Don’t Get Caught

Have you ever found yourself feeling:

 “I’m just so mad, so hurt—again. I’m not going to share my heart with him anymore. He doesn’t understand. It is too painful. We’ll live in the same house but he can do his thing and I’ll do mine.”

Most of us, if we are really honest, have felt this way about our husband from time to time. I call it falling into the trap of emotional divorce.

Don’t get caught by it.

Imagine a solid glass patio door. Emotional divorce is a bit like slamming that patio door shut on our hearts. We still see the person on the other side but there’s a strong sealed panel between us. We begin to close up our heart to him.

This trap can occur during stressful transitions in our lives-a move, a job loss, financial pressures, a new baby, caring for elderly parents, a child in crisis, etc. We are stressed and if each of us responds differently to the issue, we get irritated. We are too exhausted to communicate. We are afraid, and we unintentionally take it out on one another.

What do we do when we find ourselves falling into this trap?

  1. Recognize what is happening and refuse to let that “patio door” separate you.
  2. Make the decision to take a sledgehammer and begin to chip away at that glass wall. Thick patio doors don’t usually splinter into pieces all at once. It takes a steady chipping away at a tiny crack until the door dissolves.
  3. One wise friend suggests saying, “I’m sorry. Let’s push the restart button and go forward as a united team.”
  4. Talk to a godly older couple and ask for their help. Most churches have older couples that would be happy to mentor you, pray for you, and encourage you. Get counseling as needed.
  5. Remember God is for your marriage. He is the strong “super glue” holding you together. You can rely on Him. He will bring you through this time and your marriage will be deeper and stronger as a result.

“For nothing is impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)

Share
 
 

Stop the Sass

“You stupid, big fat ugly Mommy.” “You are so mean. I wish you weren’t my Mom.”
“You are the worst Mom in the world.” Or: “No! I won’t!”

If you haven’t heard these phrases or ones like these in your home you must not have kids!

Backtalk in a home with children of any age is a common occurrence. But it can leave us feeling like the worst parent in
the world. We wonder, Am I handling this right? My friend’s child doesn’t do this. Her child is respectful. My child mouths off constantly. I am about to lose it!

Here are 6 tips to help face the challenge of sass:

  1. Remember you are the boss.
    Children, especially strong willed ones, will inevitably try to “run the show” and if you get in their way they will let you know it, often with a tongue-lashing. It’s easy to become involved in a power play. But this is dangerous for the child and will perpetuate problems for the parents. Remind your child that you are the boss. You determine what is acceptable and what is not. Avoid a lengthy debate particularly with young children. They can negotiate you to death and sometimes you simply need to end the conversation. They must obey you or there will be consequences, period.
  2. Be very clear about what words are allowed.
    “In your face” verbal abuse should never be permitted. Neither should blatant rudeness.
    “You are a —-.” is not acceptable. This is a lack of respect and respect is a character issue.
    “If you don’t—-, I won’t— or I will–” is not acceptable. These are threats and they put the child in the position of calling the shots. Stomping your foot and saying “no” to a request from a parent is not permitted. This is defiance. So how do we respond when this happens to us? If it is verbal abuse say, “You may not speak to me in that manner and then immediately initiate a punishment. There are many options for punishment. The most important thing to remember is that the punishment must be swift, very unpleasant for the child, and then be over and love given. A consequence that doesn’t cause pain or sadness to a child has no meaning. What you choose will depend upon the age of the child, the infraction and what has meaning to this particular child. It is important to recognize that a child who gets away with verbal abuse will be more likely to become a teenager who verbally abuses his parents and rebels, an adult who abuses his colleagues or employers, and a married person who abuses his or her spouse.
  3. Distinguish between back talk and feelings.
    There is a fine line between a child expressing her feelings and verbal abuse and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference. A child who says, “you are so mean, everyone else gets to…” is expressing her feelings if she is not in your face with defiance. A good response to this might be, “I’m sure you feel that way now but one day you’ll understand.” Or employ a little humor and respond, “I probably am the meanest Mom in town,” and burst out laughing. Humor often dissolves tension. Our daughter Libby was punishing her 4-year-old daughter Greyson. Greyson responded, “When I get to “Cousin Camp” this summer I am going to tell your Mommy (that’s me!) how ugly you have been to me!” Libby responded, “You do that!” I am still laughing over this.
  4. Give them words to use.
    Give your children words to use to express their feelings in a way that is not defiance. “I feel like….” Is a good substitute for, “You ‘blankety blank.’”   But remember when it is clear verbal abuse do not negotiate, take action. It is particularly important to discuss with your teens how to argue without crossing the line to disrespect. Role-playing is helpful. In a conversation demonstrate both a healthy way to make your case and a disrespectful way to engage. Practice and listen to each other. This is a skill they will need to develop for many relationships. You may not come to agreement but the exchange can be done with civility. You are still the parent, the boss.
  5. Practice forgiveness.
    The most important ingredient in the home is that of forgiveness. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to go to my husband or to a child and say,” I shouldn’t have said what I did and I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you forgive me? “I can’t remember a single time in which I felt like doing this. I’d much rather have said, “But if you had__ or hadn’t___.” We go to one another out of obedience not feelings. Feelings take time to heal. Genuine healing will be difficult apart from the asking and granting of forgiveness. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough unless it is an accident- like spilled milk, or a broken dish. When we intentionally wound one another we must ask forgiveness. God willing, we are raising future husbands and wives and they are going to need to know how to practice forgiveness in their future homes. It will help them if they see us doing it now.
  6. Remember it’s never too late to do what is right.
    If you realize that you have been letting your kids get away with verbal abuse you can still do a course correction. Agree as a couple what your new policies will be. Write them down. Mom and Dad must be on the same page or your child will play you against each other. You have to cover each other’s back. One Dad upon witnessing his child verbally abusing his wife said, “You may not speak to the woman I love in that manner.”

