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52 Godly Men : Men of Today Teaching the Men of Tomorrow » For Parents » When Saying “No” Is Not Enough

When Saying “No” Is Not Enough

No.  It’s one of the most powerful words in the English language.  Within that word lies the answer to overcome temptation.  It is the word which can prevent broken hearts and lives.  It is the word of resolve uttered by statesmen when tyranny demands acquiescence to threats.

It also happens to be one of the most frustrating words when you encounter it personally.  Ever had your hopes and dreams built up, only to be told, “No”?  Have you invested in a relationship deeply only to be told, “No”?  From childhood onward, our lives are filled with a seemingly endless flood of the word “no.”

What does that have to do with parenting?  A simplistic response would be to say that this is an article about learning to tell your child, “No” and making it stick.  There is a real need for such an article — and the discipline in parents — based on the attitudes and actions that children display in public.  But that’s not what this article is about.

This article is about another word.  Yes.  It is a word which is even more powerful than the word “no.”  It contains within it the power to heal broken hearts.  It is a door which opens to countless opportunities.  It begins relationships.  It seals marriages.  It can even change the life of your child.

A good friend of mine once told me early on in life, “Tell your children ‘yes’ as much as you can.”  That gave me a lot of pause to think.  I had been raised in a strict home environment where I heard the word “no” quite a bit.  The idea of how to raise your own child can have deeply held views which arise out of your own experiences — good or bad.  Somehow, I had an understanding that good parents say “no” much more than they say “yes.”

That isn’t necessarily true.

All children have wants.  All children have needs.  And all children have some degree of curiosity about the world around them.  As parents, we can sometimes be so focused on the needs of our children that we forget the other two categories.

Let’s talk about what a child wants.  Wants can be categorized as healthy or unhealthy.  Whether a want is either may depend on the child or the circumstance.  Food is called a need in most of the world.  In well-fed America, it’s a want most of the time.  And to a child who is obese, giving him more food is unhealthy in the long term.  So we have to exercise some wisdom and common sense when looking at what our children want.

Recently, one of our children wanted to have a friend over for a sleepover.  At first, my wife was hesitant to allow it.  When I asked my wife “why not?”, she didn’t have a good reason for disallowing it.  In discussing it, my point was that we only have so many years with each of our children.  Giving them the opportunity to MAKE good memories in the safety of our home is an important part of them HAVING good memories at all.

Occasionally, you may have to say “no” to some wants as you help to steer your child’s requests to things which are more within reason, fit the budget, or just plain are what you can allow.  That’s ok.  Your job overall is to help your child to learn for himself how to make good decisions in preparation for a lifetime of them.

One way to do that is to give choices.  I like that in particular because it mirrors the way life is.  If I choose to spend my time working, by default, I am not spending that same time lounging around petting a cat and sipping tea.  If I choose to go one direction in my automobile to visit a friend, that means I am not going any other direction to visit someone else.

Building that foundation in a child involves decisions such as:

  • Would you rather watch a video or read a couple of books?
  • Would you rather ride a bike together or play kickball?
  • You say you are bored.  Would you rather find something to do or have ME find a job for you to do?
  • Would you rather have juice or milk?
  • Would you rather play baseball, soccer, football or no sport at all?

It’s pretty simple to repeat the choices if a child says, “I want it all.”  This way they learn to have the ability to distinguish for themselves what it is they want the most.

Curiosity is that other key ingredient I mentioned earlier.  Your child’s curiosity is the window into who they are as an individual.  In the recent Olympics, there was a brief story about one of the gymnasts who, as a child, climbed all the way to the ceiling in a department store.  What would you have done?  Fainted?  Screamed at the child?  Spanked him?  Jonathan Horton’s parents started paying for gymnastics lessons, and in 2012 he made the US Olympic Team.

The trouble is that our children’s curiosity is generally an inconvenient thing.  Coming home to discover that your electronics have been taken apart by a five year old is not what most parents look forward to after working hard.  Finding that your child likes bugs by having them brought into your home gets on Mom’s nerves in most homes.

Benjamin West, an 18th century American-born painter was asked how he got his start.  He related the story that his mother had left him and his sister to run an errand.  He found colored ink and decided to paint a portrait of his sister.  You can imagine the mess which resulted.  When his mother returned, she didn’t yell or scream at him.  Instead, she picked up the picture and said, “Why, it’s Sally!”  And she gave young Benjamin a kiss.  His words later in life were, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”

Mrs. West shows us that a child’s inconvenient curiosity may be a glimpse into a passion which might result in a life work.  She had the courage to say “yes” to her child.  Will you?


Filed under: For Parents

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