Uncommon Common Sense

All I can say is, “Wow!” over the response to Allie’s Rules for High School. To those of you who posted, reposted, tweeted, copied, mailed, framed, and passed on to high school girls you love, thank you.

In two and a half weeks there were almost 750,000 hits to this post. That doesn’t account for the thousands who read them directly from Facebook or from other websites where they made their way. On the first day of school, the list was read during drive time on the most listened to morning show in Atlanta. Q100’s The Bert Show is syndicated, consequently it hit lots of other stations as well. Thanks Bert and team!

Allie’s response over and over was, “Mom, these are just common sense. Why is it such a big deal?” My answer to that question was simply, “Allie, common sense isn’t really all that common.”

Truth be told, what seems like common sense to many of us actually isn’t. While a conscience might be rattled a bit when a teenager makes a poor choice, often they just do it anyway. If they haven’t consistently been taught the reasons for setting personal standards, why would they? Certainly if a teenager doesn’t have a relationship with Christ, half of these rules seem downright silly.

Allie and I hope this list continues to make a difference in the lives of some precious teenage girls (and guys). Thank you, kind readers, for passing the list along and helping make something uncommon a bit more common.

Allie’s Rules for High School

photoA few nights ago I had an encounter with my 18-year-old daughter that will be imprinted on my heart forever. I walked into her room; she was sitting on the floor with her laptop. Immediately obvious was her determined focus on something she was typing. While I made a mental note of the messy room and intended to revisit it momentarily, I asked what she was working on so seriously. She looked up and said, “Mom, tell me what you think of this. These are Allie’s High School Rules. I’m giving them to my ninth graders.”

To give you a little context, Allie served as a small group leader to middle school girls on Sunday mornings at our church. That group is entering Milton High School as freshmen in a couple weeks. Allie has poured lots of time and energy into these girls over the past few years, and loves them so much. Having just graduated from Milton herself, she has a fresh perspective on exactly what they’ll be encountering over the next four years. She decided to put together a list of “guidelines” that she’s hoping will help them navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of high school.

As Allie began reading her list to me, I found myself crumbling (in a good way) on the inside. By the time she reached the end of her list, I was sitting on the floor with eyes flooded. I was overwhelmed and amazed at her maturity and strength. I knew she had made good choices throughout high school, and had traversed some hard things in ways that demonstrated her love for Christ and desire to obey Him. But to hear the “rubber meets the road” advice she put on paper was incredible. In that moment, I LOVED her messy room too!

So, I’m going to share 20 of “Allie’s Rules for High School” with you! Some of them are inside jokes she has with her girls, but you’ll get them anyway. Pass on to any rising high schoolers you might know!

  1. Surround yourself with people who build you up, not people who tear you down.
  2. Treat your kisses like you have a limited supply.
  3. Guard your heart. Seriously… your heart is precious.
  4. Stay vertical/no buttons and zippers (or Velcro). In other words, set your boundaries and stick to them.
  5. Have an accountability partner and be willing to tell HER everything.
  6. Be so so so so so so so SO SO SO SO careful who you date.
  7. If you’re wondering if you should break up with him, break up with him.
  8. If your girl gets broken up with, go buy her a stuffed animal, a blanket, candy, and lots and lots of ice cream. (Other gifts are acceptable.)
  9. Pray, PRAY, PRAY! Don’t ever forget how much you need God.
  10. Have a quiet time. It may seem like a hassle, but it will help you stay close to God.
  11. Be nice to your parents. They love you and want the best for you, so if you disagree with them, just realize that they are a lot smarter than you…sorry about it.
  12. If you find yourself lying to your parents/other adults in your life, backtrack and get out of that situation IMMEDIATELY. You are somewhere you do not want to be.
  13. Never be afraid to say no. It’s better to be a wimp than dead.
  14. When you fall on your face, get back up and keep moving (literally and figuratively).
  15. Journal so you can look back and see what God has done in your life.
  16. Even when you don’t want to, GO TO CHURCH!
  17. If it’s not classy, don’t do it.
  18. Don’t judge. Even when people are doing things you don’t agree with, show them love.
  19. Pause before you speak… this will prevent a lot of problems.
  20. Selfies are for faces.

If you have a teenage girl in your life, and she has a good high school rule to add, let us hear from you/her!

Parenting Teenagers, Part 2: Effective Consequences

Gavel iStock PicAnother best practice we stumbled upon in the teenage years revolved around appropriate punishments. We found the most effective consequences tended to be those that “fit” the offense.

Let me just throw out a scenario. I have a friend whose son decided it would be fun to sneak out with some buddies while at their church’s student camp. The leaders got wind of the plan and sat down with the boys, had a chat, and asked them to reconsider. The boys agreed that they wouldn’t sneak out. However, as soon as the leaders fell asleep, the boys headed out. After a Waffle House meal down the street, they walked out of the restaurant, and guess who was waiting? The student pastor—and he was not happy!

