Yes, I heard it a lot growing up. The word no. It’s such a little word with a lot of influence on parents and kids.
No, you cannot watch television all day.
No, you may not skip dinner.
No, you may not use the car.
This word has fallen out of vogue in many families, almost like an old shoe that no longer fits. We’ve opted for a more friendly, egalitarian approach to raising our kids. We read all of the parenting books that told us somehow we could raise kids with full, tender hearts and no wounds. We learned to flitter around like butterflies and protect our little ones from any heartache or disappointment that a bad grade or a missed field goal would inflict. In the process we removed the word no from our vocabulary, as if in removing the word, we would remove any broken promises or tear-stained moments from their lives.
We know that many times we say no too often and too easily. We know when it’s always on the tip of our tongue and right on the surface of our heart, the word no renders it less effective. We know that used in anger and frustration, this word can destroy a child’s soul and dim the flicker of hope in their eyes.
What I am coming to believe, though, is that by never saying no, we as parents are becoming increasingly overprotective. As a result, we are producing children who have a belly full of I want’s, that’s not fair’s, and I deserve’s that leave them emotionally starving, fragile, and ill-equipped for the real world. Because they have never had to feel what it feels like to stumble and fall, nor build the I can attitude that comes from persevering in the face of obstacles and opposition, they are in essence, set up to fail.
In a recent HuffPost article, Lori Freson, M.A., LMFT says, News flash: Kids need you to say ‘no.’ Children are not emotionally or developmentally equipped to make major decisions or rules, or to self-regulate. That’s your job. And if you don’t do it, your child will feel a sense of confusion and internal chaos.
I know we’re all doing our best to make it through the day, but perhaps we need a different perspective on our parenting. As Dr. Robin Berman, Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and author states, Parenting is not a democracy; it’s a benevolent dictatorship. While we need to listen better so that we can hear our kid’s emotional heartbeat, we also need to stand firm when we draw boundaries for respect and responsibility, if we want our children to dream big dreams and see them come to life.
Parenting is not a democracy; it's a benevolent dictatorship. _Dr. Robin BermanClick To Tweet
Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV) says, My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
There are four reasons our children NEED to hear the word no:
They need to learn how to respect others.
Many young adults today have little respect in their hearts. They’ve had a lifetime of training that has led them to believe they possess equal power and position to the adults in their lives. Focused primarily on getting what they want, they resist respecting their parents, grandparents, teachers, or coaches based on their position of authority in their lives. You can hear it from teenagers all around— I respect my parents when they let me do what I want to do.
The problem is that as these kids of ours become adults, if they have not been taught a healthy respect for authority, they will always be fighting against someone—their bosses, their spouses, and yes, even God. By saying no to them now, we are allowing them to learn firsthand how to respect us as the God-given authority in their lives. And yes, we are also teaching them how to respect God. What a world of blessing to them as they start building their lives in a complex world filled with even more complex relationships.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2:17 (NIV)
They need to learn that the world owes them nothing.
Most of us have experienced having to live with no’s in our lives—whether they are no’s to our career ambitions, to our hopes and dreams, even to our health and wellbeing. It doesn’t take too long in adulthood to realize that no can be a common, if not undesirable theme.
When kids get everything they want, they get entitled, and when they get entitled, they get selfish, according to Britney at Equipping Godly Women. If we want our children to thrive, they need to experience what no feels like so they can develop better self-reliance and resilience, both necessary traits to successfully accomplish their goals in life. Children who never hear no’s are rarely grateful for the yes’s in their lives.
Children who never hear no's are rarely grateful for the yes’s in their lives.Click To Tweet
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ Luke 17:10 (NIV)
They need to learn to recognize warning signs to danger.
If children are never told no, they fail to develop some important internal cues that will protect them from potentially harmful or dangerous situations. Whether it is, No, don’t touch the hot stove, or No, don’t play in the street, parents need to remember that children are not small adults. They have not yet fully developed advanced cognitive reasoning skills needed to assess risk and employ protective strategies. It is our job to teach them.
By placing limits and saying no, children learn to recognize early signals to potential danger and develop the necessary skills to keep themselves safe. They are better at learning whom to trust, and when to trust, experiencing less heartache and disappointment from learning how to deal with toxic people and situations.
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. Psalm 22:3 (NIV)
They need to learn to regulate their emotions.
Many times parents avoid telling their children no, not because it is right or called for but because they fear upsetting them. They fear disappointing them. They fear losing their love. Fear of our children and their moods should never be the guiding factor behind our parenting.
Our children need to feel the pangs of disappointment that come from no and learn to sort through the most uncomfortable, even hurtful emotions more effectively. We cannot spend our lives trying to protect them from every pain and discouragement that comes along. We CAN prepare them to deal well in any situation life will bring.
We CAN prepare our children to deal well in any situation life will bring.Click To Tweet
Romans 8:28 (NIV) says, We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Psalms 42:11 (NIV) states, Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
I am not suggesting we become tyrants or overuse our no’s. We need to also reach into their tender hearts and listen to hopes and dreams that don’t have words, and unpack the wounded moments that they are, in their own way, trying to share. Yet I do believe we can use our no’s appropriately and effectively to help our children develop skills such as self-reliance, self-discipline, respect, integrity and a host of other crucial character traits. Let’s learn to use our no’s wisely and calmly so we can strengthen and fortify our children, thus empowering their lives and futures.
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Don’t we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that – a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
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