We have dear friends who have 4 children just like we do, also now grown. Their children were all born after our youngest, so it has been interesting (fun?) to watch their children go through each of the growth stages after our children had done so.
This kind of situation is proof that hind sight is 20-20. It is so easy to think of solutions after one has faced a particularly difficult stage with a child. It is also easy to watch children a few years older than yours and think “I would never let my children do that!”
This is dangerous territory!
Truth be known, no two families are alike and we don’t know what we would do in another’s situation.
Our friends had one child with a strong will – to be honest and a VERY strong will. They are effective, nurturing parents and from the beginning they set clear boundaries and had realistic expectations. Yet, this child tested every limit and challenged every standard set by the parents. We were visiting from out-of-town one weekend when he was about 3 or 4 years old. The parents were giving bed time instructions to their children and this one kept asking for changes to the normal routine.
Children will frequently do this when there are guests since they think the parents
- 1) aren’t really paying attention or
- 2) the parents don’t want a “scene” in front of the guests.
Both of these ideas are quite often TRUE!
Our friends did not give in. They firmly repeated “no means no” and refused to discuss the matter further. This did not deter their son at first. He, being a very bright and creative child, had new and unique alternatives to the standard bedtime procedures. The parents did not cave in, they repeated “no means no” calmly and firmly and soon their son was in bed.
I commented to the mother after he was tucked in for the night, “You were so consistent! You repeated “no means no” and meant it!” She smiled a weary smile and said, “Gayle, if you only knew how many times a day I say that. Every reason I give him just creates another opportunity for him to come up with an excuse for not obeying. But a simple “no means no” works. Sometimes I get so tired and I want to give up, but I know we need to require obedience.”
Don’t give up.
God requires obedience from His children “Thou shall not steal” “Thou shall not commit adultery” “Honor your father and your father”. Exodus 20: 12, 14, 15
These are not suggestions. God does not say “If it’s ok with you, don’t take anything that isn’t yours” or “Try to be faithful to your husband, alright?”
To God – no still means no.
Are we sending mixed messages to our children when it is nap time and we say “Do you want to take a nap now?” Is there a choice? If there is fine – but nap time in our house was NOT a choice. It was the goal each afternoon to get everyone fed, changed, and down for a nap at the same time! If I had said “Do you want to take a nap now?” one of my four might have said “no!” My day would have fallen apart!!!
Yet I hear many parents, and I probably did this some myself, ask their children if they are ready for lunch, nap time, supper, clean up time, bath time, etc. It would be a clearer communication of my expectations if I said, “It’s time for lunch. Please come sit down at the table.” ” It’s nap time, take your shoes off and pick out one story.”, or “You had so much fun playing with all these toys today. Now it is time to put them away before you go to bed.”
It is unfair to the child to appear to a choice when I don’t intend to allow the child to choose. Let my “no” mean “no” and my “yes” mean “yes”.
Believe me, it will be so much easier when your children are teenagers if they learn “no means no” at a young age! It is less difficult to deal with issues of obedience when a child is 3 or 4 than when they are 13 or 14.
No still means no.