We couldn’t wait for our oldest daughter to start talking.
When she “uh ohed” for the first time, I actually cried. However, we became less enamored with toddler babble as our compliant princess became the defiant empress, and every response started with the word “no”.
Empowered to voice her opinion, she mimicked the sound she heard us make on several occasions. We employed the tactics of redirection and distraction often to lessen our negative words, but we weren’t afraid to tell our girl “no” when necessary – like when kicking the family dog or walking into the street. Each correction, given with purpose and love, developed strong boundaries and a sense of safety and security for her even if her initial attitude looked like tantrums, fits and whines.
When her reaction to our teaching was less than ideal, it would have been easier to give in, but I remembered the prophet Samuel’s words about Eli the priest.
Eli’s sons were scoundrels… I have warned him that judgment is coming upon his family forever, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. (I Samuel 2:12 & 3:13)
Disciplining our children isn’t always about saying “no,” but it has to include it. In the Lord’s kindness, and through “no’s” that He’s allowed in my life, I’ve come to understand that there are three “no’s” every child needs to hear.
1. No, you may not hurt others.
It is our sin tendency to lash out when our insecurity and pride rear their ugly heads. Often triggered to protect us, they fight to the death to assure we are the victor, but vengeance and cruelty find their way to the surface if a child lives in fear, instability and uncertainty. Creating safe, stable and secure limits breeds peace and empathy. Inflicting pain on others, in any form, can never be okay.
2. No, you may not put yourself in harm’s way.
“Hot things burn you” seems a simple enough conclusion, but it is fascinating how often we have to teach – and learn – that basic concept. When we move from “fire bad” to warning against the kind of self-destructive behavior that plagues our culture, we may meet even more resistance. The Lord certainly did. The nation of Israel adopted every neighbor’s custom and tradition – even if it meant sacrificing children to appease lifeless gods. He could not allow it and rebuked His children for their own salvation.
3. No, I will never stop loving you – even if you fail at the first two.
In God’s supernatural grace, He welcomes us back every time we defy His holy guidelines. We must convey the same level of unconditional love and understanding to our children no matter the infraction to our commands. Our call is to imitate His sacrificial forgiveness all the way to our own crosses. Dying on a of hill of shame-based justice, never-ending disappointment and arrogance will leave your children far from you and far from God.
Our Sovereign Father calls us to His lap with His loving “no’s” for our best and His glory. His children constantly hurt each other and walk near the cliff’s edge, and yet, He woos us home.
When the word of the day is “no” from every corner, remember, if it won’t change eternity, you can probably say yes, and the world won’t crumble. But if saying “no” ultimately brings life, grows kindness, creates wholeness and fosters forgiveness, then be generous with your refusal to let them succumb to the enemy’s lies.
Blessings and love,
For more of Denise’s work go to denisemcdowell.com