No is not a bad word

 

Here’s a quick thought about the state of parenting in America today.

Maybe it was a specific time and place, or a particular worldwide event that sparked the change, but something has clearly shifted in the way parents raise and train their children. At times it almost seems that the keys to the kingdom have been flat handed over. Mom and Dad just hope and pray that their little heathen spawn do not take over totally and destroy everything.

Overstated? Maybe. But similar scenes play themselves out over and over in our society today. A scene in which mom or dad want the child to do something, but can not acquire even a modicum of compliance. The kid glares at the parent with a look of, “Did you just tell me to do something” or “You talkin to me?” Then the child continues to do exactly the opposite, and there are zero consequences…unless you count the pain and suffering the rest of us have to endure as consequences. It’s nearly impossible to make even a short trip to a store without witnessing parents at the end of their ropes, and kids screaming and yelling as they’re carried or dragged down the aisles.

While each child is unique, as well as every parent, there does appear to be a common thread that connects these awkward and chaotic parent-child battle scenes. The word “NO” has become a bad word for parents. Obedience and compliance to the wishes of the parents (who are supposed to be the ones with the wisdom) is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there are very few commands given at all in the new parent-child relationship. It’s as if parenting has become a daily exercise in bargaining. Parents ask questions of their little darlings, like asking permission to have them do or stop doing something, and then just hope the child will agree.

Ludicrous is the word that best describes this parenting practice for me. Even at times when the child’s safety is at stake, this same practice is prevalent. Seriously? A child stands up in his high chair at the restaurant, his head a good 4-5 feet above the concrete floor, and there is still this idea of, “Please sit down, Sweetie.” “Let’s not stand up, Bubba.” Parents need a grasp of what it means to parent with a loving, firm hand of leadership. Protecting your young children is at stake. Children need to have a very clear sense of who is in control, who is their authority, and who is there to help and protect them.

When they are doing something that they shouldn’t, you need to tell them, “No”, and they need to know without any doubt that you mean it. The same goes for when you tell them to stop or start doing something. Young children need to be taught how to obey right away. They’re young lives are shaped and molded by how they follow leadership from their parents. They are learning that life is not all about them. In fact, it’s mostly not about them, and they need to know that.

As they age, and learn to do things on their own, the percentage of their lives that belong to them grows. However, in years 0-4 or so, their young lives have little of that ownership. They live lives of “do this/don’t do that”, and these formidable years are crucial to them being able to understand life.

So, parents, teach your children the word “no”. Teach them that it is a good thing for them. Help them know that part of living life is understanding that we will have to hear “no” from time to time. Show them that the word “no” can be used with both kindness and firmness…that it is an important part of life. The younger they get a handle on this truth, the easier it will be for them as they grow and mature. And, the easier life will be for you during the early years of childhood.

One other quick note: mean what you say and say only what you mean. Take this principle from the Bible in Matthew 5:37. Let your “no” mean “no”, and your “yes” mean “yes”. Be an example of consistency and integrity as you lead your children. If you continually allow them to disobey as you repeat, “Stop that!” and “I told you…”, you are fostering in them a very real sense of confusion. Young children will ever push and search for the real boundaries that make them feel safe.

These words are shared in hopes of helping you in your journey of parenting. My hope is that you enjoy your children as you raise and train them to be God-honoring adults one day.

My Mom is Perfect…for me

 

Mom & Dad dressed upIt pains me to have to admit, although I think many of us might have experienced the exact same emotions and thoughts, but I wasn’t the easiest boy to raise. To say that I came by my childhood nickname honestly would be a gross understatement. My grandfather gave me the clever moniker of “iron head”, and somewhere inside my 3 or 4 year old brain, I think I began to do everything within my power to live up to it, and wear it like a badge of honor. Truth be told, I might have started that process straight out of the womb. As to whether or not I ever stopped, you’ll have to ask my mother.

