Saying no to a child can be one of the hardest parts of parenting. But I believe it’s one of the most important things we can give our children.
One of the reasons we as parents say yes instead of no is because it’s usually easier at the time. Standing in the checkout line at the grocery store its easier to say yes when your child screams for candy then it is to say no and wonder what meltdown is about to happen and how embarrassed you will be.
Trying to get supper ready and your child has to have a snack. If you say no you’ll never get it done. What’s the harm in saying yes?
Wanting to stay up past bedtime your child begs you to say yes. What will it hurt, just this once? It will matter tomorrow when the child is unbearable because it was hard to say no. Or bedtime becomes a battle because you weren’t consistent.
I heard years ago from James Dobson that we should say yes if at all possible. I’m sure that’s only part of what he said, but I used that to think through why I’m saying yes or no. Is what the child is asking really important, annoying or something that needs to be thought about? Or do we just mindlessly say yes or no based on our emotions of the moment?
My oldest son Joshua is remarkably compliant. Or so I think. It may be that compared to his adopted siblings he’s a piece of cake. He handled our adoption, losing the “baby” status in the family, with remarkable maturity. He has been an easy kid to say yes to. We have been close for years, enjoying each other’s company late at night when the rest of the house sleeps.
However, he’s getting ready to graduate from high school, preparing to leave the nest, and conflict happens. The other time period in our relationship that had this much discord was right before we allowed him to get his driver’s license at the age of almost 17. Those last few months waiting were not easy on him or me. He wanted to push me to saying yes and I was immovable.
I will respect his privacy and not tell you this issue, but it’s one where he wanted my permission and he told me he would respect and honor my decision. I gave him an answer he didn’t want and it has challenged our relationship at the moment. I have no doubt things will be repaired but, again, I am an immovable object. This is not a moral issue but one where I think he needs to make a decision when he has had some time to sort out the issue in the next few months.
I have told Joshua that it’s hard to say no to him but it’s important that he learn that it’s a part of life. Disappointment and rejection. We all face it. I am glad that I learned how to say no to my kids when they were younger because I see intelligent, respectful adults in front of me now. Not always pleased with me but waiting for the blessing that comes from obedience to parents and God.