“Talking to Dad is like talking to a brick wall,” I said to Mom fifty years ago.
This was my conclusion after asking my dad for permission to go to a party with my classmates. He simply said, “No, and I don’t want to hear any more about it.” I wondered how he could be so calloused, so harsh. He wouldn’t even listen to reason, my reason. Fifty years later, I understand my dad much better. His life experience gave him wisdom that I didn’t have; so he said “No.” He also knew that he could be swayed and softened—I didn’t know that at the time—so he just took that option off the table: “I don’t want to hear any more about it.”
The result of using the word “No” is that he, along with Mom, raised three kids who serve Jesus Christ in their adult years.
“NO” IS A PROTECTION. After a recent field day event at our school, we were loading children to go home. The change in routine caused a more chaotic feel to the moment, and one boy was about to run into the drive to get to his car. One of the teachers saw him and yelled, quite loudly, “NO!” He stopped in his tracks at the curb. Being able to stop our children with one word is invaluable. It keeps them out of the street, away from the edge of Grand Canyon, away from harm, and away from causing harm. “No” is a protection.
BOUNDARIES ARE A FORM OF “NO.” A playpen, a fence, a gate, a rule: all of these set limits and as a consequence bring a sense of peace. Although it is the nature of children (and also adults) to want to cross the boundaries, strong borders create an atmosphere of peace. My backyard is a combination of jungle and lawn. It has been difficult to tell when jungle ends and lawn begins until recently. I bought some landscaping timbers and simply defined the limits. Later that week, Will came home, sat on the deck, and commented, “It’s so much more peaceful back here.” Boundaries bring peace.
“NO” BUILDS CHARACTER. The future holds challenges for our children that will stretch their moral fiber to the maximum. If they follow Jesus, they will need endurance, patience, and courage beyond the norm. Jesus said it this way, “If any man would come after me, he must deny himself. . .” He must say “No” to himself. A man pilfers because he cannot say “No” to himself. A person lies because he can’t deny himself. When a man cannot say “No” to himself, he becomes his own god, and the result is painful: debt, addictions, obesity, anger, depression, divorce, disease, and things like these. “No” prepares our children to face and overcome hardship. As parents, we often feel that saying “No” to our children is cheating them, but that is the opposite of the truth. If we don’t say “No,” we are cheating them out of the most important things. Saying “No” builds their character to face hardship, to sacrifice for their own families, to follow Jesus.
Eight of the Ten Commandments say “No.” It was the formation of a nation, a beginning that needed clear guidelines. Establishing the negatives in the beginning made room for the positives to come in the promised land. The New Testament says that the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:20) A clear “No” can open the door to a wonderful “Yes.”
As Christian parents, we have a responsibility to say “No” to our children when they are very young. If we say “No” in the beginning, we will find that we can say “Yes” when they reach their teens. So many say “Yes” early and then try to bring “No” into the teen years. That creates the conflict and war that so many associate with having teenagers. There is a better way.
Surprisingly. . .
“No” is the language of love.