If you were to ask my kids what my favorite word is, I'm afraid that their answer would be the word "no.” I say it often. I say it without thinking. I say it when I'm angry. I say it when I'm busy. I say it when I don't mean it. I say it when I'm lazy, and I often say it because it's convenient and easy.
This small little word carries with it a lot of power. It puts me in control and it allows me to continue on without altering my plans and activities. For me, the word "no" is an escape from responsibility and it's often selfish. For instance:
I say "no" when I don’t want to have to clean up a mess…it would be better to say "yes."
I say "no" when I’m irrationally afraid of something and want to hover over or protect my kids…I should say "yes" more often.
I say "no" when I think friends that my children pick are weird or potentially a bad influence…I should equip my kids to be the influencers for Jesus and then say "yes."
I say "no" when my kids want some independence but really it’s my fears and insecurities that are robbing them of God-given growth opportunities…I should trust God and say "yes."I say "no" when I’m busy or tired and they want to spend time with me, watching a movie, playing a game, or reading together…I should put down my phone (because that’s usually the reason) and say "yes" to spending time with them.
"No" can be a powerful word of protection and instruction in the lives of our children. The daily decisions that a parent has to make are many and the God-given responsibility to raise children is a monumental daily charge. As children (especially young ones) ask questions with about the same frequency as they take breaths, there is many a "no" to be issued.
The word "no" will stop your four-year-old from cutting their little sister's hair.
The word "no" will keep eyes in their sockets and fingers on their hands.
The word "no" will prevent a concussion--or worse-- from a swinging baseball bat.
The word "no" can help keep a heart pure as it surfs the internet.
The word "no" can gently guide the recipient back to Jesus.
The word "no" can also be a word that frustrates and exasperates our children. It can stifle creativity, prevent amazing relational encounters, or keep one "safe" from experiencing the risks that teach character and dependence on God.
God tells us no. But he also delights in telling us "Yes!"
"Praise the LORD...who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's" (Psalm 103:1–5)
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11–13)
God is a gift giver. And as a good Father, He loves to give good gifts. We also know that good gifts often come in the form of a "no"--this is the mercy of God at work on our behalf. But many times, a "yes" to our kids breathes life into them, surprises them, and makes their day. For many, a "yes" from us has become so rare that children would be confused and shocked by the affirmative answer—and unfortunately many have just stopped asking.
As parents we must say "no" so often that it's important to say "yes" as much as we possibly can. It will probably take more work and will require us to put down what we are "working on" to look at our kids eye-to-eye and face-to-face. It will create some risk on our part as parents that will drive us to depend more fully on God and require an increased attention to praying for our kids.
Maybe you aren't like me and "yes" is easy for you. But if you are like me and "no" is too often the unconscious, automatic response, take a leap and say "yes" the next time your kids ask to do something that might be inconvenient, messy, or risky. Give them the gift of your "yes."