I’d say the most popular word in the average parent’s vocabulary would have to be “no.”
To be fair, it’s an important word for moms and dads. Used properly, it creates healthy boundaries for children.
But I think sometimes we over-do our “no’s,” too. We can be a little too protective. Remember Dory, the Pacific blue tang with short-term memory loss from the animated hit “Finding Nemo”? She reminded Marlin, the dad of mis-adventurous Nemo, “You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.”
One of the most important lessons in the early years of a child’s life is safety. But as they mature, safety should be less and less of an emphasis.
If we build too many fences, we’re not allowing our kids to be kids. They won’t be climbing trees, splashing in puddles, or learning the skills they need to try new things and succeed in adulthood.
Authors Mark and Jan Foreman say, “You can’t drive with the brakes on. You need an accelerator.” And in parenting, the accelerator is the word “yes.”
A great place to start is to take advantage of every opportunity you can to be with your child. When Mark and Jan were raising their children, their motto was “Never say no.” If they were feeling lazy or tired and one of their kids wanted to spend time with them, they would look at each other and say, “Never say no.” That meant a wrestling match or splashing through the rain because their child was asking to connect.
The idea wasn’t to promote permissiveness or an “anything goes” attitude. The intent was to live out a parenting paradigm that said, “Let’s make filling their love tank just as high a priority as the ‘yes’ and ‘no’s’ of the household.”
Even when your response to a child’s request needs to be “not right now,” you still want to focus on ways you can say yes to the relationship.
It’s a sacred moment when your children open up and invite you into their world. Plus, their connection with you is the most likely way they’ll discover a connection with God. So we need to be careful not to shrink down God, the world, or the mystery of relationships to safe, bite-sized pieces.
Life is so much bigger than that, and we want to equip our children to experience God and His creation fully. Raise children who are able to appreciate living in a world of wonder and the God of wonder who created it all.
Living a life of “yes” opens up life for our children by teaching them they can go any direction they want to. Equip them with the confidence to explore their journey with God, and let God lead them on whatever adventure He wants to take them on.
Jan and Mark Foreman will be the guests today and tomorrow on our radio program “Being a ‘Yes’ Parent in a World of ‘No’s.” They’ll help you get over the hurdle of “no” and learn how to say “yes.”