School just started for my two high school boys and already they’re completely exhausted. One of them even comes home and falls asleep with his shoes on almost the minute he walks through the door. This year my advice to both of them is not to work too hard. Here’s why:

There’s more to life than school.

These boys are busy. They play sports, do scouts, are active in their church youth group and even go to a seminary class at 6 a.m. before school every day. I like that they do all of these things because I want them to be well-rounded. But I don’t want them to get so overscheduled and stressed out that they can’t function. If they have to cut a few corners in school to have time for other things, I’m OK with that. 

Efficiency is good.

I used to get mad at my 17-year-old so often for being lazy. He rarely does more than the bare minimum, and sometimes he doesn’t even do that. But I realized recently that he’s onto something: efficiency. Why put more effort into something than you absolutely have to? You have more energy for the things you value if you barely skim over the things you don’t. So it’s OK with me if my sons take easier classes, if their homework doesn’t always get done, or if their projects aren’t always their best work. As a result of this efficiency, they have more time for other endeavors. It’s impossible to do it all, so they have to prioritize and sometimes that means letting some things slide.

Homework is a small percentage of your grade.

Last year my 15-year-old realized that all the homework he had to do every day only added up to a small percentage of his grade. He was staying up late stressing over work that wasn’t even going to benefit him very much. So he started doing less of his homework and he ended up with A’s and B’s anyway. 

We all need balance.

We’re all trying to chase the elusive ideal of balance in our lives. High schoolers especially could benefit from this. There have been many reports of kids becoming anxious and depressed and even committing suicide because of the pressures they feel to be the perfect student. Life is a balancing act of work, play and rest and high school is as good a time as any to start learning how to prioritize and have a balance.

Community college is a great option.

My boys have a certain university they want to go to, but it’s kind of hard to get into right out of high school. If they go to community college for a year first, it will be much easier for them to get in as a transfer student. I’d rather them enjoy their high school experience and go to the university a little later, than to have them stress themselves out trying to get into a school that, despite their best efforts, they still may not be accepted to right away.

Life is meant to be enjoyed.

We all want to be happy. Expecting our kids to do nothing but work their butts off as teenagers sets them up for a life of misery. Along with teaching them the value of work, we should teach them to practice self care, serve others, have hobbies, and be happy. If taking advanced courses and excelling in school makes them happy, that’s fantastic. But if they’d rather spend some of their time doing other things, that’s OK too. 

We are training them for the real world.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our high schoolers are practically adults. In a few short years (or even less than a year) our babies will be out on their own. Now is the time to teach them valuable life skills and let them make their own choices and decisions while they’re still in the safety our homes. Let’s be realistic though about what it’s like in the real world. Adults need a good work ethic and responsibility, but to be honest, if there’s something I don’t want to be doing as an adult, I don’t do it more than is absolutely necessary. Yes, I work hard and spend a lot of time on unpleasant tasks, but I’ve also learned to add enjoyable things into my life and to limit the unpleasantness to only what is unavoidable. High school is a perfect time to let our kids choose what they will and won’t do in order to have that balance in their lives as well.

While our kids are living in our houses we still have the responsibility to teach them. I have the right to encourage good behavior and to enforce consequences for excessive laziness or disrespect. But as long as they are maintaining a decent level of responsibility, we should let them have a little freedom to do less and stress less. More than anything, I want to set my teenage boys up for a life of happiness and joy as good, productive members of society. They can achieve that by learning balance now and not stressing so much about high school. They’ll have enough to worry about when they have to start paying their own bills.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Crystal Hill

I've been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development from BYU (yes, that's a real degree). I'm particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I'm not too fat. I'm also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading

God Chose Me to Be the Mother of a Wild One

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman holding child on the beach, black-and-white photo

It was just another typical fall morning. There was a time change so you were a little extra sleepy (also known as grouchy) but nothing too out of the ordinary. In a split second, that all changed, and the reality of what it is like to live with an unbelievably relentless little human set in like never before. I sat on your bedroom floor, laundry scattered all around, and literally watched my tears fall to the ground. I was on my knees. Physically on my knees just begging you to stop or begging God to give me patience. I don’t...

Keep Reading