Call the kids together at a time-not in the midst of conflict- and clearly explain the new policy. Include what is and is not acceptable and what the consequences will be. It is likely to take at least 3 times of enforcement when you change course before they believe you really mean what you say. Consistency and firmness are crucial. One of the things that is so hard for parents is that we feel like we do this over and over and don’t make any progress. Our expectations are unrealistic. This kind of training takes years. Just keep at it. You are getting through even if you don’t feel like it right now. Our child’s security comes from knowing he or she is not the boss. We are. It helps to ask them with humor, “Who is the boss?” Who loves you the most in all the world?”

“I do!”

 

Share
 
 

The Best Prayer by the Best Teacher

 

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann, 1890

I left my prayer notebook on a bench last week and it poured rain on it. Ink ran, pages blurred and the book began to peel. I was disappointed but it was time for a new one anyway. So now I’m redoing it. I have it divided into days of the week and each day has a theme. Every day I pray for myself, John, and each of our kids. I add other prayers as well. (See post on it HERE) Each day has a theme. Mondays I focus on our relationship with the Lord.

As I begin my Monday prayers I pray the Lord’s Prayer over us.

It is the best prayer by the best teacher. Jesus taught the disciples many things but the only thing we know that they asked him to teach them was how to pray. (Luke 11:1)

Beginning a new school year creates a natural opportunity to commit to new things in our faith journeys. Here is Jesus’s answer to the disciples’ request. I’ve added in italics my own additional thoughts. (The initials are my kids. I repeat each of our names in the portions of the prayer.) I encourage you to do this as well.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Your kingdom come, your will be done (in me, JY, AG, WG, JY3, AY, CY, CBY, SA, SYA, LW, MW) on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us (names) this day our daily bread (a sense of your provision, your Holy Spirit, your joy, your presence, your protection, your intervention, your leading-today).

Forgive us (names). Convict us, make our hearts tender that we would repent, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Help us to do this-to grant grace in our marriages and to others.

Lead us (names) not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Help us to recognize evil and run from it and to call on your power to defeat Satan.

And I end with these precious words that help me know where to focus:

For Thine is The KINGDOM

The POWER

And The GLORY

FOREVER AND EVER! AMEN 

As I pray this prayer, I picture Jesus at the right hand of God, praying for me and each member of my family. It’s an incredible thought to realize that is what He’s doing for each of us right now, at this very moment. (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25)

Share
 
 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? (Guest Blogger & Book Giveaway!)

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Karen Marsh. You will love her new book. I’m already ordering it for friends! Here’s a sneak preview from Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith (IVP, 2017)

Karen Wright Marsh

By the time you read this, my daughter Nan will be out the door and off to college for the first time. On a rainy morning following the terrifying weekend here in Charlottesville, I count the three days until Move In at UVA and I wonder: what final wisdom can I give to her before she’s gone?

