number of small kingdoms, of which a man and a woman become the king and queen, and on which they exercise a reasonable authority, subject to the common sense of commonwealth, until those under their care, grow up to found similar kingdoms and exercise similar authority. This is the social structure of mankind, far older than all its records, and more universal than any of its religions, and all attempts to alter it are mere talk and tomfoolery.” GK Chesterton

We as mothers control supply and demand in our little kingdoms –  our homes. We are the queens of our castles. Inside this kingdom, we set up rules and traditions. When I was a child, our family-kingdom had different traditions than the neighboring ones. We shuddered when we heard other kids say  “shut up” because it wasn’t allowed in our home.  They surely thought we were strange. Every Saturday night we all gathered around and cheered our brothers while they had boxing matches in our living room. Each kingdom is strange because each kingdom is as unique as its king and queen.  This is part of the joy and diversity of life, observing the strangeness of other families while we ourselves belong to a strange family. 

The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.

G. K. Chesterton

Children accept the reality they are given. Those of us older than 35 never yearned for a cell phone when we were kids.  We didn’t whine for a Tik Tok account.  Of course we didn’t –  these things didn’t exist.  We can make them not exist in our kingdom.  We are allowed to have family rules and traditions. It is not “controlling” to set up a family environment the way you want to. We are not a tyrant if as “Queen” we have a plan for our kingdom. It is called parenting. Our method of rule is particularly important when our children are young. These are the years they are developing their morals, their sense of self, their ability to have self-control, and their psychological and emotional depth. Often as mothers, we feel we are always saying no, particularly in our immoral culture. But the wonderful thing about setting up your family culture is that you aren’t saying “no” – you are saying “yes!”  You aren’t ruled by worldly culture – you are your own ruler. You are replacing those chocolate chips with colorful fruits.  You are developing a home full of adventures and traditions. My husband grew up playing soccer – he has coached all our kids and after work he plays soccer with them on the lawn.  We are a soccer family. I grew up traveling – our kids have developed a love for it as well and we take them on foreign adventures. 

If our children display an interest in something, we encourage them to pursue it and include it in our family traditions. If we fill the space with wholesome activities and interests, then our children are less likely to feel a lack from not having Tik Tok.

Another way of controlling “demand” is to educate our children about the dangers of Tik Tok and other technologies and the harmful messages found therein. Children are capable of grasping truth and the more we teach them, the more they understand. We can help them recognize the consequences of bad habits by pointing out everyday examples-  from my own inability to resist chocolate chips to their little brother’s habit of biting his fingernails to their friends’ obsession with Fortnite. We can teach them the importance of using time wisely and the necessity of hard work. The Truth is powerful, even to children. 

Controlling Supply

We are the gatekeepers to what our children consume. We can’t blame the world, the government, or greedy amoral corporations. If our kids are consuming junk – get it out of the house. There are times when we need to clear out the supply of chocolate chips or technology.  We need a fresh start to give us room to improve our desires.  If I go two weeks without chocolate chips, I stop needing them.  Change the passwords and throw the video game console off the balcony if you need to –  do what needs to be done in your kingdom. (It’s far better to be aware enough to not let things get to the point of having to throw it off the balcony – but it is still often better to do that than to give up and yield your influence right when your children most need it). Our children will adapt to changes in supply.   

When we send our children to public schools, they will see the other “strange” ways of living life. Their friends will have Tik Tok.  If they go to friends’ houses, they may see strange traditions – like spending hours playing video games.  Hold strong to your traditions, and your kingdom. When I am on a diet, I don’t hang out in bakeries.  If our children have influences that we feel are pulling them away from what we believe to be best and true, then we should pull back from those influences.  

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained. “

Winston Churchill

There are times when even with our best efforts to encourage our children to develop good habits and desires – the call of Tik Tok and technology remains. My grandmother was the healthiest woman west of the Mississippi. She grew all their family’s food, owned a health food store, and was never a hypocrite because neither chocolate nor sugar ever passed her lips.  But when my mom was a child,  she would save any coins she could find and go to the corner market to buy candy.  This is the nature of life – our children make their own choices and they need to live and learn.  However, my mother retained the wisdom of her mother and despite her earlier rebellion, she returned to the wisdom of her youth and continued the tradition of healthy eating. 