Not only had the boys broken the rules; they had put a big chink in the trust their small group leaders had in them.

Now, the parents of this young man had a decision to make. What was the best way to handle the situation so that maximum learning would take place? How could the heart of the boy be impacted in such a way that he would desire to make better choices, not out of fear, but out of changed thinking. What could contribute to a growing desire to honor God, others, and the future he’d like to have?

Obviously, one set of consequences wouldn’t accomplish all of that, but what consequence for that offense would at least move the needle in that direction? In this case, the decision was made for the young man to take each of his small group leaders to a Saturday morning breakfast, pick up the tab, and begin rebuilding the trust and the relationships.

Taking car keys for a couple weeks, or “grounding” could certainly have been options for punishment, but would have been far less effective. For a 16-year-old boy, giving up a couple of free Saturday mornings, spending some hard-earned minimum-wage money, and humbling himself were far more effective. An added benefit was the one-on-one time when his small group leaders could pour some of their wisdom and influence into his life.

As you’re navigating parenting in the teen years, take time to carefully consider the best consequences for a particular offense. Even if you have to tell your teen that you need some time to think it through before communicating your decision, take the time. Prayerfully ask God to lead you to the consequence that doesn’t just punish, but causes your son or daughter to take a step toward changed thinking and better decision making.

My New Favorite Smoothie

Recently, my friend Chris and I were strolling up and down the aisles of Bread Beckers Warehouse—one of my favorite places for healthy ingredients, fun kitchen gadgets, and great ideas for healthy living. She picked up a recipe card and immediately knew it was FOR ME­—the Smoothie Girl! I made a few tweaks, added a protein powder my trainer had given me to try, and blended up the yumminess.

Whether you like healthy smoothies or not, you’ll LOVE this one. Even Allie, my 18- year-old who steers clear of most of my smoothies, admitted that this one is great!

  • 1 C. almond milk (or your favorite milk)
  • 5 almond milk ice cubes (or regular ice)
  • 1 scoop of your favorite chocolate protein powder (vanilla will work, just add an extra tablespoon of cacao)
  • 2 T. cacao
  • 1 t. maca powder
  • 1 t. lucuma powder
  • 1 T. coconut oil
  • 2 T. peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter)
  • 1 date (pit removed—don’t forget that!)
  • 1 t. vanilla

Blend all together and enjoy.

Fav Smoothie Ingred.jpg fav smoothie sandra.jpg






This is great for a post-workout smoothie or meal replacement. Loaded with healthy proteins and fats to fuel those tired muscles. It’s approximately 380 calories depending on your protein powder. If you need to reduce the calories, just eliminate the peanut butter. It’ll still be delicious!

Try it, and let me know what you think.

Best Practices for Parenting Teenagers, Part 1: Constant Conversations

I’m frequently asked questions that revolve around parenting 12–18 year olds, so I’ll throw out a series of what I think could be called Best Practices for Parenting Teenagers. I’m not sure how many there will be, but so far there’s one.

One thing Andy and I discovered while parenting teenagers was the “Constant Conversation” approach. As our kids transitioned into their teenage years, we transitioned our parenting style as well. We replaced several hard and fast rules with constant conversations.

Rather than set bedtimes, there needed to be room for flexibility. Instead of a strict curfew, we discovered the need to vary it based on specific people and places. A predetermined number of “screen-time” hours needed ebb and flow based numerous variables. For girls particularly, clothing choices and appropriate outfits needed to be a constant conversation.

Conversations enrich relationships with our kids. Not only do they allow the parent to communicate direction, they allow the son or daughter to feel heard.

One of the quickest ways to shut down teenagers is to bark out commands without giving them the opportunity to respectfully express an opinion. Funny thing, sometimes in the process of the conversation, we get a few more facts and discover that we were wrong. Funnier thing, sometimes in the process of the conversation, they actually arrive at the decision that we know will ultimately be THE outcome. And they thought it was their idea!

So why is it so hard? Well, simply stated, it just takes more time and energy than establishing mandates and requiring adherence to a list of rules. At least it does initially. Anyone who has parented teenagers knows there WILL be conversations. Sometimes they’re loud ones. Why not plan for conversations and, by inviting them, diffuse the potential angst ahead of time?

Of course, there are times when the parent just has to say no. Or, has to lay down the law and be the bad guy. That’s just the nature of parenting. But, if we can open two-way conversations, even if we end up at the same “lay down the law” destination, we allow our kids to feel heard. We invest in the relationship at a deeper level. And, we pave the way to future friendship.