Why “No” Is Crucial in Christian Parenting

There are trends in parenting, just like there are in clothing and food. One parenting fashion that tends to cycle through periodically is the idea that saying the word “No” to a child can damage the child’s delicate psyche. While harshness in parenting is not the best idea – especially for Christian parents – the word “No” is actual a vital tool in parenting and helps – rather than harms – your child.

A quick Google search for academic studies on boundaries for children reveals no studies suggesting children are somehow healthier when allowed to have free reign, while there are many studies reinforcing the idea of setting and maintaining healthy boundaries for children. While a more extensive search may uncover a random anti-boundary study, the lack of a body of research backing the anti-boundary parenting theory means that it is based on opinions rather than actual evidence of its success – especially over long periods of time.

Which brings us back to the word “No”. The easiest way to reinforce a preset boundary with any – but especially very young children – is the word “No”. It is simple, easy for even a very young child to understand and can be said firmly, with love and still reinforce boundaries that have been set for a child. The so called gentle parenting technique of having a discussion about the issues involved in biting (for example) another 18 month old child has little impact on a child who either doesn’t understand many of the words the parent is using or whose attention span limits means the child stopped listening after the first sentence. A simple “No, we do not hit people.” is easy to understand and remember.

Rather than damaging a child’s delicate psyche, boundaries that are consistently and clearly enforced with the word “No” (and consequences if needed) instead makes children feel safe. Acceptable and unacceptable behavior is easy to understand and remember. They understand the parent is in control and can be trusted to protect them. When children feel out of control because of strong emotions, boundaries help them learn how to practice self control.

Refusing to tell a child “No” encourages the child to believe that he or she is truly the center of the universe. A sense of entitlement and selfishness begins to take root. The needs of others are ignored in the effort of the child to obtain what is wanted. Perseverance and patience are not developed. Ironically, the child can become dependent upon others bowing to his or her will for happiness and contentment. Language is often slower to develop as parents rush to appease the child at a mere whimper without expecting the child to ask politely for what is desired.

Spiritually, refusing to tell a child “No” is a disaster. While explaining why certain rules exist and are enforced can be helpful to an older child, the reality is that when God says “No” (i.e. something is a sin), He doesn’t always explain why. This is when quite a few Christians begin to struggle – particularly if they are used to having their own way in life. While grace is available to the Christian, God still expects obedience to His commands. God uses the word “No” (or not) quite often in scripture. A child raised to believe that “No” is the equivalent of a dirty word in his or her home, will struggle and quite probably fail to be obedient to God – and may not even try.

The truth is that your children will hear the word “No” quite often in life – from teachers, coaches, employers, friends, spouses and others. The childhood “No” prepares them to navigate these other circumstances well. It also teaches them how to set and reinforce their own healthy boundaries for others.

Still not convinced? When I was a child, there was a child in our church who was never told “No”. As we became annoyed with her increasingly selfish antics, my parents would tell us that it would not end well for a child who was shielded from “No”. One day she ran out into the street, ignoring her mother’s sudden, frantic “No” as a car raced towards the child. The child was hit and killed. Years later, a similar situation happened to us with our child (although she was actually crossing the street properly at the time). Except our child had been told “No” and been expected to obey – with or without an accompanying explanation. She immediately stopped and her life was spared.

You never know when your child’s life may depend upon immediate obedience to the command of someone. You don’t need to be a drill Sargent, but using the word “No”, may save your child’s life and will definitely improve the likelihood that she or he will grow up to become an active, productive, faithful Christian.

Helping Your Kids Set Successful Spiritual Goals

Goals can be tricky for Christians. The Bible teaches that while it can be good to make plans, we still need to make room for God to adjust or change those plans. Christians also shouldn’t focus on selfish goals… which then requires one to define the term selfish that matches the definition God would give. All of these twists and turns in goal setting can leave people confused. Setting and meeting goals is tough enough, this added spiritual level can cause many to give up.

Which is sad, because most of us could benefit from having a few spiritual goals. Your kids need to learn how to set goals that are godly, help them better reflect the image of God and see how God may want them to adjust, drop or add goals. So how do you do that in a way that makes sense to your kids?

