A Discouraging Word

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. —Ephesians 6:4

Thirty years ago, in what was the first family teaching series I presented to HDC, I highlighted the power of “No”—that is, how problematic to a child an inappropriate “No” can be. There are certainly times when it's appropriate for a parent to say “No,” because saying “Yes” could place a child in jeopardy—physically, emotionally or spiritually. Sometimes, love won’t allow us to say “Yes.” But it’s probably fair to say that parents say “No” as often as we do because we’re too lazy to deal with the question or too exhausted to deal with the implications of saying “Yes.”

“Mom, can I…” No!

“Hey Dad, the guys are going to…” No!

“Hey Mom, would you please take me to the…” No!

If you have to say “No” for good reasons, then so be it. But c’mon, at least listen to the entire inquiry. And after listening to their whole schpeel, give it every possibility to be a “Yes.”

If you do end up saying “No,” you’ll probably be asked, “Why not?” And when you are, you’ll need a better reason than, “Because I said so.” That answer does clarify chain of command, but it is still as lame as it gets. Your kids don’t have to agree with your rationale—families are not democracies, they’re benevolent dictatorships. But they should at least understand the reason for a “No.”

Try a new default—Never say “No” unless love won't let you say “Yes.”

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