Mother, May I?

by Amy Walker on April 24, 2012 in Home Culture, Inspiration in Child Rearing

How many times did you say the word “no” yesterday to your children? Can’t remember? Too many to count?

I understand… it’s a common parenting necessity and yet, I can attest that I’ve found myself stuck in the “no” rut more than once! And before long, the kids aren’t the only one’s who seem miserable! It makes me grumpy and typically, sharp with my tongue.

Without a doubt, children need both attentive guidance and loving correction, but when we find ourselves saying “no” all day long, something is way out of balance. This would be a good time to do some serious prayer and spend time reflecting on where our parenting got off track.

The reasons for our “no’s” may be many and perhaps we feel justified in using the word so much, but if we’re wise mothers and willing to humble ourselves before the Lord, we can often find a better way to address the same issue. A good place to begin is acknowledging why we’re saying no so habitually. Typically, it’s one of three reasons…

• they’re asking to do something that isn’t the best use of their time, resources, or mind!

• they want to do something that is a really bad idea!

• we’re tired, stressed, and irritable!

The first two have to do with spiritual immaturity on their part. The second is spiritual immaturity on OUR part! Ouch!

As a mom, when I’m fatigued and short-tempered, I need to put off the desires of the flesh and put on a bit more self-control. I realize that it’s hard to do that when we’re worn out, but if we beseech Him for what we do not have within ourselves, that’s when the Lord gets all the credit. He is glorified in our weaknesses.

When we do muster an answer, what can we possibly say other than “no”?

You maybe thinking I’m suggesting you must start using the word “yes” all the time. Let’s face it… “yes” may not be the best answer and maybe it’s even a bad answer! So what would this look like in real life? Let’s take a look and a few ways we could NOT use the word “NO”…

Example #1

Q: Mom, can we watch _____________________? (Child’s request is the tenth time this week for a trivial twaddle!)

A #1: No, you certainly may not watch that movie!

A #2: Yes, you may watch a movie such as _____________________, but there’s a reason we won’t be watching ________________. (Spend 5 minutes discussing the reason if you’re able).

A #3: You may watch a movie on Friday night, but for now, you may read that book you requested from the library.

Example #2

Q: All the kids at church are going to _____________________. Can’t I go, too? (Child’s request is for an event they know you would not approve of)

A#1: Seriously? Who’s idea was that? anyway No! Of course not!

A #2: Have you prayed about whether or not going to _______________ is a wise idea? Why wouldn’t it be good to go there? What is our family policy on that kind of thing? Do you know why your Dad feels it isn’t a good idea? Let’s invite the _________________ family to spend Saturday evening with our family and play volleyball out back. I’m thinking banana splits would be awesome!

A #3: Tell me, why are you wanting to go? How do you think God feels about it? (More probing questions to find out the heart of the request).

Example #3

Q: Mom, I have an hour before dinner. Can I ride my bike to __________________ and back? I’ll be home in time to set the table. (a reasonable request;, Mom is tired and thinking it’s a hassle to get the bike out of the already packed garage).

A#1: No, I’m busy right now cooking.

A #2: If you can get your bike out by yourself, then yes, you may. But you must put everything back as well.

If child answers she cannot do it herself….

A #3: Then you may take the dog and walk around the block if you’d like.

Sometimes another response just isn’t appropriate and we really must say “NO”. But when we do, it needs to be clearly heard and respected by our children. Using “no” too often causes them to either begin tuning out the word altogether or they become exasperated and anger builds, thinking the only answer they’ll ever get is “no”. By that time, joy is gone for both you and your child.

So next time you’re tempted to say “no”, pause for just a moment, tell your child “Just a minute and let me think about what you’re asking”. Whisper a prayer and then try answering without using the “no” word. Practice makes perfect and you may need a do-over once in a while, but in time, “no” will be a rare thing indeed.

Amy Walker

Amy Walker is a pastor’s wife and mother to three future homemakers. Her blog, Homestead Revival, is a glimpse into her journey to reclaim the home as a place of ministry to the family while encouraging women of all ages to join her in that endeavor. Amy’s passion is to see the next generation embrace being keepers of the home by living a simple life closer to the land (Titus 2:4-5; Thess. 4:11).

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Heather April 24, 2012

What an excellent post! Thank you for the “heart check”. I’ll be trying some alternative answers this week.
Blessings to you and your family,

Mrs. Mordecai April 24, 2012

I like this post. I find myself saying no often just because I’m tired. I like that you suggested questions instead in one of your scenarios. In a parenting class I took recently, the teacher suggested that most kids already know whether something is right or wrong, and questions are a good way for parents to find out whether more teaching is required on that subject (because if kids already know the answer, they’re likely to tune out the lecture!).

Megan Jenelle @ A Blossoming Homestead April 24, 2012

You always write such wonderful posts! Thank you for sharing this! My husband and I recently went through a parenting class at church, and I was very impressed with the insight I received regarding the use of the word “no”, or any negative statement for that matter. Of course, as you mentioned, there are times when the word “no” must be used, however, often times we can rephrase our response in a more positive way. For instance instead of saying , “don’t color outside the lines”, why not say, “be sure to keep your colors inside the lines :)” Doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but throughout the course of the day I believe it would make for a more joyful experience for everyone! Thanks again for reminding me to be mindful of this!
Megan Jenelle @ A Blossoming Homestead

Shellie April 24, 2012

Thank you for this article. All too often, I feel I am plagued by saying no all too often. My issue lies more with not being able to get a 4 year old under control, and the 6 and 8 year old’s abilities to manipulate the situation. I have strayed far off course. But these are simple ideas I can get to the heart of the matter without long lectures or angry posturings by me. 🙂

Stephanie April 24, 2012

Totally needed this today. Big time. It really spoke to my heart. Thanks for sharing.

Jenna April 24, 2012

This is interesting because we just had a family discussion on using more positive language. This post certainly fits our discussion, which I hadn’t thought about last night. I might have to bring it up with the family today at dinner.

Babychaser April 24, 2012

Love this! Thank you!!!

Sarah April 24, 2012

Yes!! I try to do this – and sometimes I still get caught in the ‘no’ rut… but this is encouraging to remind me that I’m doing well and to keep up the good work. I LOVE that you put in some real-life examples and options!! Sometimes, I just don’t feel like I have any brain cells left to explain/talk anymore. Then , I really do (patiently) say, “I’m sorry, the answer is no. Don’t ask again.”

Christie Elkins April 24, 2012

Amazing post! I need to work on my words with my children in the worst way. It seems “no” has been my word of choice lately 🙁 Excellent and encouraging post that I plan to bookmark and reference often!

Jessica April 24, 2012

With a 2 year old I feel like so often I am saying No. I do try and change things up, as you suggested, but boy, is it easy for that “no” to come out!

Kate @ Teaching What Is Good April 25, 2012

Yikes! I remember when God convicted me on this very topic. Raising my children became all about what was convenient for ME rather than what helped to raise THEM. Thanks for sharing this today!!

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