Ryan’s parents just gave him a car! He wants to pick me up and drive to the mall. This is so cool! Can I go?"
—Jason, age 15
When your children and grandchildren ask you for an object or a privilege, their request presents an opportunity to express grace in your relationship. But how can you give permission without being permissive? And what if the request really makes your skin crawl as a parent? Instead of a trip to the mall, what if your son wants to go on an out-of-state trip for a wild party weekend? Instead of a puppy, what if your daughter wants a tattoo?
Examine Your Heart
When your children make a request, it can feel like they are stomping on the car accelerator. “Let’s go!” they blurt out. They want to move forward as quickly as possible. Your immediate reaction is to slam on the brakes. “Let’s stop!”
Many times, your parental intuition is correct. You need to help your children slow down and think through the potential consequences in order to make wise decisions.
However, as you review your recent no responses to your children, have you been saying no too much? Not every request is as serious or long-lasting as a tattoo. Before you weigh the request, examine your heart. Are you saying no simply because a yes answer would inconvenience you? Saying yes to your children often means saying no to yourself, and that’s difficult to do.
Weigh the Consequences
A good gauge for deciding whether to say yes is to weigh the probable consequences of the request. Make a mental list of the pros and cons. When your small children beg for some tickle-time or a romp on the playground, you may feel too tired to say yes. Think of the benefits to your relationship! Playtime communicates love, acceptance, and understanding to small children. Along the same lines, allowing teens to have a measure of independence creates an atmosphere of trust and develops their sense of responsibility.
Sometimes, though, the cons outweigh the pros. If your children’s actions will violate Scripture, hinder their Christian witness, or damage their health, the most gracious answer is no. Then, along with your answer, offer a positive alternative. If body piercing, tattoos, and wild parties are out, what could be a healthy choice? Give your teenager time to present a second request on which you both can agree.
Make Your Yes Creative and Fun
What about intelligent, precocious children? Their non-stop requests can wear you out! Try to tap into your children’s interests and abilities by giving them fun projects that capture their enthusiasm. For example, one grandmother asked her energetic granddaughter to take care of the store gumball machine. The little girl’s spirit soared! Instead of hearing “No!” from her grandmother every time she begged for a job, she heard “Yes!” and their relationship became much more enjoyable.
Another set of parents started a worm-farm business with their entrepreneurial son. More worms died than survived, but their efforts encouraged their son’s interests, and today he is a well-respected business executive. You never know what talent you may ignite in your children with a simple—and creative—yes!
Say Yes Wisely
A good rule of thumb is this: When possible, say yes—but do so wisely. Here are a few ways that wise parents and grandparents say yes:
Yes, with limits. If your children ask you to play games, for example, you can say yes, but limit play to a certain amount of time. You can set other limits, depending on the request. You can limit the amount of money they spend, the distance from home that they travel, or the time they stay out before returning.
Yes, with responsibilities. Your yes to your children’s request may imply a yes in return—an agreement from them to take care of a pet, for instance, or to pay for the maintenance of a car.
Yes, but later. You may agree to their request, but decide that the timing would be better at a later date. However, don’t say, “Yes, but later” as a way to put off your children. Better to deny their request right away than to keep them hoping for something you can’t or won’t do.
Yes, but it needs to be fair. Some children make a lot of requests. You can easily overlook the others who are shy or less decisive. If you say yes to one child, find a way to say yes to the others as well.
This week, when your children make a request, pause before the word "no" forms on your lips. Unless you absolutely must say no, try saying yes. And don’t forget; be creative and have fun!