Always in my mind as a mother is a question – “Am I being controlling?”  When we control something, we force it against its own nature.  Controlling children against their nature can be harmful. But as mothers, we are there beside our children as they develop their natures – their interests, habits, and personalities.  We do have to exert a bit of control in our children’s lives or they would run into the street and eat bags of sugar.  But as we walk with them and teach them virtue by example, the need for control diminishes.  They have their own knowledge and their own desire for virtue.  As our kids become teenagers, we slowly step back and give them more autonomy.  They will sneak candy sometimes. They may throw a fit about not having Tik Tok.  We don’t “freak out” or condemn them – we aren’t tyrants.  We trust in the lessons we taught them, we encourage them, but we still maintain the traditions of our home.  When they leave the house they can keep our traditions or drop them. My sons don’t box in our living room. But having traditions is not controlling, they provide stability and unity in a chaotic world. 

Our culture assumes all traditions are stifling and nonsensical and we see the depressing consequences of such a belief. (A great essay by Chesterton on the subject) Traditions are the wisdom of the ages, or as G.K. Chesterton says, “Tradition is democracy extended through time.” If I were to embrace my grandmother’s tradition of healthy eating, I could prevent my endless dieting; and if my children follow my wisdom, they can prevent the time-wasting and self-consumption of Tiktok. Good traditions are timeless – they are wisdom shared with beloved descendants.

“Those who leave the tradition of truth do not escape into something which we call Freedom. They only escape into something else, which we call Fashion.”

G. K. Chesterton

Be a Confident Queen

Many children with Tik Tok and other destructive technologies likely got them in a similar way – they wore their parents down with complaints until they gave in. Their dads got sick of being the bad guy or their moms didn’t want the fight. They allowed their small kingdom to be invaded by a kingdom of debauchery. This is lazy parenting. I know the temptation. Parenting is incessant and difficult, but if we give in to our children’s demands when we know the consequences, we will regret it.  

If we don’t know the destructive nature of these new technologies, we need to become informed so we are armed for the battle of wills. (resources supplied at the end of the article) There are many “nice” moms who are worn out and stifled by motherhood because they don’t have the courage to create the kingdom for themselves and their families that they want. They are too concerned with being “liked” and not concerned enough about being right. They allowed their small kingdom to be invaded by a larger, corrupt empire.

Ruling our own kingdom and setting up traditions contrary to our culture is difficult. It requires a lot of self-discipline and rejection of the easy path. But we mothers don’t want easy. We want results. We want our children to be happy, well-rounded, and virtuous. We are happy to put in more effort if it means we get to have a good relationship with our kids and give them a good start. If, instead, we abdicate the responsibility of raising our children to the culture – to TikTok – we will end up with children who feel like foreigners in their own kingdom.

“The family is the nucleus of civilization.”  Will Durant

As we wait and see what the government does about Tik Tok, we realize that ultimately what they do doesn’t matter – it is what we do that matters.  Society is only as good as its families, as good as its mothers and fathers. The government is not virtuous; the government doesn’t know or care about our children. But we can be virtuous; we can care about our children.  Ban Tik Tok or not, but it is us parents who decide what our kingdom will allow. 

“Only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticize the State. They alone can appeal to something more holy than the gods of the city.”

G.K. Chesterton


A great resource with a lot of data from a previous denier who has accepted the dangers of Tik Tok and other social media. 

Tik Tok Damages Brains: https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/34138/20211025/tiktok-bad-brain-constant-social-media-streaming-narrows-collective-attention.htm

Raising Rebels https://philosophyofmotherhood.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/raising-rebels/

Encouraged by Virtue

“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is more encouraging, as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Let’s acknowledge the virtue, talents, and beauty of others. As we do we are reminded of the goodness in the world. Our cynical and competitive culture seeks to convince us that all goodness is hypocrisy, all virtue is masked vice, and love is really just self-interest. It’s not true. Yes, there is weakness and imperfection in all of us, there is also strength and virtue. Today as we observe our world and our divine sisters and brothers let’s brighten our day by focusing first on their encouraging qualities.

