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Teaching Your Kids to Say "No"

Relationships | Attie Murphy | 5 mins

Parents, you probably can't count the times you've said "No," to your kids or the times they've said it to you. It's easy to say "No," in obstinance, but it's a lot harder when there's something to gain from a "Yes." When children face the world, they see opportunities and seek the most interesting outcome where they are. Peer pressure and plain old curiosity can be a parent's worst nightmare. You can work to protect your kids from harmful temptation, but they won't outrun it. They need sensible principles to lean on when they encounter unfamiliar territory. From the start, we are all attracted to actions that aren't good for us, and our best defense is understanding what God says. 

Respond rather than react

God does not give us a spirit of fear but of self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). That is a great reminder for your kids and you as you handle their choices and questions. If your child asks to watch something PG-13 or tells you about concerning behavior in their friends, it's natural to react in fear, wondering if this is their entry into juvenile deviance. Fear leads to shutting down the conversation because something is bad rather than offering an alternative. How you say "No" may determine if your children will say it when necessary.

Responding means considering your child's perspective and giving them the information they're missing. How does "No" improve their lives? When did Jesus say "No?" The question for every situation is, "What would Jesus do if He were me?" To care about the answer, your kids need a personal relationship with Jesus. You can start by teaching them the meaning of resurrection and grace. When your kids bring you tricky topics, respond with God's love for them. Trusting God will help them to put Him first, even when that means disapproval from peers. 

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 

Who made the rules? 

Everyone questions authority at some point. When your child asks, "Why do you get to make the rules?" the easy answer is, "Because I take care of you." And that is valid. However, your kids will figure out you don't know it all. If their only reason for rules is because you say so, it won't stick when they're out in the world. The best thing you can do for your kids is to study God's Word and show that God leads your decisions. Teach them the origin of temptation and the tools we have to resist it. Let them know you aren't perfect, but you trust the God who is. The Bible has a ton to say about how to live, and it tells children to listen to their parents. That's not because adults are flawless; it's because God designed parents to lead their families, and He provides them with wisdom. 

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place." - Ephesians 6:14

Kindness over niceness 

"Can you tell my Mom I'm at your house so I don't get in trouble?" To a 10-year-old, lying in a scenario like this may seem like a selfless act - and that's what Jesus would do, right? The problem is, lying wouldn't be good for the friend just because it's what they want. God calls us to sow virtues such as honesty because He knows we won't always see the harm in front of us. Saying "No" might disappoint a friend or incite anger, but it's often the kind decision. Jesus shows us that selflessness does not require niceness or admiration. Kindness means having respectful but firm boundaries. No matter how much we love people, rejection is regular in life, but God's purpose for us is constant. Let your kids know they can always come to you when they aren’t sure if something honors God. Teaching your kids to follow Jesus will encourage them to stand strong, whether they're dealing with a peer or an adult.

Written By

Attie Murphy

An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.

Published on Mar 18, 2023