Being a parent can be a tough job at times. You’re never sure if your kids heard you when you shared your thoughts with them. And if they did hear you, would they heed what you said? As adults, we’ve all come to appreciate the life lessons and words of wisdom our parents passed down to us. It stands to reason that if our parents’ advice stuck with us, our advice will inexorably affect the lives of our children as well. (Fingers crossed, right?) 🤞
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That verse gave me a lot of comfort as I raised my kids. Rightfully so. It turns out that even when they didn’t seem to be, our children were listening. And they were heeding. And seeing the wisdom in what we told them. 💃🤸♀️🎉
I’ve shared many times that I love having two 20-something assistants: Natalie & Casey. They approach anything tech-related without fear. They’re up for anything. They give me insight into my own kids. And they encourage my heart. Recently, I asked my assistant Natalie and some of her friends to share the best advice their parents have given them.
Today, Natalie and I are sharing what they said. If you want to go deeper, I’ve added links (in italics) that you might find helpful.
My Parents’ Best Advice
Discipline Equals Freedom.
“Waking up early, eating healthy food, working, doing the right thing (even if it’s hard), and saving money are just a few things that require discipline. Developing discipline will help you excel in every facet of life. There’s a reason Nike’s slogan is ‘Just Do It.’ My dad always emphasized the importance of doing what needs to be done even if you don’t feel like it. Feelings and motivation will always change, but discipline can become a habit that will get easier with time.”
If you’re looking for the perfect book about discipline, I highly recommend Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink!
Act Like a Duck.
“Before he retired, my dad was the president of a large, well-known corporation. He told us one of the secrets to his success: When you’re not sure what to do, act like a duck: smooth and unruffled on the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath! No one wants to follow a hesitant, insecure leader. Put on your game face, and lead.”
Always Start Out Your Prayers With What You’re Thankful For.
“We hear about practicing gratefulness all the time, but it’s sometimes difficult to know how to implement this practice into our daily lives. My mom’s tip has made a world of difference for me in terms of practicing gratitude and being faithful to God. She said to always start out your prayers by thanking God for all your blessings. Often times we begin praying with things we want in mind, but if you say thank you for everything you can think of first, you rarely feel the need to ask for much afterward.”
Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a book that changed my life and made me a more joyful person! Two other things? Keeping a prayer journal and using this gratitude to-do list every single day. It makes me record three things I’m thankful for before I can even list my to-dos!
Treat Your Loved Ones as You’d Treat a Friend or Acquaintance.
“It seems like common sense that we would treat our loved ones with the utmost respect and kindness, but often that is far from the case. If you think about it, sometimes we use a negative tone of voice with family members or even say rude things that we would never say to an acquaintance or friend. My mother told me always think of this and make an effort to treat those we love as they deserve to be treated.”
When my kids squabbled I used to ask them, “Why would you treat the ones who love you the most the very worst?” It usually stopped them in their tracks. Sadly, we do have a tendency to respond to other’s unconditional love for us by testing it or presuming on it. Going through The Five Love Languages book as a family really helped us to choose to love each other well.
Always Set the Table Properly and Always Eat Your Salad First.
“A great piece of advice from my mom was, to always set the table and eat my salad first! Especially these days, we often eat standing up, out of the package, on-the-go, or we reach for something quick and unhealthy. Making mealtimes special and focusing on nutrient-dense foods first makes for a more enjoyable and healthy eating experience.”
I love this advice! I’m the absolute worst and tend to eat breakfast and lunch standing up at the island in our kitchen. Yikes! Also, there are so few foods I can actually eat, I often eat quickly in order to get on with my day instead of using it as a time to take a break and actually enjoy my meal. I’m going to work on this!
Think About Your Posture and Smile!
“Simple, difficult to do, but makes a world of difference in how you feel and how you appear to others.”
Build Muscle Memory.
“When I was learning to play the piano, my mom gave me some fantastic advice: ‘Your mind is like a cow’s walking path. Every time you do something, and then do it over again, the path gets deeper and more clear cut in your brain.’ I recall practicing a certain piece and every time I played a certain string of notes I hit the wrong key. In simple farm terms, she taught me about neuroplasticity and habit formation. The more I hit the wrong key, the easier it was to play the wrong key the next time. Luckily, habit formation works both ways — the more I played the correct notes the easier it was to play it correctly the next time.”
