Saying No to our kids, almost more than anything, will grow them into mature adults. Always saying Yes to our kids breeds entitlement, and entitled kids become entitled adults.
There are four reasons why saying No to our kids is so important.
1. God, the Father says No to us
God does and has always said No to His children. In His perfect and gentle way, He sometimes denies us what we ask for. Why? Because what we ask for is not the very best for us, or it is not His will.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3
King David’s deepest desire was denied him by God.
“I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.” 1 Chronicles 28:2-3
God said No to Paul.
“Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Moses asked God to send someone else to lead His people out of Egypt, and we all know the answer he received!
“I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:10-12
Asking for wrong things with wrong motives is what children do. And often, that’s what we do when we pray. Or, sometimes we ask for something good and not of wrong motives, and God denies us this as well. In times like these we must remind ourselves that, as the saying goes, ‘Father knows best.’
2. Saying No to our kids grows character
Not only should we say No to our children, but I would say that it is our job to do so. Our job as parents is to create character in our kids. We want them to have characteristics as adults that will help them succeed in life and that are pleasing to God.
We want them to be a hard worker and be successful in their life’s work. We want them to be able to provide for themselves and their family. We want them to possess love and selflessness and be in a satisfying long-term relationship. And, most of all, we want them to grow up to be mature, Godly adults.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
My childhood had a lot of No’s in it. I grew up in the second richest county in the country. However, while most of the kids around me got everything they wanted, I didn’t. How do I feel about that now looking back? I am grateful. I am a very thankful person and I believe in hard work and sacrifice.
What characteristics could hearing No develop in our children?
Self-control When we say No to our kids, we are modeling self-control. We are teaching them that sometimes it is beneficial to withhold, and even to say no to ourselves at times.
Self-control is not a popular concept these days. Instant gratification is much more accepted and encouraged; just watch any TV show or commercial. We’re Americans, we shouldn’t have to wait for anything, right?
One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We must help our kids gain this character trait despite the world around us. We, as Christians, strive to be like Christ, not like the world.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Patience Just as practice makes perfect; waiting makes patience. If kids have to wait for things in life, then the fruit of patience will grow in them. Sometimes they must wait for months or years, and sometimes they must wait until they are an adult. Waiting produces perseverance and patience, and an attitude of appreciation.
Love Being told No, and experiencing disappointment teaches kids that it’s not all about them. It gives them the ability to love. When kids are constantly catered to, they learn that the world revolves around them. First of all, it doesn’t. Secondly, if we teach our children that they are not the center of the universe, they are more likely to focus on loving others instead of just themselves.
3. Saying No to our kids gives them coping skills
Most kids today don’t have any coping skills. This is evidenced in the high number of school shootings in the past 10 years. The most effective way to teach coping skills is to allow our kids to have to cope with something. They must experience rejection, disappointment or a No, in order to learn how to cope with it.
When trials hit in our lives, life does go on whether we want it to or not. Adults, hopefully, have learned the skill of putting their feelings aside in order to function when needed. This skill can only be learned through practice. And, the younger a person learns it, the better off they will be.
How do I sit in the pain and let it wash over me, yet, not let it destroy me?
What do I do when the pain is so deep?
How do I go on? How do I get up the next morning and survive another day?
These questions reflect a severity that hopefully our children won’t have to experience in their childhood. The spectrum of the intensity of pain or discomfort will obviously vary. However, some situations could prompt these questions; dealing with divorced parents; ending a romantic relationship; dealing with loneliness; or being bullied at school. These are all examples of the sufferings of childhood. Having had practice in coping skills will help young people to deal with these very difficult challenges.
Pain and tragedy is very real in our world. Few people escape it. What we all strive for is the ability to get up and dust ourselves off and get back in the game. We want to equip our children to handle ANYTHING that may come their way and persevere. The only way to do that is to let them hear no.
“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering and you find that you have excluded life itself.” – C.S. Lewis
4. Saying No to our kids teaches them to depend on God
About 2 years ago my oldest daughter, Emily, wanted a dog. We already had a dog and 2 cats at the time. I already felt like I lived in a zoo! After much opposition, guilt, crying, begging & pleading, we ended up telling her no.
She was devastated.
It had been a really lonely year or two for her in the area of friendships. A girl down the street dumped her as a friend and we were homeschooling at the time. It was really tough for her. And, it was extremely hard for me to see her in so much pain and not jump in and save her from it.
A few months later at dinner, she talked about her loneliness. She said that she had been spending time with God and in the Bible when she was lonely or sad. Nothing could thrill me more than hearing those words from my child. She was learning to go to her Heavenly Father, the ultimate source for comfort and love.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
When our children feel sad, alone, or disappointed it is our job to point them to God. If we are always ‘saving’ them, then we are taking away an opportunity for them to know who their true savior is, Jesus Christ.
Depending on God is a hard thing to do. We as adults struggle with surrender. Instead of going to Him in times of despair we go to other things or other people. We need to teach our kids to go to God when they experience pain or despair. If they develop this habit early on, when they are adults and something happens, they will know where to turn. The sooner that kids learn that our God is the God of all compassion and comfort, the better off they will be.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” 1 Corinthians 1:3-6
Love must be first
I must conclude by acknowledging the importance of nurturing our kids with plenty of love, hugs and acceptance. Saying No and denying our children without love and nurturing is wrong. Kids need lots of hugs and ‘I love you’ s’, and listening ears. They need to hear and feel our love everyday.
God loves us everyday and in every way. His love for us is scattered all over the Bible. He is our ultimate example of fatherly love. God disciplines us, but his love for us is beyond measure.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love is why we say No. We need to give our kids tools. Tools that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Love is tough sometimes, but as parents, we are called to sacrifice. In parenting, love and discipline go together. You can’t have one without the other.