Balx du moulin de la Galette, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Avoiding Cantakerousness

I recently finished reading Candide, by Voltaire, the humorously tragic story of a very unfortunate man. After a lifetime of calamities, he begins to question if his optimism has any grounding in reality. Is anyone genuinely happy? Voltaire’s parody is extreme in its portrayals as he seeks to disprove the statement that “all things work out for good”.

Life can certainly be a struggle. We should be grateful for the respites of happiness and comfort we receive. The story of Candide shows that much of our unhappiness emanates from moral evil.  However, we are reminded that our own ingratitude and criticism also bring misery.

Candide and his friend Martin, in their search for a happy man, decide to visit a rich man who had magnificent possessions. They discover that he, rather than gaining joy from his advantages, finds fault in most literature, music, and art, and is bored by his home and possessions.

Candide, naive and hopeful, says to Martin, “‘You must admit that there is the happiest man alive, he is superior to all he possesses.’

‘Don’t you see, said Martin, that he is disgusted with everything he possesses? Plato long ago said that the best stomachs are not those that reject all food.‘

‘But’, said Candide, ‘Isn’t there a pleasure in criticizing everything and discovering faults where other men detect beauties?’

‘That is to say,’ replied Martin, ‘there is a pleasure in not being pleased.”

Criticism, while not a “pleasure”, is attractive nonetheless. For those of us with a critical and discerning nature, It is difficult not to notice the negative, not to compare and contrast, not to see the “lack of ideal”.  And yet, in our criticism, we may leave less room for positivity or enjoyment.

A young father emailed me once and described what sounded from his tone like a desperate situation. He had what appeared, externally, to be a wonderful life – beautiful children, a marriage, and a good job. However, he explained that after work he dreads going home. He knows that as soon as he walks in the door he will be hit by a deluge of negativity and complaint. He said his wife’s attitude has spiraled to the point where she can no longer go five minutes without nagging, complaining, or arguing. I only got one side of the story and maybe the husband was a jerk, but we have all seen it – a once beautiful woman who gives in to negative thoughts and negative emotions. It ages her – it ages everyone around her. The male equivalent is the easily recognizable “grumpy old man”.

 At the end of the book Candide finally achieves what he has been seeking, sacrificing for, and suffering to find – the “love of his life” Lady Cunegonde.  He has followed her around the world, through many perils – the thought of her has been his point of hope. 

Voltaire writes, “It would be natural to suppose that, after so many disasters, Candide should lead the most pleasing life imaginable, married at last to his mistress…”

They began a life free from trauma and wickedness and settled into quiet tranquility.  However, instead of the pleasing life Candide had hoped for Voltaire tells us, “His wife daily grew uglier, and became more cantankerous and insufferable.”

She, like too many women and men, allowed her negative thoughts to transform what might have been a happy ending, into a life of disappointment and misery.

It is difficult for me not to notice things. I sympathize with Dostoyevsky who said, “To be acutely conscious is a disease, a real, honest-to-goodness disease.” 

But I have learned, and Candide reminded me, that if I don’t restrain this critical propensity – temper it, and learn self-control in what I choose to express – I may turn into that rich man or Lady Cunegonde. It takes an enormous amount of self-control to restrain our criticism.  Frankly, I find it easier to withstand a plate of homemade cookies than to not point out the poor writing in a popular movie, or the poor manners of the neighbor’s kids.  And I really like cookies.  Hormones, sickness, and justified injustices make exercising this self-control of criticism even more difficult. But just like those cookies will end up living on my thighs, negativity lives in our souls and darkens the world around us. 