I love the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It’s a life-changer!
Have a Job, Big or Small, Do It Right or Not at All.
“Never belittle someone for what they do for a job — all work is noble. On that same note, never be too proud to sweep the floors. If there is work to be done, don’t just stand there with your hands in your pockets – pick up a broom and start sweeping. This will not only impress those around you, but you will feel proud of yourself at the end of the day.”
Don’t Change Your Lifestyle When You Get a Raise.
“My parents always emphasized saving money but I really took it to heart after seeing how most people my age are spending theirs. It is so easy to live paycheck-to-paycheck when all your friends go out to eat and drink or on vacation. It takes a lot of self control to save, but I know it will ultimately be worth it.”
“My father was fairly successful in his career and finances. Throughout the years he saved money and we lived very comfortably. He always told me not to change my lifestyle when I got a raise. He has always been frugal and not materialistic. He still shops in the clearance section, still drives an old but fuel-efficient car, and still tries to save money anywhere he can. In the long run, it’s not the possessions you have, the clothes you wear, or the car you drive, it is about whether or not you valued delayed gratification and did your best.”
Always Write Thank You Notes.
“Taking the time to hand-write a card is a timeless way of showing gratitude and will leave a good impression on the person who receives it. Send one for anything and everything!”
I love this advice and told my kids the same thing! Here are some of my favorite Thank You notes.
If They Can Fix It, Let Em Know! If Not, Let It Go.
“If you ever see that someone has something stuck in their teeth, a bug in their hair, a booger in their nose, or anything else like this, remember: if it is something they can fix, then respectfully tell them. If it is something they cannot fix, then keep silent.”
Hard Work Beats Talent, Every Time.
“We’ve all seen people who had some natural ability try to skate by on their raw talent. But those who take that natural ability and add training and hard work — they’re the ones who will be the most successful. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Ordinary work does not yield extraordinary results. If you want to stand out from the crowd and reach your goals you are going to have to put in the hard work.””
When our kids were growing up, we read parts of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell to them after dinner. Gladwell talks about working at something for 10,000 hours to truly master it. We wanted them to know that they were going to have to work hard to truly gain mastery. I’m not 100% sure it took, but I’ll tell you that all three of our kids are hard workers who don’t shy away from a challenge.
You Can’t Control Other People, You Can Only Control Your Reaction to Them.
“Most things in life are not within our control. But our feelings, thoughts, and reactions are completely under our control. It is easier said than done, but learning and accepting this fact, then making an effort to practice controlling your response is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself.”
Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy.
“Every single person must work through obstacles to become great. Even the people who are great at what they do now did not start out that way. Even people who love their job must complete tasks that they don’t enjoy. This is a part of life and something that should be embraced. I promise that in the end it truly pays off to put in the work and reap the benefits.”
Don’t Worry About Tomorrow, Today Has Enough Worries of Its Own.
“This is actually a Bible verse my mom always repeated to me when I was anxious or stressed. ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today has enough trouble of its own.’ (Matthew 6:34.) We can always choose joy today. She also always told me that if something is fixable then you have no need to worry, and if something is not fixable then worrying does no good.”
I think advice from Scripture is always the best! (And you know that when I pray for my kids, I use scripture to do it!) Empty Nest Blessed may not be a faith-based blog, but I’m a faith-based girl! The thing that brings me the most peace is spending time with the Lord. Here are some of my favorite faith-based books and journals.
Read. Read. Read.
“I’m so thankful my parents encouraged reading from a very early age and I cannot wait to do the same for my children! Reading has given me a quality of life that I would not have gotten from anything else. It is entertaining, it helps me learn and keeps my brain young, and it gives me an escape from the stressors of life. It is never too late or too early to start reading. Although it may not be the norm, I will always prefer a really good book to a tv show or scrolling on social media. I can’t thank my parents enough for this.”
I recently had a friend recommend the book 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich. I love to read, but I’ll admit that I tend to read things like The Wall Street Journal, or Consumer Reports magazine more than books lately! I need to do better about this! I’ve just added this book to my cart!
