Saying no is easy.
That one short syllable rolls readily off the tongue in response to so much of what our kids say and do. No, you can’t have cake for breakfast. No, you can’t go outside without a coat. No, you can’t go to your friend’s house today. No, you can’t have a Facebook account. No, no, no.
Obviously, it’s our responsibility to provide healthy boundaries for our kids. And, of course, children and teens – by virtue of their inexperience and immaturity – often want to do or say things that are unwise and sometimes even dangerous. It’s our job to stop them from hurting themselves or others and to correct and guide them as they move toward maturity. However, saying nothing but no doesn’t help much.
For one thing, if it’s all we say, the word loses its punch. When we only say no – without an explanation or a positive alternative – kids tune us out. We become to them like the boy who cried wolf, and they’ll ignore a no when it really and truly matters. If, on the other hand, we reserve our use of the word as a stand-alone for serious situations – i.e., when a toddler runs toward the street, when a teen driver initiates a left turn into oncoming traffic – our kids will respond because they won’t have become impervious to it.
Additionally, being a “Dr. No” is an authoritarian stance that damages our relationships with our kids. It is, of course, biblically right for children to respect and obey their parents (Ephesians 6.1). But the same passage (Ephesians 6.4) exhorts us against provoking our kids to anger, a command that runs counter to authoritarian parenting. In contrast, when we take the time to explain the reasons we must say no to a child’s desire – and, better yet, offer positive alternatives – we maintain our parental authority in a healthy way while concurrently strengthening and deepening our relationships for the long-haul.
“No, you can’t have a Facebook account. Remember when I showed you the Facebook policy? It says users must be at least 13 and you’re 11. Plus, remember that Dad and I have our list of expectations for getting social media accounts? I’ll definitely work with you on that and we’ll see where you’re at when you’re 13. But not yet.”
“No, you can’t go to your friend’s house today. We’re going to Grandma’s tomorrow and need to get an early start. But let’s see if Sammy can come over here next Friday.”
“No, you can’t go outside without a coat. I know it doesn’t look cold, but see the window thermometer? Twenty-eight degrees is even colder than the temperature in our freezer!”
“Cake for breakfast? Okay, buddy, you know that’s not an everyday thing. But it is left over from your birthday yesterday…so why not – just this once! You just have to promise to remind me to brush my teeth really well after!”Offering alternatives and explanations is definitely harder – it takes more time and effort – than a blanket no. But your kids – and your relationship with them – are worth it.
Photo Credit: skyseeker