“The soul becomes dyed by the color of its thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius 

Psychologists have shown that in order to maintain a positive relationship with others every negative interaction must be balanced by five positive interactions.  Negativity is unfortunately more potent than positivity.  This doesn’t mean we can never point out falsehoods or bad manners – it just means we should emphasize the positive more than the negative.  We should be more conscious of what we choose to express and follow up on necessary negativity with an increase in positivity. 

Ultimately Candide resigns himself to a life less than imagined.  He and his friend Martin determine, “We must work without arguing, that is the only way to make life bearable.”  Honestly, I found the book to be a caricature of life rather than an honest depiction.  Voltaire was trying to make a point that life was fateless and miserable, and he wouldn’t allow any truth, goodness, or hope to obstruct his mission. And yet, it reminded me of the suffering criticism and negativity can cause – life is difficult enough – let’s not ruin those respites of peace and happiness by being cantankerously critical. 

Melancholy Woman, Pablo Picasso

Resist the Pull of State-Run Childcare

Working for a corporate machine is not as important as raising our young children. Our life is short- our time of influence over our children is short, and those first five years when the most crucial development happens, are short. If we have the option – staying with our young children is most beneficial thing we can do for them. Turning them over to a sterile, ideological, government-run child care center should be the last resort. Yet, as this article shows this is increasingly being pushed as the “best option” for mothers and kids. It is not.

We do not need government to take control of child care. Many young mothers have to work to provide for their kids, mothers have had to work throughout human history. Mothers are often creative and resourceful and come up with great child care options with family members or friends or unique work situations which enable them to spend more time with their children.

Working mothers are capable of overcoming incredible obstacles and raising wonderful children; they care about their children as much as stay-at home moms. However mothers that have to leave their young children to work would most often tell you they would rather be home. We cannot let ideologically influenced policy makers convince us that it is beneficial to hand our children over to the unfeeling state. Young children and mothers both suffer when they are separated needlessly from each other.

Please read the linked excellent and profoundly important article by Kimberly Van Shaar Ells: The World Bank Wants You To Surrender Your Children To A Global Childcare Regime

“The U.N., the Biden administration, and the World Bank’s alignment with Marx and Engels should concern those who wonder whether these institutions are purposely trying to distance children from their parents. Engels described the end result of the “full and equitable participation of women” in the workforce in chillingly stark terms: “The first condition for the liberation of the wife is to bring the whole female sex back into public industry and … this in turn demands that the characteristic of the monogamous family as the economic unit of society be abolished.”

As this plan to commandeer the youngest among us in the name of economic security unfolds, I foresee a global avalanche against motherhood and the family coming. The U.S. administration, in cooperation with the World Bank and other partners, is planning to normalize, glamorize, and incentivize surrendering our youngest children to a global childcare regime while parents fade into the background as simply “stakeholders” in their children’s futures.

Prioritizing motherhood while one’s children are young is not a cop out. It is not refusing to contribute to the GDP. There is no GDP without capable humans to populate a capable workforce, and there are no capable humans without mothers. If we remove the work and the value and the influence of mothers, we cut off the branch all of humanity is sitting on.”


Teenagers: The Power of Like

A few days after Halloween, my eight-year-old daughter reminded me, “Mom, you promised we were gonna carve the pumpkin!”  Life had been busy and we had never gotten around to our annual tradition of pumpkin carving. She was obviously disappointed and since I promised, I knew I should make good on it. However, I had a pretty serious obstacle – I really didn’t want to carve a pumpkin. I found my solution in my 13-year-old son. I asked, “Hey, do you want to have some fun and earn some money by carving a pumpkin with your sister?” He was initially apprehensive but also eager for cash, so he agreed. He and his sister spent the next hour researching the best carving methods, planning the design, and creating their masterpiece. As I looked out my kitchen window, I saw them work together, laugh, and bond.  

I love having a teenager. He puts furniture together, takes out the trash, and will stay up and watch Psych with me. I get to talk to him about the books I am reading – from Dante’s Inferno to a history of the Comanches.   After years of my ramblings, we can have  great discussions. He loves telling me about the social dynamics in his middle school and the game plan for his upcoming basketball game. 