When Your Mind Is Telling You That You’re Done, You’re Really Only 40 Percent Done.
“My dad loved to tell me this Navy SEALS quote when I was competing in cross country! It really helped me dig in then and it still helps me now! When you think you can’t take any more, you have so much left in you. Believe in yourself and you will accomplish amazing things – no matter what age you are or what you’re trying to do!”
I’m going to think about this quote when I’m working out tomorrow! For more on this SEAL motto, check out THIS great article from Forbes Magazine.
Spend as Much Time as You Can With Loved Ones, and Never Say Goodbye Without Saying I Love You.
“This might sound morbid but it has stuck with me my whole life. Sadly, my mom’s father died the day after they had an argument about wedding finances. She told me she always regrets that unnecessary argument and wishes she would’ve told her dad how much she loved him before she went to bed that night. I always think of this and try not to leave on a bad note or without telling my loved ones that I love them.”
Never Wish Time Away.
“When I’m impatient, frustrated, or even looking forward to something, this always sticks in my head! It’s short and sweet, but it encourages me to live in the moment and truly be grateful for the little joys each day. It has definitely been a challenge during the pandemic, but I still stand by it. I have learned so much during this “reset.” It has allowed time to create and find new passions, to love more deeply, and to explore new ways to connect. Time is the greatest gift.”
Time is truly the most valuable commodity we have. We buy it trade it, or bargain for it. We can’t get more of it. In our world that is full of “time-saving” devices and systems, we all still feel like we don’t have enough of it. When my kids were growing up, Bob and I told our kids that when they were late for an appointment or they kept someone waiting, they were “stealing” another person’s time. That was considered a very serious offense in our family!
Do It Right the First Time and You Won’t Have to Do It Again.
“A harsh truth but a great reminder that if we stay present and focused, we will do much better than if we just try to get by with as little effort as possible. Always do your best!”
You Versus You.
“My dad told me to never compare myself to others. It is always me versus me. The only person we should try to beat is the person we were yesterday. Each tiny bit of improvement is something to be proud of. It’s unlikely that you will ever be the very best at anything, so only try to be your very best.”
Leave People, Places, and Things Better Than You Found Them.
“Always clean up after yourself. Always leave a good impression on people. Always be grateful and respectful when someone loans you something. If we treat people well and over-deliver they will usually do the same for us and may even be able to help us out in the future when we least expect it.”
Be Polite and Respectful.
“Always be polite and respectful to everyone you meet. You never know what someone is going through or what someone has lived through already. A lot of people have forgotten the importance of politeness, especially online, but it makes you stand out. Be remembered for your kindness and not for ‘being right’ or proving a point.”
Make Your Bed Every Single Morning.
“If you make sure to make your bed every single day, you are starting off on the right foot. Even if the whole day turns out bad, you did one thing well and that is something to be proud of. Cluttered life, cluttered mind.”
I love this advice and used it with my kids too! It’s another great piece of advice from a Navy SEAL! I highly recommend the book that was based on the author’s famous graduation speech: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven. The Wall Street Journal said that the book “should be read by every leader in America.”
You’ve probably said one or all of these things to your now-adult kids! They may have even rolled their eyes when you said them! They may not have appreciated them at the time, but as they grow and have children of their own, it’s likely that they will grow in their appreciation for these little pearls of wisdom.
When we built our house in 2004, I hired a local artist to paint something special in one of our bathrooms. I decided that it would be fun (and maybe somewhat helpful! 😂) to have him bring to life a bunch of the sayings I regularly said to my kids. I made a list, and asked my kids (12, 10, and 8 at the time) to tell me the ones that should go on the wall. They made their choices, and with a little handprint help from the kids, this room came to life! I’ve never shared it until now.
This video originally appeared on my YouTube Channel. I’d love it if you’d follow me there!
Many thanks to Natalie, Casey, and all of the 20-somethings who agreed to share their parents’ advice with us. Be encouraged, y’all! They ARE listening!
The collage at the top of this post features Bob and me with our kids and both Casey and Natalie with their parents! We had the best time putting it together!