Never say no to your kids

Obviously you need to say no to your kids. Multiple times a day. “Can I have ice cream for breakfast?” “Is it ok if I get chocolate on the DVD player?” “Can I lick the dog?” No, no, and no. There are plenty of times when kids need to hear no. So my title is a lie. You should definitely say no to your kids. It helps them set healthy boundaries, lets them know what is right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy, appropriate and inappropriate. But maybe there are times when you should not say no to your kids. A better title probably would’ve been ‘Why you shouldn’t say no to your kids as often’, but that wouldn’t have been as dramatic. I was participating in a men’s bible study on marriage this spring, and I received some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever heard. The advice: “don’t say no to your kids.” Confused yet? Parenting is confusing. At least in my (limited) experience, it is.

What that advice means, is if your child asks you to do something with them, don’t say no. If a kid wants to spend time with you, you should always say yes to them. Kids know what they want, and they usually aren’t shy about expressing it. I’m hungry, I want to leave, I have to poop, etc. And usually when they ask, they mean it. So if they say that they want to spend time with you, they probably mean it. They truly want to spend time with you. We could talk about quality vs quantity time, but what I believe is, quality time happens within quantity time. You can try and plan quality time through special activities, but usually the quality moments happen during unplanned time together. Swinging on the swings, playing catch, going for a walk, even something as simple as eating a meal together can turn into the moments that kids remember most.

Jan and Mark Foreman, parents of 2 members of the band Switchfoot, recently wrote a book entitled Never say No: Raising Big Picture Kids. Admittedly, I’ve only read the introduction and a devotional consisting of short passages from the book. Either way, sofar it’s fantastic, and I plan on reading the whole thing. In the introduction, they share how they describe this concept to other curious parents.

“Never say no to all the dreams and creative ideas your children have. Never say no to the realization you can become different than your mom and dad. Especially never say no to your kids’ requests to join them, like playing dress up or going surfing with your teenager when the weather’s cold and windy. If you say no too often, they’ll stop asking.”

Another quote that I love from the book is “A thousand no’s can be dwarfed by the power of one yes.” It’s amazing to see the look on a child’s when we say yes to something that’s always been no. Some of our kids have never heard yes when they’ve asked a question. Whether it was from parents, relatives, or caseworkers, the answer has always been no. They’ve never had a chance to get what they want or to think creatively. They’ve been told what to eat, what to do, where to live, who to live with or simply given no attention at all. Whether it’s a second bowl of cereal at breakfast, or another blanket on their bed because they’re cold, a simple yes can work wonders in developing a relationship with a kid. Especially in our cottage, forming relationships is a difficult but vital part of our job. I’ve found that if you can make a kid laugh, it will be easier for them to trust you. When they trust you, they listen to you. Not to say all defiance is distrust, but for us that is often the case. To a certain extent, they need to know you’ll say yes to some things before they accept you saying no to another.

For me this is really easy to connect this concept to our relationship with our Heavenly Father, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this part. 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 says

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me [Paul] and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

He always has been and He always will be. He says many times that he wants to hear from us and He is always available for us. Of course sometimes He says no to us when we make requests, but whenever we want to spend time with Him, the answer is always yes.

I write this somewhat hypocritically. It sounds great and makes perfect sense, but this is something that I’m not good at. I’m trying, but it’s really hard to push 4 kids on the swings at the same time when it’s 90 degrees outside. I know I need to do better, and I have seen results when I say yes to our kids, however reluctant that yes is. But it’s still tough.

Motherhood 

Everyday I feel like I sing the words of David Crowder’s song ‘Here’s my Heart’. (If you don’t know it, look it up.)  But all you need to know is this part: ‘Here’s my heart, Lord/Speak what is true’. 

This is why: 

Because every day I am confident that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Because every moment I say ‘This. This, Lord, is my heart. This house. This ministry. These little faces. This is where my heart is.’ My heart is daily laid out for all to see. Those children. That’s my heart. Their memories, their spiritual life, their development, their happiness, their sadness, their health, their grades, their hygiene, their entertainment, their tantrums, their hugs and kisses. It is so evident to me that children, specifically our children, are simply people passing through that I have the honor of raising for the time being. Their life is my life. So, everything I do in Bryan Mac cottage, I say with my actions and in my mind, ‘Here’s my heart, Lord’.

. . .And ‘speak what is true’? That’s the redeeming part! I can present my heart, life, desires, and children to the Lord everyday. But I cannot speak Truth without Him. There’s not much more I desire for our kids than to speak Truth into their lives, for them to see the one and only Truth, for them to experience and believe it, for His Truth to combat every lie they believe. Everything I do as a mother for our kids must be inundated  with His Truth. From waking them up in the morning to doing bed checks after they’ve all fallen asleep, I must use every moment to speak God’s Truth into their lives. It is the only thing that can change their anxiety, cause them to see their true identity, shift their view of the past and the future. God’s voice of Truth is what changes our children’s fear, distrust, self esteem, confusion, everything! They need His Truth to fill their little lives in order to move forward, and they don’t even know it. That’s why it’s my job to speak it and to live it. His Truth. 

There are rarely moments when I don’t see the privilege it is to be a mom to this house of boys. Like every other parent, some moments make it easier than others. When your kids are being sweet or following instructions or wanting to be close, it’s in the moments that make you proud that you think about how honored you feel to parent your children. And then there’s the struggles – the timeouts, their yelling, when they lock your keys in the car, the poop in the tub, the bad conference reports, the lack of sleep. The elements of parenthood that make it challenging and test your patience, even in those circumstances, I can see clearly the trauma and hurts that cause them. Those trying times cause me to see the world from their point of view, and it leaves me feeling privileged in a different way. Those memories they hold, the hell they’ve lived in, the past they need to forget, they entrust to me. Sometimes it’s through words and other times through their actions. No adult may have ever cared for their feelings or opinions or even just cared at all for that child. But they feel safe enough to misbehave because they know I won’t beat them or they know I’ll be a voice for them about the abuse they’ve held in for a long time. It is a privilege to be their voice, to be trusted with their past, to be influential in their steps to freedom, to speak Truth into their lives. 

That’s what motherhood is to me. Having the honor of raising anxious, loving, hurting, most times chaotic children. Making sure, that no matter what, every boy I tuck into bed knows that they are safe, loved, and will be forever cared for when Momma Heidi is with them. 

It’s interesting to see the connection the boys make with feeling safe. I always say they should call me Ms Heidi, and most do. But many times after I’ve done a bed time or 2 with them, and I give them the speech I give every night, something like ‘You’re safe here. I love you. I’m sorry you have to be here, but I’m so glad I met you. I will never hurt you. Jesus loves you so I love you’. It only takes once or twice and our little ones will ask ‘so you’re my mom? I’m gonna call you Mom’. Even with their 4 year old minds they know how they should feel when a Mom is being a Mom. 

It’s not a self-made title, but I’ll take it anyday of the week: Momma Heidi. It helps me know that I’m completing the overwhelming, but wonderful task of motherhood.