In the book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg challenges gifted young women to step up. Lead the way. Aim for the top.  And then she issues one final charge: “Please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.” It’s a strong question for my daughter, for all of us. Where does fear hold us back from our deepest callings or from simple daily acts of courage?

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? It would seem a cruel question to ask of Amanda Berry Smith, born into slavery in Maryland in 1837; she had every good reason to be afraid. Yet through her fear, Amanda Berry Smith leaned fully into God’s power and presence. She stood up, trembling, and preached the Gospel to people of all races. She was a woman who knew what she was meant to do-and she did it.

Amanda Berry’s life, even in freedom, was one of privation, hunger, ill health and intense stress. She sweated over laundry for only pennies a day. She grieved the early deaths of four of her five children. In her autobiography, Amanda speaks frankly of her constant struggles with fear. “I always had a fear of white people,” she writes, and justifiably so: she experienced virulent prejudice every day. (Imagine if she had been on the University Lawn when those torch-bearing men stormed through?) Dread held her captive.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? More than security or health, young Amanda desired to experience the immediate, living reality of God. She leaned in and made a daring vow, “I will pray once more, and if there is any such thing as salvation, I am determined to have it this afternoon or die.”

In church one day, she experienced, at her core, the presence of the Holy, a feeling wonderfully strange yet glorious. Overcoming her timidity, Amanda blurted out: the Lord has sanctified my soul!  “I suppose the people thought I was wild, and I was, for God had set me on fire!” she writes, “O, if there was a platform around the world I would be willing to get on it and walk and tell everybody of this sanctifying power of God!”

From that day forward, Amanda was propelled by passion for two things: to know God and to tell others about Him. At that time, women were not welcome in pulpits, and certainly not black women. But she preached and sang-through her fear.

Amanda had troubles with one fierce minister who opposed her public preaching. Before Sunday’s worship service, she was laid low by worry. As Amanda spent Friday in fasting and prayer, Satan tormented her with discouraging accusations. She took her Bible and knelt down. “Oh, Lord, what is the matter? Why is this darkness in my mind?” she prayed. “I opened my Bible, and my eyes lighted on these words: ‘Perfect love casteth out fear. He that feareth has not been made perfect in love.’ Then I saw what was the matter. Fear!”

Fear. Yes, fear is the matter. So what are you afraid of? Loss? Loneliness? Illness? Exhaustion? You and I are visited by real, myriad fears that wake us up in the night and trouble our souls. In her dorm room, my daughter will contend with her own worries, too.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Amanda was called to preach but she was terrified. So she prayed for help: “Oh! Lord! Give me complete victory over this fear.” Though her circumstances didn’t change, Amanda had a deep sense that God was with her-and she praised Him.

God met her and called her to take action: to testify at Union Church. She responded, “Yes, Lord, if Thou wilt help me, and give me Thy strength, and go with me, I will go.” That Sunday Amanda showed up, ready to face a congregation of skeptical strangers.

Lean in and lean on the God who is near. Amanda did not muster her own rhetorical skills or dig deep for self-confidence. She was out on the ledge with God alone. Before the packed house she stood up, heart pounding, body trembling. At the right moment the Lord gave her great liberty as her fright melted away. “I seemed to lose sight of everybody and everything but my responsibility to God and my duty to the people,” she recalled. “The Holy Ghost fell on the people and we had a wonderful time. Souls were convicted and some converted that night.”

Through controversy and hardship, Amanda Berry Smith, the self-taught former slave, travelled across oceans and around the world, an evangelist unlike any the people had seen before. Whenever she spoke in England and Scotland, as many as six hundred people came out. In Calcutta, where angry protestors threatened violence, Amanda knelt down on the grass and prayed until the crowd fell silent. She travelled through Liberia by canoe, stricken by malaria. She preached and labored till her death at 78, answering the what would you do question with her very life.

In our very different times and places, you, Amanda, Nan and I—we are sisters in a long line of vulnerable, fearful people. Here in Charlottesville, I have been painfully reminded of that truth. Now, in my mind’s eye I see Amanda Berry Smith approaching me after one of her sermons. She grips my arm and says quietly, “Now, my child, you needn’t be afraid. Lean on the Lord. He will help you.”

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? That turns out to be a trick question. What will you do when you are afraid, even when your legs are quaking? That’s more like it. We need people like Amanda for these perilous times, believers who cling to grace when they are weak. Who trust in God when treasured people or precious possessions are at risk. Who respond with generosity when others need their time or compassion. Courageous ones who speak their minds clearly, have hard conversations, stand with those who need allies. And more than anything, I pray that each and every one of us will ask God for the brave love that casts out fear.

