Recently I read an article on the Huff Post Parents page. The article was entitled “Let Her Say No” by Stephanie Giese. In the article, she recounts an incident where her husband was trying to convince their daughter to go on a ride at the county fair. Here is a quote from the article.
“Nicholas, our oldest, was in seventh heaven, dragging us all with him as he sprinted from ride to ride, some of them two or three times. Our middle daughter, Abby, was too scared to get on the rides.
My husband tried to encourage her, but she kept saying no.
At first we were both a little frustrated. We had driven past these rides several times for the past few days, and each time she would beg to stop the car so that she could go on the merry-go-round. But now she had tears in her eyes and fear in her heart as she stood in front of the giant slide or next to the Ferris wheel.
As I listened to Eddie try to coax her onto the rides, my heart sank. It was no fault of his. He was being a good dad. He just wanted to show her that she could overcome that fear and have fun.
“Come on, honey. I’ll be right here with you the whole time. You don’t have to be scared. You can trust me. I love you.”
I knew in 10 or 12 or 20 years she would hear those same words from another boy or another man, but the stakes would be much higher.
And when my daughters hear those words, as I know they will, I want them to be able to say “no” — and say it over and over again if they have to.
Because even after they say the words there will be still be coaxing and temptation and misplaced logic, even if it comes from men with the best of intentions and with the purest of upbringings.
It is our job to teach them that they never have to do something that makes them uncomfortable.”
These words were like a kick to my stomach. I had done this very thing. I have cajoled, guilted, persuaded, pressured and bribed my precious treasures to go against their initial instinct of “No”.
The author goes on to write “If they have always been coaxed into doing things that they did not want to do in the name of “fun” and making other people happy, how can we expect them to stand up for themselves when it matters?
She has a valid point. If we can’t accept and show respect for the simple “no” in the not-so-important matters; then how can our children be strong when the chips are down in the life-altering, path changing situations that require a firm “no”. They will second guess themselves. They will be afraid of disappointing the person they love and who claims to love them. They can be pressured, guilted, cajoled into going against their conscience and instincts. We’ve done a great job of teaching our kids that saying “no” is going to hurt someone’s feelings. Saying “no” isn’t nice. What a disservice! We have weakened their resolve with misplaced guilt.
This article prompted me to start thinking about how Christian parents can teach their children to say “no” to things now; so when they are faced with moral choices and dilemmas; they can say “no” with confidence and NO GUILT.
I have 4 children; three girls and one Lone Ranger. I will confess that I have not accepted a simple “no, I don’t want to” or “no, I don’t really feel like it” as answers to why they did not want to do certain activities. Mind you, this is not an option on cleaning their rooms, practicing piano, being courteous, etc! What child wants to do that? I’m talking about simple, everyday things: no to carrots, no to taking a walk, no to playing go-fish, no to riding a roller coaster. Nothing life altering; just “no” to morally neutral issues. I made mountains out of these mole hills. Thinking “They are just being stubborn or rebellious”. How foolish of me! Accept the simple “no”.
I remember as a child how I really disliked having to explain why I didn’t want to do something. Sometimes the reason was just “because”. I didn’t have an explanation. I just didn’t want to go, or do, or play at a particular time. Apparently, I’m hard of learning because it took this article to remind me of this. (sigh)
So, how does a Christian parent instill the power and confidence to say “no” in their child? Turn to the Holy Scriptures, of course.
Ephesians 6:4 says “Fathers, do no exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Paul is telling us that as parents; our directions and requirements should be easily obeyed. They should be reasonable, appropriate and proper. Some translations say “provoke to wrath”. Don’t make your children angry and resentful with unreasonable commands, don’t manifest a quick temper and flashes of anger and unnecessary severity in discipline. I have been guilty of this; holding a child to a standard that they are not capable of attaining. I have died on hills that should not have even been speed bumps in life. Children should not be afraid to say “no” on the non-essential issues because of fear. Instead, we should be instructing them, lovingly and gently, in the knowledge of the Lord; setting good examples for them, pray with them and for them, reading and teaching the precepts of the Lord; so when the essential, non-negotiable issues arise, they are ready to answer with the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 4:8 says “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is love, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Teach children that if anyone asks them to do something that they are uncomfortable with to use this verse as a comparison. Is it true? Is it lovely? Is it pure? Things that are of God are not secret. The things of God are not shameful or embarrassing. They are excellent and worthy to be proclaimed. Teaching children from an early age that if someone is asking them go against this verse; they are asking them to sin.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-3a in The Voice says “So finally, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus, we ask you, we beg you to remember what we have taught you: live a life that is pleasing to God as you are already doing. Yes, we urge you to keep living and thriving in that life! For you know the instructions we gave you, instructions that came through the Lord Jesus. Now this is God’s will for you: set yourselves apart and live holy lives;…”
Galatians 1:10 reads “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Am I teaching my children to live a life that pleases me or Christ? Am I teaching them that often doing God’s will can bring disapproval from people? Think about that for a moment.
I think that my children obey most often because they are afraid of the consequences rather than doing it from a love for Christ and a desire to please Him. I realize I need to do a better job of telling them that God’s will and commands are driven by LOVE; not punishment. God desires for them to have fulfilling, productive, joyous lives; hence, the commands that keep them out of unnecessary trouble. I need to remind them that even if they disobey; God loves them unconditionally and so does mom & dad. We may be disappointed but the love is constant.
Obviously, I have a long way to go as a parent. Lord, help me.