I hear the groans, “13? You haven’t seen anything yet lady!” I’m sure you’re right. The prevailing view of many parents with teenagers agrees with what Mark Twain once wrote: “When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he is 16, plug up the hole.” With this perspective in mind, I write this piece for myself more than anyone, I have five future 16-year-olds.

Many mothers seem to expect that our precious children will turn into horrid monsters once they hit puberty – an expectation that may be, in part, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I suppose there will be hardships ahead but I certainly don’t dread raising five teenagers, I am looking forward to it. (Daughters-in-law, now that I dread). If we have worked to develop a strong, charitable relationship with our children, if they respect us and we respect them, if we have open communication and areas of common interest then I believe our beloved son or daughter will still be there on the other side of 13.

The Need for Like

Recently I was chatting with a group of mothers. They began discussing how hard teenagers are and one said, “Of course, I love my teenagers, but usually I don’t like them.” The other women laughed in agreement. But to me, this attitude is a shame. To like someone means you want to be around them, you think they are impressive, you respect them. Teenagers generally know, despite conflict and demands, that they are loved by their parents. What they don’t know, in these years of self-doubt and chaos, is if anyone actually likes them. And if their own mother doesn’t like them, who ever could? These difficult years are made steadier if teenagers can rely on the like of their parents.

Mother Comforting Teen Daughter, Haddon Sundblom

Modern parents are often consumed by the desire to be liked by their children – but too often this emphasis backfires. The Dali Lama has said it is more important to love than to be loved. For parents, it is more important to like our teenagers than for our teenagers to like us.

“If your relationship with your child is governed by your own desire to be loved by him or her, the odds are good that you will not achieve even that objective.”

Leonard Sax

The likability of our teenagers is often born in early childhood. One of our primary jobs as parents is to socialize our children and teach them to express gratitude and exhibit self-control, making them likable. Dr. Jordan Peterson describes the importance of “liking your children” by developing them to be likable. (link here) Unfortunately, many of our efforts to make our children likable will be unpopular with them (as anyone teaching a child to share knows); therefore, fearing our child’s negative reaction, we may opt out of the difficult socialization. Hence, because of our focus on being loved by our children, we end up with a teenager that is more difficult to “like”.

Despite our best efforts there are also times when our personalities simply clash or we have a particularly stubborn child – and as mothers we can all feel times of frustration with a child. Nonetheless, we need to show our child that we like them so we can maintain a close and influential bond. If we have neglected our socialization duties, creating an unlikable child, that isn’t their fault – and if we have done all we can and we still don’t like them – we need to fake it till we make it. There is at least one positive quality we can latch on to and emphasize.

This quote by C.S. Lewis I believe applies to us mothers in our struggles to like a difficult teenager, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

When our child becomes a teenager and matures into an independent adult, if they are unsure that we like them, they will turn to their peers for support and encouragement – not us.

“When parents matter more than peers, they can teach right and wrong in a meaningful way. They can prioritize attachments within the family over attachments with same-age peers. They can foster better relationships between their child and other adults. They can help their child develop a more robust and more authentic sense of self, grounded not in how many “likes” a photo gets on Instagram or Facebook but in the child’s truest nature. They can educate desire, instilling a longing for higher and better things, in music, in the arts, and in one’s own character.” 

Leonard Sax, The Collapse of Parenting

This doesn’t mean that our teenagers will not push back, or that they will always “like us back”. The teenage years are a time of individuation and transition, but like a lighthouse on a stormy sea – if our light stays on despite the storm – they will return to us.

Considering the young age of my own children, I am aware of my own inexperience and ignorance. However, I do know several mothers who like their teenagers, and whose teenagers like them. One of my friends had a teenager who went through a very rebellious time and her poor self-confidence caused her to follow a rough crowd. She was often hostile with her siblings and sometimes her mother. My friend said she got through those years by staying firm on family rules and expectations but taking every opportunity she could to point out her daughter’s many positive qualities and speaking to her hopefully about her potential. She treated the conflicts for what they were, bumps on the long and glorious path ahead of her daughter. She ensured that their family time was not compromised by too much emphasis on “friends”. She picked her battles but kept her attitude towards her daughter positive. She told me it required a lot of prayer and patience and when she ran out of it, her husband took over. Seeing the close relationship she now has with her daughter, I cannot imagine that it was ever strained. It was a stage that she moved through quickly because there was a warm and safe lighthouse to return to.

