I think one of the most valuable messages a kid can hear is “no,” followed by an explanation (if the parent has time).
Plenty of kids grow up with yes-men as parents, and after the child grows up and enters the adult world, it’s a confusing existence. Their parents dropped the ball in refusing to set up boundaries, so the adult child has to be schooled by circumstances, consequences, and people.
No, you cannot come into work 30 minutes late.
No, you cannot borrow my things without asking.
No, it’s not okay to speak disrespectfully to me.
Even so, lately I realize I’ve been gratuitously saying “no” to my daughters over the dumbest things. Renee wants milk and she wants it warmed up; Daniela wants to put on a different pair of pants; both of them want to drag out all the Legos 20 minutes before bedtime. No, no, no.
Any parent who’s reading this knows there are reasons for us repeatedly saying “no” – and they usually have to do with our convenience. But the other day, it occurred to me that there’s a better reason to work on saying “yes” more often: because if my daughters grow up and see me as one who only says “no,” they’re eventually going to figure out that it’s safer to stop asking for permission.
I want my daughters to trust my judgment enough to keep coming to me to see if it’s a good idea to do this or that. And one way to build that trust is to gain credibility by saying “yes” when possible. Yes, we can watch Frozen one. more. time. Yes, you can help me make eggs. Yes, you can paint right now (but no, I am not going to be the one to clean it up when you’re finished).
More importantly, I think my parenting style as a dad influences my daugthers’ perception of their heavenly Father, and I’ve got to be mindful of that as I respond to their desires. I want them to realize that their heavenly Father’s primary role is way more than saying “no.” He’s the God who planted the Garden of Eden that was full of yeses (and only had one, very important “no”) (Genesis 2:16-17). He’s the one who always says “yes” to giving them a life full of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). He even says “yes” to the wasteful child who needs another chance (Luke 15:11-32). Sure, He says “no” plenty as well, but He says “yes” to enough to keep us occupied with good, true, and beautiful things for eternity.
It’s inconvenient to say “yes” to some of the little requests my daughters make, but in the long run, I’m really just building trust with them. And hopefully, because they trust me, they will eventually grow up and know it’s safe to go to Father God for the fulfillment their deepest longings.