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Help them say no

Published: 
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When Jess was around four years old, she told me how embarrassing it was for her to tell her friends that she’s not allowed to watch many of the television shows that they do. That forced me to pause for a moment and see things from inside her world.

At that point we sat and came up with several suggestions as to how she could cleverly remove herself from such a predicament. I asked her if she understood why she was not allowed such shows and if she agreed with the decision we made? She said yes, she understood the dangers of such shows and she wanted every opportunity to live a life free from unnecessary filth.

Because she bought into the rule, it meant that she could say with honesty that SHE was choosing not to watch TV.

That simple change made the embarrassment go away. She wasn’t a baby with baby rules, but rather she held a standard for herself and called on her friends to respect it. She is now eight years old and I am proud every single day of how she navigates such conversations. In fact, she is now so secure in herself that she often says she is not allowed and then she goes on to back up why she agrees with her mother’s rules, and even goes a step further now and lovingly suggests alternatives to her friends as well. They generally end up leaving our home with a whole new YouTube playlist.

As parents, we are quick to dish out rules out of love but we fail to back them up with empathy and practical tips for enforcement. We seem to think that leading and not following happens overnight or not falling prey to peer pressure happens in the blink of an eye. What amuses me, is that adults are barely able to stand alone in their convictions, but we expect children to.

In addition to sitting with our children and helping them navigate the challenges our rules bring, are we taking the responsibility to fill their excitement tanks?

We cannot have strict rules and simply expect their natural desire for fun and adventure to go away.

Our home is moving away from all secular media—our hardest challenge yet. This means that I must be prepared to do more entertaining and I must find suitable replacements for our movie nights.

Children have an innate desire for adventure, their developing minds are curious. If we do not provide the mystery they will find it in all the wrong places.

“Just Say No” has never worked. We all know it’s not that simple. In fact, I think dishing out rules and then hanging a big stick in the home as your only hope for obedience is downright lazy parenting.

Let us stop for a moment and really put ourselves in the shoes of our children. What are their fears, their hurts, their desires? How can we be there for them so that they grow up with a willingness and trust to come to you first with all their problems?

How can we include them in the rule-making process so they buy into them and therefore create a greater chance of sticking to them?

Parenting takes time and reflection and loads of empathy. I wish you all the best this week and I hope we all use the extra days at home for fun, hugs, and reflection.

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