In discussions with successful parents, and my own research on relationship-dynamics, I have compiled four strategies for showing our teenagers we “like” them.

How to Demonstrate our Like

First, we need to stop complaining about our teenagers. It’s shocking to see moms who trash their teenagers freely, and even in their presence! This tells them implicitly that they are not liked, not appreciated, and not respected. They will repay in kind.

“Children are like wet cement whatever falls on them makes an impression.”   

Haim Ginott, Child Psychologist

Secondly, we need to show our teenagers that we genuinely want to spend time with them. If we welcome them home enthusiastically after a long day of school, and if we answer their phone call, happy to hear from them, they will feel liked. If we are willing to bend our own rules and sacrifice our well-laid plans for them, they will feel valued. Occasionally we can stay up late talking to them about life, despite it being a school night. We can drop our list of to-dos and have them skip school and go out to lunch with us. Since we get such a short time with our precious children, the teenage years should be the reward for many years of hard labor. We can finally have an intellectually stimulating conversation! We can share clothes! We can get help setting up our new phone, navigating in the car, and deciphering slang. Our kids can start teaching us things. Their talents and passions can broaden our own horizons.

“Turn off the device and take your child for a walk through the woods or on a hike up a mountain. Go on a camping trip. Late at night, when it’s absolutely dark, take your child’s hand and ask her to look up at the stars. Talk with her about the vastness of space and the tininess of our planet in the universe. That’s reality. That’s perspective.”

Leonard Sax

Thirdly, we should be affectionate with our teenagers. If it feels awkward giving our teenage son a hug, we can rub his feet after basketball practice or pat him on the back, or tossel his hair. These small affectionate actions mean more than we realize.

“Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.”  

C.S. Lewis

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we show our children we like them by specifically telling them the things we like about them. If we have convinced ourselves that we don’t like our child, it may be hard to know where to start. Dr. Jordan Peterson explains a simple trick that helps us maintain a positive relationship with anyone, but applied to teenagers, it can change the unlikable dynamic of our relationships. If we see anything we like – point it out. Be specific. They will repeat it. Positive reinforcement is infinitely more powerful than negative reinforcement.

“Watch the people around you and whenever they do anything that you would like to see repeated on a regular basis, tell them exactly what they did in detail, be positive about it, and just indicate you noticed…As a transformation technique, Even in extraordinarily difficult relationships, there isn’t any technique I know that is more effective”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

With Dr. Peterson’s advice in mind, when my son finished the pumpkin carving, I told him how happy it made me to see his patience and consideration of his sister. “I saw how you let her take the lead on what design to pick. You were more patient than I would have been in teaching her how to cut it out. Thank you so much for doing that for me.”  He was proud of their pumpkin and I know he went away aware that his mother appreciated him. I hope that was reward enough because I forgot to pay him. 

I was a teenager myself, – I am sure I was not always easy to raise. I am not judging mothers who struggle with their teens. However – as with anything in life – if we focus on bumps in the road, we hate the trip. And if we label our teen as unlikable, they will meet our expectations. As we show our teenagers we like them, we will begin to. Within the safety of a deeply-rooted relationship of respect, conflicts need not alter the strength of our bond. If we like our teenagers, and show them that, these crucial final years with them can be joyous.

At the very least, that pumpkin taught me an important lesson – I now have a source of cheap labor if I want to avoid gingerbread houses and Easter eggs.


