As a research scientist, parent, educator, and student of life, I wanted to distill the important lessons I’ve learned in my daughter’s first 18 years on the planet.

From that first wondrous moment of meeting her, she has taught us so much.

1. The messes don’t matter
 — spend less time worrying about it and more time living.

2. Sleep does though
— get everyone to bed on time, routinely.

3. Purpose
 — kids need to know that they are part of something larger than themselves.

4. Gratitude
— be grateful for what they bring to the world, what they’re teaching you, and what you are able to give them.

5. Laugh more
— there’s always room for more joy.

6. Teach them to work hard
— a strong work ethic will carry them forward through even the most difficult, doubt-filled times.

7. Give back
— help kids see how they can contribute to making the world a better place.

8. Friendships matter
 — work to keep yours strong and show your kids how to do the same.

9. Know the child you have
 — get to know your child’s strengths and teach them to lead with those while working to strengthen other areas. Appreciate your child’s unique interests and take part in their life.

10. Build family traditions
— small, silly ones and big, elaborate ones. Give your kids anchors that show/mark the continuity of life and the importance of family in that.

11. Hold them accountable
— help them see the consequences of their actions, and teach them how to make things right.

12. Embrace their mistakes
— let them see the good that comes from seeing our errors and limitations, and learning how to do better.

13. Date nights
— make time with your partner. You need it and your kids do too — they do better with more loving, better connected parents.

14. Move
 — be physically active, get your kids moving, and teach them to love the strength and marvel of their body.

15. Talk less and ask more
— listen to your kids and what they think, ask them how they would solve their own problems.

16. Be kind
— in the end it’s all that matters. Help them see that too.

17. Make time with your kids
— their childhood is never coming back. You’ll never regret the time spent with them.

18. Talk about sex. And life, and death
— talk about all the hard things in life, that are real and important, that you want your child to be clear about and ready for.

19. Love them
— as they are and as they are becoming.