GIVEAWAY!

We are giving away 4 of Karen’s new book! Go follow @susanayates on Instagram and share with me someone who has been influential in your walk with the Lord to enter! Giveaway closes September 1st!

 

Order this new book HERE

 

Share
 
 

Happy Anniversary to us!

Then

Yes, today we celebrate 48 years! I know, I can’t believe it either. In my head I still feel like a college girl. My body says I’m delusional.

So, on that hot August day in 1969 did John and I have any idea what we were doing?
Absolutely not!
Did we love each other?
Yes, as much as we knew what that meant at that time.
Did we know one another?
We thought so…but…
Do we know and understand one another completely now?
Are you kidding?
Of course not!

Now

 

 

If we did know and understand each other completely marriage would be boring. We are 2 different people growing as individuals and as a couple.  Marriage is a bit like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You put it together one piece at a time. Some pieces are easy to fit, others harder to place.  The creator of the puzzle knows what it will look like when it is finished. Beautiful.

In a similar way, God is putting our marriage together and He’s not in a hurry. He knows the final picture and it won’t be finished this side of heaven. We will always be growing into oneness.

I am so grateful for the 48 years we’ve had together. I have learned much about myself, the faithfulness of God, and the amazing man He has given me.

So, what do I most admire about my husband?

His consistent desire to be growing in his relationship with God.

For 48 years, he’s gotten up at the crack of dawn to pray for the two of us, our 5 kids as they came along, and their future spouses. And now our 21 grandchildren.

Wow

In good times, hard times, days that his calendar was way too full to take time for this, he made time alone with the Lord to pray and read the scriptures. This has been his first priority of each day.

For 48 years this one discipline has given me incredible security.

So here’s a toast to “Johnny.” You are still the man of my dreams!

My best friend forever.

uh oh

Share
 
 

two dangerous phrases

Have you ever experienced extreme fear or deep regret?

I have and I bet you have too.

While there are valid reasons for both, most often in our everyday lives we can experience fear or regret that’s not necessary.

Two little phrases, which can produce fear or regret easily creep into our heads-if only and what if?

If Only

If only I had not come from a dysfunctional family. If only I had a spouse. If only my marriage wasn’t such a mess. If only I knew how to handle this child. If only my parents or in-laws understood how hard “it” is. If only my boss appreciated how hard I’m working. If only we could get out of debt. If only I had a different house. And our list goes on and on.

It’s easy for this little phrase to sneak into our minds without our even being aware that it has. It gets its clutches around our thoughts squeezing and manipulating our minds until we slip into dissatisfaction or self pity or blame. I can easily become a total grouch-unhappy about my circumstances, mad at someone else and then angry at what I’ve become.

Living in the mindset of if only will cause regret, stifle joy, and decrease hope. So what do we do if we find ourselves in this state?

  • Recognize the trap we’ve fallen into.
  • If any part of the if only is regret over something we have done or said for which we need to ask for forgiveness, do it. If we need to grant forgiveness, do it. Then let it go. God has chosen to forgive and forget. (Psalm 103)
  • Choose to look to the future rather than the past knowing that God uses all things to work for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He is a God of new things. Nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37).

What if…

What if my marriage doesn’t make it, what if I never get married, what if I don’t get this job, what if we have to move, what if my child doesn’t get accepted for___. What if the medical test results are bad. And this list too goes on and on.

I have a big imagination and it’s very easy for me to fall prey to this phrase. It drives me crazy and makes me angry. What if the headache is really a brain tumor? What if my child’s late because he’s been in a terrible accident? Your what if’s might include: What if my child doesn’t make friends, gets hurt or sick. What if I blow this interview. What if I or someone I love is rejected, gets sick, or dies.

Living with a what if mentality causes fear. (I’m not talking about planning an event and considering contingencies here. That’s a different kind of what if.) When I’m honest I realize that I’ve let my fear become bigger than my God. I have lost perspective. So what can we do?

  •  Recognize the trap that we’ve fallen into.
  • Remind ourselves of how BIG God is. He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1John1: 5) He knows all (Psalm 139). He is good.
  • Say out loud the character traits of our loving Father. Somehow speaking out loud enables us to focus more on who He is instead of on our what if.