Ungrateful Creatures

“I am inclined to believe that the best definition of man (and woman) is – a creature who walks on two legs and is ungrateful.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From the Underground

Dostoyevsky is referring to me. Young children see the wonder and beauty of the world. They marvel at an ant carrying a leaf, or the beautiful icicles forming on the gutters. They are often unable to translate their intrinsic gratitude into words of appreciation – that must be taught – but we are not born ungrateful but develop into ungrateful creatures. As we mature, we start to look at the ants and think about the cost of an exterminator or worry about those icicles falling in a child’s eye. Our increasing capacity for logic, anxiety, and doubt cause us to lose sight of our previous wonder and instead focus on our perceived lack.

Last week we had an ice storm. Dozens of tree branches snapped on our property. As the kids stood on the porch and marveled at the sound of cracking limbs, I imagined damaged fences and roofs. We were stuck indoors and the kids were rowdy and noisy. I found myself losing my temper quickly.

I texted a neighbor to see how they were doing and discovered that she, and most of my neighbors, didn’t have power. Some did not get power back for 3 days – well water pumps could not operate so they were without water or heat. I don’t know why we avoided these hardships, but I am grateful we did.

One of the realities of life is it is intrinsically unfair. We had power when many good people did not. Many people in the world live lives without electricity at all, or running water. And yet gratitude can be found in the most humble homes and is often missing in magnificent mansions.

Gratitude is what propels us forward in empathy and joy. As I learned that others near me were struggling, I became grateful for our warm home, for our showers, and functioning toilets. My mood improved and my kids noticed. I expressed our good-fortune to my children, explaining the difficulties others were facing. We offered to help those without power. 

In almost any situation, we can find a point of light – something we can dwell on despite hardship. As mothers with concerns and stressors, we have to be vigilant in seeking these points of light – in purposely seeking to be a “grateful creature”. Our joyful emphasis will propel us to purpose and happiness. It is a shame that it required the hardship of others for me to recognize my own blessing – how much better it would be if I could appreciate warmth without others feeling cold – but gratitude gained even in such circumstances is beneficial. It seems we ungrateful creatures rarely recognize our advantages without a knowledge of disadvantages.

“Until we realize that things might not be, we cannot realize that things are. Until we see the background of darkness, we cannot admire the light…It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothing until we know nothing.”

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

We must relearn to glory in light, to be grateful, in ice storms and calm weather. Gratitude not only shows our Creator that we recognize the light, it is a prerequisite for a happy life. As mothers, it is important that we help our children maintain their sense of wonder and joy in creation but also to train them to express that gratitude in words and actions. They will need the habit of gratitude as they face the hardships and unfairness of life. Going forward, I am going to try to become an exception to Dostoyevsky’s definition – and become a grateful woman.

River Crossing, Ernest Walbourn

Don’t Push

My Grandfather was a hardworking, honest man who raised ten children on a farm in Boise, Idaho. He often said something that stuck with my father, “I can be talked into about anything, but I don’t push worth a damn.”

This is the nature of a free man or woman. We have a will so that we can make moral choices. If that right is taken from us, we have good reason to dig in our heels.

The poet Samual Butler wrote,

He that complies against his Will,
Is of his own Opinion still;

If someone resorts to pushing, often it is because they don’t have an convincing argument. Dictators and governments throughout time have pushed and compelled their subjects. Sometimes out of “well-meaning” compassion, probably more often out of self-interest. But minds are rarely changed through pushing. Often anger and resentment simmers underneath from such interference of our God-given free-will.

As Dostoyevsky famously explained, “The whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano key.”

We, as parents, need to minimize our pushing. Sometimes it may be necessary- across a busy street or into a car seat – but we should, at as young an age as possible, begin taking the time to “talk them into things”. In previous generations parents often expected obedience without question. Moderns parents seem to have given up on obedience altogether.

But what parents across time should desire is to raise children who are obedient to moral truth. We as parents set boundaries and rules and should expect obedience from children. Not “because we said so”, but because our rules and boundaries are reasonable (can be reasoned) and we are responsible for raising our children.

The truth is convincing to kids. If we explain our reasons for 8:30 bedtime they will probably still push back, but we won’t be a tyrant – a tyrant never gives his reasons. We must give the truth time to work in our children – it may take years for our more stubborn children to be talked into reason but we are placing a voice of conscience into their minds.

