say no

How to Know When to Say No

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Most parents would agree that saying “no” to their children is an essential part of being a good parent and raising kids with discipline, character, and discernment. Part of any parent’s job is to protect their children from many things they aren’t even aware that they need to be protected from. But on the flip side of that, sometimes as parents, we’re guilty of habitually saying “no” before our kids can even finish the sentence, without having given any fair consideration to their request. And while saying “no” is often necessary, there’s not always a good reason for saying “no”, just for the sake of saying “no”. In fact, in certain things, it’s super important that we be a “Yes” parent.

So the next time you’re hit up with 20 questions from your kids of things they want to do or have, use these three questions as practical guidelines for how to know when to say no.

Is it Unethical?

What we allow or don’t allow our children to do must always first and foremost fall in line with our family values. Our children need to understand what we stand for and what we believe is right and wrong. So when our child wants to lie or bend the truth, when they desire retaliation or revenge, or when they simply want to do something that goes contrary to those values, the answer should always be no.

However, I’ve seen many parents who justify letting their kids participate in wrong practices by adopting this mindset, “Well, it’s a whole lot better than what else they could be doing.”

Let me encourage you as a parent to have clearly defined values in your home that help you and your children navigate the tough (and not so tough) decisions when they come. Don’t ever justify wrong behavior simply because it’s a lesser evil than something else.

Is it Unwise?

When our children come to us with requests, it gives us the opportunity to teach them wisdom in their choices.

There will be times when something may not be clearly wrong, but it still may not be in your child’s best interest.

  • Just because little Johnny has $50 in cash doesn’t necessitate that he go spend $50 at the candy store.
  • Just because little Susie was invited to spend the night at a friend’s house from school doesn’t make it a good decision, especially if you don’t know the family well.
  • Just because your child wants a new puppy doesn’t mean they’re old enough or responsible enough yet to take care of one.

When our children come to us with requests, it gives us the opportunity to teach them wisdom in their choices. Sometimes that means we have to make the choice for them. Other times, we may have to let them make their own choice and learn from it, even if it’s the wrong one.

Is it Unhealthy?

Especially if you have young kids still at home, 50% of the requests you get from your kids are probably going to be for candy or junk food (or they may not even ask). My kids usually ask me over mom because they know they have a slightly better chance of getting a “Yes”.

Why do parents say “No” to their kids when they want to have ice cream for supper and gummy bears for dessert? Because parents intuitively know that they are responsible for the health and well-being of their children.

Some of the biggest ongoing life choices that your children will have to make will concern what they do with and put into their body, so help them develop good habits while they are young for making wise health choices.  They may not thank you now, but they will someday.

Even after filtering our response with these three questions, there will still be times when we know why something’s not in our child’s best interest, but don’t have a way of explaining it to them so that they’ll understand. And sometimes we simply have to say, “I don’t expect you to understand this, but I love you, and you’re just going to have to trust me.”

Any good parent loves being able to say “Yes” to their children when they can. But being able to say “Yes” for our child’s enjoyment also requires that we know when to say “No” for their benefit.

Sound off: How do you evaluate whether or not to say no to your kids?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have you ever regretted a decision you made?”