Both of these dangerous phrases are often tools of the enemy. He knows where we are vulnerable. He wants us to live in fear or in regret. He wants to rob us of JOY. He is annoying but He does not have real power over us. “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. “ (1John 4: 4)

God wants each of us to remember that:

He is my Father who loves me completely unconditionally. Nothing can ever change this.

He understands me even better than I understand myself.

He will never ever leave me.

He alone knows the future and He has a plan for my life.

He is my GOOD shepherd.

John 10: 11

Share
 
 

Is your nest emptying?

Are you getting ready to send a child off to college or preparing to send your youngest to all day school? Or have you just had a wedding? If so, you may be an emotional mess. The empty nest hits us in different ways at different times and often, when we least expect it!

How well I remember dropping our last child Susy off at college and beginning the long drive home. The week before, we had left her twin sister Libby at another college so not only was I sending off my last two at once, but it was the first time the girls, who are very close, had been separated. My husband John thought this would be a celebration of sorts for us! All those years of daily parenting five children would be finished and now we could focus more on us. So he planned an overnight on the drive home at a romantic lodge in the mountains. Ha.

As we pulled away from the college campus my tears started to flow. I felt like my life was over. My main job of parenting was done. What was my purpose to be now? I ached for the sadness the girls were experiencing in being separated. It had been their idea to go to different colleges but none of us anticipated the pain this would cause. In the midst of my tears I tried to explain my feelings to my husband. Feelings I couldn’t even understand. I felt lonely in my misery. I felt guilty. After all this was a good thing! And I had a great husband who was trying to please me. Yet I was miserable. Needless to say our romantic getaway wasn’t very romantic!

You may not experience sadness at having just sent a child off. In fact you may be thrilled. Each one of us is different and we never know when the emotions of the empty nest will hit us. It may not be until your last child is married. Or you may grieve when they begin high school. This season is not neat. It’s messy. And there’s not much written about it to guide us through it. But God does have a new plan for each of us as we approach the empty nest. And it is exciting.

Because Barbara (Rainey) and I couldn’t find much to help us as we navigated this season, we decided to write a book together. We needed some help ourselves! We interviewed women all across the country who were in various stages of the empty nest. We had no idea how comforting it would be to talk with others and to share our feelings honestly. We learned so much from them. We hope you’ll be encouraged by what we discovered.

The new, updated version of Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest is now available here. We encourage you to gather some other women and use this resource in a fall book club. There is a 4 session book study included in the book. Comfort comes and new friendships are built when we share our experiences. You are not alone.

 

Share
 
 

Disappointed? 6 things to encourage you

I was an exhausted young mother with five small children. For several months, we had been praying for a small house to purchase. We’d never owned anything and felt it was time to begin to build a little equity. We made a list of things we wanted-a fireplace, view, creek, and we wanted God to provide it by a certain date!

We didn’t really want to be “picky” but instead simply honest with God who knows our desires anyway.  The “perfect” house came up–we thought! We made a bid but it was rejected as way too low and a counter offer was out of our range. I was devastated. Our adopted grandfather Alf Stanway and his wife Marjory were visiting us at the time we received the “no.”

A godly Bishop and one of our heroes in the faith, Alf turned to me and gently said,

“Susan when God answers a prayer  ‘no’ consider it a ‘love no.’  He always answers out of His personal love for us.”

Over the years with lots of “nos” I’ve always remembered Alf’s words.

6 things have encouraged me in these times of disappointment.

  1. Release those tears. It’s OK. Being sad is not “un-spiritual.” Jesus himself wept when he received word that Lazarus had died. (And he knew he was going to raise him up!). Feelings are a gift of God.
  2. Recognize that Jesus understands. Hebrews 2:17-18 and 4:14-16 remind us that he has experienced everything that we have and we will, yet without sin. He gets us. This comforts!
  3. Regain perspective. We see only in part. Jesus alone has the big picture and He’s about something so much bigger than our one disappointment.
  4. Realize that delay is not denial. An obvious “no” may one day and at the perfect time become a “yes.” God does what is best, not necessarily what is fast.
  5. Rest in the fact that God might be protecting us from something that we don’t know about. (The house we wanted was a complete fixer upper and my husband is not a fixer upper. With 5 little people we would have been making a huge mistake.)
  6. Remember that God is good. He is sovereign. We want “thy will to be done.” He is working while we are waiting.

“For it is God who is at work within you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” Philippians 2:13

Share
 
 

5 ways to pray that will change your life and your kids too

It’s almost here: school, fall start-ups, crazy schedules, shopping, and settling into a routine. We’re probably feeling both a bit of relief as well as some sadness as summer slips away.