Often if we describe a difficult scenario to our kids and ask them what they would do, they can describe the moral path out. If they can’t, we can explain what they might do. The more we do this the better, they will have played out their responses in advance. When the time of moral choice comes, they have already worked out their choice.

If we find our relationship with a child strained, it may be that we are pushing too much and not convincing enough. This does not mean we let them do what they want, it means we give truth a chance. We speak with them honestly and openly about the reasons, the consequences, the long-term repressions of their choices. If kids understand the why, they are much more likely to make the right choice. Children are still humble and teachable. They are adaptable. However they, like we, will do all they can to resist being played like a piano key.

I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty

“I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
I woke, and found that life was duty.
Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
And thou shall find thy dream to be
A noonday light and truth to thee.”

Louisa May Alcott

A mother’s life is duty. Young mothers often awake to this truth in sorrow, especially with our modern need for affirmation and praise. But as we toil on, we settle into our life of duty, duty motivated by love. We let go of our naive expectations. We become grateful for the purpose and direction our duties provide. Duty transforms a selfish life into one of service. We will find our dream of beauty fulfilled as we labor in love.

Long Day, Pino Daeni

Beauty Piece by D.T. Sheffler

As mothers we need beauty. We need it to sustain us through difficult and duty-filled days. We need beauty to guide us toward the truth and goodness our children need for their growth and development. And yet, we live in a world full of ugliness and distraction. We live in a culture of excess – a different outfit for every occasion, pop music in every store and restaurant, and images flashing before our eyes on every screen. If we fill our short days with the mindless and superficial we become desensitized to beauty, and it becomes more difficult to discern and enjoy. I enjoyed this piece by D.T. Sheffler as he describes the necessity of strengthening our souls for beauty. In our culture of excess, noise, and self-adoration, I hope I can be a better example to my children of spurring the excess and more closely “guarding the gates of my inner castle”.


I often enjoy D.T. Sheffler’s insights and recommend following his blog.

The Giving of Mothers

“In Giving, a man receives more than he gives; and the more is in proportion to the worth of the thing given.”

George MacDonald

Here MacDonald uses the general pronoun “man” for mankind. But women are specifically called to give, and we, and the world at large, receive through the giving.  In having a child we give that which is of much “worth”. Pregnancy is often difficult, birth painful, and rearing a child is all-consuming. We sacrifice our bodies, time, and comfort to bring new life into the world. 

Mary, the mother of Christ, was visited by an angel to inform her that she would be the mother of the Messiah. She was an unwed woman and knew the judgment she would receive from her community. Before her lay a difficult road, perhaps more difficult than she could imagine- suffering on the road to Bethlehem, a traumatic birth in a stable, fleeing to Egypt, and the eventual crucifixion of her beloved son. Yet when the angel appeared to young Mary he said,  “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  To which is replied, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Mary was not naive to the hardship she would face, but she was faithful. She trusted the words of the angel which told her she was “highly favored”. Later her cousin Elizabeth, who had Mary’s condition revealed to her through the Spirit, proclaimed to her: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

The word “favored” is used again by Elizabeth. It signifies honor. Mary, a woman of no worldly significance or power, had the honor of carrying, delivering, and raising the Savior of the world, as His mother.

We, women, are highly favored in our opportunity to become mothers. Having a child is an immense blessing of eternal significance. Being a Mother is much more than the physical hardships or sacrifices – it is the spiritual blessing of raising a beloved son or daughter of God. This bond between Mother and Child is eternal. Christ’s thoughts turned to his mother in the moments before his death, his final words instructed his apostles to care for her.

Oftentimes we may not be able to discern how our sacrifice will return to us, but we trust that it will. With the birth of our own son or daughter, we renew humanity. Each child we give the world brings renewed compassion, intellect, insight, revelation, will, and beauty to humanity. When I look upon any of my own precious children I see a gift of great worth, a worth that far exceeds my giving.

“Every child begins the world again.”

Henry David Thoreau
The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth, Unknown 1518