  • Explain God’s plans for everyone. God has predetermined goals for His people. First of course, is to become a Christian at the age of accountability. Naturally, obeying God’s commands would also be a goal God has for your children. The Great Commission gives us two more goals – serving others and sharing our faith with them. Finally, we know God has planned good works for each person to do in his or her lifetime. As for other areas of life, it is a little less clear how specific God’s plans for your children may be and in which areas He may leave a lot of room for personal taste. This is why it is so important for your children to learn how to see God trying to adjust their goals.
  • Modified SMART goals are most effective. Because we want to pay attention to God, the key elements for your children when they create goals is are they specific and measurable? “Read the Bible more.” won’t work as well as “Read a chapter of the Bible every day.” Teach them God will decide whether the goal is realistic and achievable. The ”T” is a little trickier. On some goals, it can help to have a deadline, but they need to understand God’s timing is perfect and they may need to adjust their timeline to meet God’s.
  • Prayer is a crucial part of the process. This is where many Christians make their first mistake. They either don’t pray at all or pray fully expecting God to bend to their will. Effective prayers should ask for wisdom and the humility to see and accept God’s guidance.
  • Brick walls can be a ”sign” or not. This part is possibly the hardest. Is Satan trying to block your child from becoming more godly or is God trying to get your child to change or modify the goal? Often, more time makes things clearer. Keep praying and try again later. Ask strong Christians for godly advice. Try going in a different direction and see what happens. It’s not a science, but with practice it does get a bit easier.
  • Don’t become enamored with a goal. So many Christians ignore obvious signs God sends them to abandon a goal, because they are certain God would want them to “be happy”. Teach your children, that if multiple strong Christians urge them to abandon a goal (like marrying a specific person), it’s very likely the Holy Spirit may be moving them to issue an important warning.
  • Work on only two or three goals at a time. If your children set too many goals, they can become overwhelmed and quit. They can have a master wish list of goals, but should focus on only a couple of those at a time. As they reach a goal, they can add a new one from the list.
  • Teach them to develop strategies. Your kids need to break down goals into action steps or develop strategies for achieving a goal. This step requires extra time and effort, but will make it much more likely they will reach a goal.
  • Some goals require help from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – which happens at baptism. Many people who were never baptized don’t understand why they are struggling with things like the Fruit of the Spirit. It’s because the Holy Spirit is a gift given Christians at baptism. We need that extra help to truly become who God wants us to be. Those without the Holy Spirit may achieve some success, but it is a lot more difficult without that extra help.
  • Goals can be set any day of the year. Waiting until New Year’s or Monday probably means the goal will never truly be set or achieved. Even tomorrow can become a way to procrastinate. Starting new goals now, gets the ball rolling immediately.

Go grab your kids and start teaching them about setting goals. Who knows what God will accomplish through all of you once you know how to see Him directing your steps?

Teaching Your Kids How to Navigate Awkward Gifts With Honesty and Kindness

One of the arguments people often make in favor of lying is the need to spare the feelings of others. Yet God makes it clear multiple times in the Bible that he hates lying. So what happens when your 13 year old daughter receives a dress with pink giraffes on it – a dress she will probably never wear?

There is honestly no need for your child to lie. With a little training your kids can make the giver feel loved and appreciated without lying in the process. Here’s what your kids need to learn.

  • “Thank you” is a complete sentence. The lies often start when people feel the need to be enthusiastic about the specific gift. Thank you, said with a smile is enough.
  • Watch the facial expressions. Your kids need to avoid making ugly faces when they don’t like a gift. They don’t have to act enthusiastic or thrilled, but a kind smile goes a long way.
  • The thought really should count more than the gift. Yes, Aunt Bee has purchased a gift for a child a decade younger than your child, but she loves your child dearly and has used part of her limited income to try and bring joy to him or her. Teach your children to appreciate the loving, but out of touch giver. ”You are always so sweet to remember me” is truthful and probably means more to the giver than raving about the specifics of the gift itself.
  • Grace is needed for thoughtless givers. Who knows why that friend or relative somehow forgot to purchase a Christmas present for your child until December 25 and obviously grabbed something from the only gas station that’s open? Your kids can practice being patient with thoughtless gift givers. If they treat them with love and kindness, they may grow a little from the exchange.
  • When asked a direct question answer honestly, but as kindly as possible. “Did I get the right size?” The answer is obviously ”not even close”, but how can your child soften the blow, while still being totally honest? Say the answer kindly and then find a possible excuse for the mistake. “It’s a little small – I’m a size 10 now – but I’m growing so fast, it’s hard to keep up!” Honest, but kind, understanding and gives the gift giver important information for the future.
  • Follow any tough honesty with appreciation for the love behind the gift. Have your child say something honest they love about the person or especially about spending time with the person. The person may be a little embarrassed at first, but hearing, “Gifts are welcome, of course (with a cute wink), but I just love that I got to spend extra time with you today doing (or talking about) xyz” will make everything feel right again. Of course, whatever is said must be honest and from the heart or it won’t ring true to anyone.