Years ago, John and I began a late summer ritual that has made a big difference in our own lives and in the lives of our kids.

Before things start up, we set aside some “couple time” to discuss each of our children in five areas of growth: emotional, spiritual, physical, mental, and social. We name the child and ask God to reveal to us their needs in five areas, for example:

  1. Social: Does this child need a special friend? Does this child need to reach out to others, to care for a newcomer at their school or in the neighborhood?
  2. Spiritual: Does a child need to give her heart to Jesus? Does a teen need to be in a strong, discipleship based youth group?
  3. Mental: Does a child need more discipline in schoolwork? Would a designated study space and study time each day help?
  4. Physical: Does a child need to develop better eating habits, get more exercise?
  5.  Emotional: Does this child need more attention from one of us? Does he need to feel loved?

As we discuss each child we make notes and these become our prayers for a specific child for the coming year. This practice helps us get on the same page with each other. It strengthens our marriage. It gives us a vision for the year-one in which we are pro-active rather than merely re-acting to events and issues as they come up. It also gives us the opportunity to see God at work in the lives of our children.

When our son Chris was about 11, we felt that he needed to feel special in our large family of 5 kids. (He’s a middle child.) We took note of this as an emotional need and began to pray for him in this way. Several months later he fell head first on a cement floor and fractured his skull. We were in the hospital 2 weeks and it was scary. Once he regained consciousness we read Romans 8:28 (For God causes all things to work together for good for those who love him.) and began to pray together with him that God would use this for good. Many people prayed for him. Classmates and friends sent cards that we taped to his walls. The day we were at last able to leave we asked Chris if there was anyway that he could see that God had used this for good. Looking at all the cards, he replied, “Mom I never knew I was so special before.” John and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. Yes, God answers the private prayers of parents and sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Once our kids were in high school and then in college we began to do this as a family. (John and I still had our own private prayer list for them). Of course they groaned when we mentioned it’s “Needs and Goals time” but they did it and this has become a way of keeping up to date with each other and of praying for one another in the family. Today, John and I ask our kids to give us updates for each of our grandchildren using this filter as a guide. This enables us to pray more specifically for each of them!

One of the great challenges today is the use and overuse of technology. There’s a new book out which I highly recommend to parents. The Tech Wise Family, Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is pure gold. It will help you devise a plan for your family’s use of technology as you head into fall.

Share
 
 

Saying “No” to Your Kids

Recently I was chatting with a mother of a four-year-old. This four-year-old, according to others, has never heard the word “no.” Unusually bright, this child is a terror to be around. She is difficult to control, throws temper tantrums, and demands her own way. She does not like rules of any kind. Her parents are bright Ivy League graduates. They love their child and want to encourage her creativity and independence and they want her to be secure.  However, they seem to feel that if you say “no” to a child, you are restricting and limiting their growth. So they employ diversion, distraction, and reasoning in an attempt to get her to behave.

Now, there is nothing wrong with diversion and distraction. They can be very effective with a one-year-old or an eighteen-month-old. It is wise to avoid conflict when possible. Reasoning can be effective, particularly with an older toddler. However, you cannot reason with a one or two-year-old—and diversion and distraction are not enough. Our children must learn to cope with the word “no” and we must not be afraid to use it.

We teach our child not to run into the street. He must hear us say “no” and immediately stop. There is no time for diversion, it could be a life or death situation. Our first “nos” have to do with safety issues.  Soon we move to other “nos”:  “No, you may not bite your brother.” And we follow through with swift punishment when they proceed to bite. Our kids have to learn that our “no” actually means “no” and not “maybe if you pitch a fit.” We must follow through with a swift punishment when they disobey.  In this way, our kids learn that we are reliable—we mean what we say.  They can count on us. As they mature, reasoning becomes crucial but there will still be times when they (and even we!) simply have to accept “no” even if they don’t understand the reasoning. No, you cannot skate board without a helmet even if you are an excellent skater. No, you cannot stay out all night even if you disagree with our rules. A lot of life is full of “nos” and we don’t prepare our children for adulthood if we are afraid to say “no.”

Every parent wants their child to feel secure and valued. But we have to remember that a young child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure. God did not intend for that child to have that much power over his parents. His security comes because he begins to understand at an unconscious level that he is not the boss. Mom and Dad are and this gives him security.

Share
 
 

1 2 3 16