At a local cafe with a half dozen young leaders, Mark Foreman was recently asked, “Give us one nugget of parenting advice before you go.”
“Okay,” he responded, “Try out this one: Never say no.” The room erupted with laughter, as the dad looking for help reacted, “You are kidding right? That’s all I ever say–and my son needs one thousand more no’s.”
“No I’m not kidding,” Mark quietly responded. “Never say no to all the dreams and creative ideas your children have. Never say no to the realization you can become different than your mom or dad. Especially never say no to their requests to join them, like playing dress up with your little girl or going surfing with your teenager when the weather’s cold and windy. If you say no too often, they’ll stop asking.”
A week later that concerned dad tracked Mark down to say he had taken that advice and his home life had dramatically turned around. He said, “My son is suddenly easy to get along with just because I started saying yes to some things he wanted to do together. I’m not kidding,” he said with a big grin, “the change is dramatic.” As he walked away, he turned and pointed to Mark saying, “It’s hard, but never say no!”
No is a commanding word. It can be a denial, rejection, an expression of fear or an unintended statement of worth. But a thousand no’s can be dwarfed by the power of one yes. No is a brake while yes is an accelerator pedal. We say yes to the stuff and people we value.
Here are 5 ways parents can say yes to their kids.
1) Say Yes to a Greater Story:
Help your kids to discover a bigger story than the typical stories of safety, health, happiness and even success. Connecting them to God’s big story of redemption. We are raising children with this surpassing privilege: to reflect God’s loving face to others. Say “Yes” to the big story of God loving this world through them.
2) Say Yes to Time:
Children spell love tangibly: T-I-M-E. It’s is the currency of all relationships. Large deposits left early in lives will reap generous rewards later. It reverses Harry Chapin’s song, Cat’s In the Cradle.
3) Say Yes to Delight:
Children see themselves through their parent’s eyes, discovering their worth by reading our faces. Beyond loving our kids, it’s equally vital to really like them, enjoying who they uniquely are. Children who bask in these smiles of appreciation will pay it forward to genuinely enjoying others and being comfortable in their own skin.
4) Say Yes to Creativity:
All children are Michelangelo’s looking for a canvas. They come equipped with curiosity and innovation as part of the image of God package. This creativity grows best when we stretch their imaginations in a batteries-not-included environment, allowing them to explore and experiment.
5) Say Yes to Launching:
Maturity happens in baby steps: from crawling to walking, training wheels to two wheels, dating to marriage. Three ingredients that work together are essential for this process: increased freedom, risk, and responsibility. As we lean into this gradual increase of our kids’ freedom and (gasp!) risk, we will hopefully see a corresponding growth in their response-ability. It’s helpful to remember our destination: raising kids who say yes to God’s extraordinary plans for their lives.
Every parent, child and family is a gift, a fascinating original, experiencing God’s fingerprints in unique ways. So one final yes is to grace. As we imperfectly guide young humans to find their place in God’s epic, we all need buckets of God’s unearned love. Raising children is the most humbling and exhilarating privilege on earth. Here’s to saying yes!
Leave a comment on this post for the chance to win a copy of Never Say No by Mark and Jan Foreman, the parents of Jon and Tim Foreman of Switchfoot!!
About Mark & Jan
Mark & Jan Foreman live in the San Diego area, where Mark is lead pastor of North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, California. Mark is the author of Wholly Jesus, and holds advanced degrees in Theology, Education, and a Ph.D. in Counseling & Pastoral Care.
Jan is a gifted teacher and artist, and also facilitates partnerships with underprivileged women and children both locally and in developing countries.
Together, they love surfing, sailing, travel and especially being with their family.
Never Say No
Never Say No takes you on a personal journey to learn first-hand how they raised Jon and Tim of Switchfoot. They share practical advice for instilling wonder in a media-saturated culture, cultivating specific gifts, and balancing structure with individual choice. Our purpose as parents is the same as our child’s: to live creatively beyond ourselves, bringing the love, beauty and nature of God to this world. Let the adventure begin.