Of course, the truth is that most gifts can be exchanged or regifted to someone who would appreciate it. Gift giving occasions shouldn’t be about how many or how expensive the gifts, but the love of friends and family celebrating with us. With a little practice, your kids can be honest and loving even when receiving the most awkward gifts.

Fun Ways to Teach Kids to Be Watchful

In the last post, I shared the importance of teaching your children how to be watchful for Satan’s traps in order to avoid them. While teaching them those important principles is great, it doesn’t always help them understand how to put those principles to work in daily life. Thankfully, there are some fun things you can do with your kids to help them better understand and practice watchfulness in their own lives.

  • Analyzing streaming content. Even most programs for children contain episodes where one or more characters makes a poor or even sinful choice. Preview episodes to find one that has a temptation with which your child struggles. Explain to your child that the person who made the poor choice missed some of the signs he or she was walking into a trap that encouraged the poor or sinful choice. Ask your child to see if he or she can spot what the character missed. Don’t forget clues like other characters warning the person it would be a poor choice. (Sometimes part of being watchful is listening to other Christians when they try to warn us we are about to fall for one of Satan’s traps.)
  • Charades or skits. Give your kids basic scenarios when they might encounter one of Satan’s traps. They can act out or share ways they could avoid the trap through charades or “writing” and performing a little skit.
  • Obstacle courses. I will admit this takes some effort, but because it is more concrete, the impact might be better understood by your kids. Create an obstacle course using regular obstacle course items. This time though, to even be given the opportunity to pass the obstacle, they must also give a viable solution to avoiding one of Satan’s common traps. You can make it as easy or difficult as you like.
  • Escape rooms. There are templates you can get now that make designing an escape room easier than in the past. The clues should force the players to be watchful of Satan’s common tricks in order to solve them.
  • Strategy board games. If you think about it, avoiding Satan’s traps is a lot like playing a game requiring strategy. Play some favorite strategy games. Afterwards talk about the skill sets that make a player successful How could those same skill sets be used to avoid Satan’s traps?

Have fun with it, but give your kids lots of practice in being watchful. Watchfulness can help them recognize when they are being tempted and help them avoid sinning.

Fun Family Activity That Teaches Your Kids About the Needs of Others

If you think back to the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), one of the themes is whether or not we are willing to notice the needs of others. The priest and the Levite “saw” the badly beaten man, but they didn’t want to acknowledge the man’s needs in any way that might require them to actually get involved and provide assistance.

Many Christians go through their daily lives in a similar fashion. They may see a need someone has, but find ways to rationalize the fact that they don’t get involved with any number of seemingly valid reasons. Yet those who have the needs not only continue to have a crucial need, but they may also miss out on an opportunity to learn about Jesus or have their faith in God strengthened.

What if you trained your children to be different? To not ignore someone’s needs, but seek out that knowledge? To not only pray for someone, but also put in the effort to get involved in meeting that need? There’s a fun activity you can do with your children, that can begin laying the groundwork for their service to others in life.

Pick an area to explore, like your neighborhood or some public place where you are likely to encounter a lot of people. Explain to your children the challenge before you go. Start by reading or telling them the story of the Good Samaritan. Point out how the priest and Levite acted almost as if they didn’t actually see the man. Explain that often we can act the same way. We look the other way, so we don’t have to get involved. Today your family is going to be different. You are going to look for needs and meet as many of them as you can.

This activity is actually a scavenger hunt of sorts. Perhaps you notice a neighbor hasn’t picked up their paper from their driveway. You can move it to the door they use to save them a few steps and brighten their day. Perhaps another neighbor hasn’t had an opportunity to rake their leaves. If your family worked together, you could rake a yard in just a short time. (You may want to ask permission first, if you think the neighbor might get upset.)

Sometimes the little things – like holding open a door or thanking a worker for doing a great job – can make a person’s day brighter. Your family can bring a little light into their lives. Other times, the project may require a little effort on the part of your family. Occasionally, your family may notice a need that is too big for your family to meet. Can you brainstorm ways to get the need met anyway? Perhaps involving other families or your church or finding non-profits or agencies who can help.

Be creative. Do this regularly as a regular reminder of how God wants you to serve others. Encourage your children to look for similar opportunities at school or work each day. Make sure your family is the Good Samaritan and not the priest or Levite.