So, Mom, Dad, & Methe childbirth pains that accompanied my arrival were most likely outdone by the pain that came from trying to raise a little iron head. For that, I am sorry, and I have told my sweet mother that on numerous occasions in my adult years. While some might think this a bit tongue-in-cheeky, it isn’t at all. I really am sorry, and occasionally l feel some real pain and sadness that comes from the realization that I simply did not grasp the beauty of my mother while I was a child.

That’s where I think many of us might find some common ground. That area of realization that we truly didn’t have the foggiest of ideas what exactly it took for our mothers to mother us. If you were like me, you ran through your childhood thinking life was mostly (if not all) about you. You expected your mom to be there for you no matter how she felt, or no matter what was going on in her own life. Her life, in essence, was to be what you needed, when you needed it, and for however long you needed. Doesn’t that seem like such a thankless, unglamorous, tedious job? Yet, she did it day in and day out…all because my mom loves me. I know I will never be able to repay all that my mother did for me, but I hope to love and honor her well the rest of my days. She is definitely worth it, and believe me, she earned it. Not only was I a mess, but my little sister came along when I was three and added to the fun.

Doing life with my own lovely wife, and being right by her side through all the details of kyleeandmichael2004raisiKym2ng our own children has helped me gain a greater understanding and deep appreciation of motherhood. Honestly, I do not know how moms do it! It is totally beyond me! God’s plan for raising children clearly is genius. The sweet bond that is clear to see between mom and baby could only happen because God put something special in the heart of mothers. Funny thing is, that bond only grows stronger and stronger over time. Ask a loving mother about her kids today, no matter the age of her children, she will brighten up and talk about her kiddos like they are the greatest. There will be a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face as she discusses how her awesome her children are.

Early 70's Harper Family

It doesn’t escape me that some families have much different stories. Not everyone has a great relationship with their mom, and tons of fond childhood memories. If we’re all being honest, I can dig back and remember some of the things that weren’t the greatest as I was testing my mom’s patience and sanity. With that being the reality, let me leave you with some encouragement.

Learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future. Choose to dwell on the good things you can remember, and do everything you can to make a better future. My relationship with my mother is better today than ever. God has a way of healing the hurts of the past, and giving all necessary grace for the now. No matter the pains of your past, and no matter how close you are to that past, God can do a work in your heart. Forgive the past, rest in the goodness of God, and treat your mom the way you hope your children will treat you as you age. The truth is, God gave you the mother you had for a purpose. Your mom was the perfect mom for you, for what he wanted you to learn. Let God continue to do the work in you that he began through your mom.

As children, we have one simple command that God puts on our lives, regarding our parents.

“Honor your father and mother”

This command is recorded in four different books of the Bible. God’s plan for children is to honor mom for as long as you have breath. There is no time in your life that you are allowed to stop honoring your mom. She is to be loved, cherished, treasured, and honored all the days of your life.

Remember this: Motherhood is a tough gig. It takes a fortitude that I’m quite sure I do not possess. Take time out to let your mom know how special she is in your life. Take the time to show her, the time to love her well. If your mom has gone on before you, live in the way she modeled for you. Honor her with your life.

For my mom: put me on the schedule. Lunch is on me whenever you want.

First Old Father’s Day

It was a few weeks ago, and I’m still kinda getting over it. This year I realized that I am one of the “old” fathers. My kids are growing up and looking at me differently than they did when their eyes seemed to light up every time I came through the door at the end of the day. My daughter still has a little of this in her, but it is definitely different than years before. I’m not sad, it is just a new reality of my current season of life. My goal is to embrace, love, and experience it for all it is worth.

This picture is me and my dad in ’92. There have been many changes since then. I’ve gone from a newly married man just beginning a new family with Kym to one of those “older” dads whose children are often referred to as “grown”. I usually shudder a bit when I hear it. Again, it’s not due to sadness or a desire to spurn the categorization of where life finds me. Mostly it’s just been a shock as I am slowly waking to this new realization.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, it really isn’t that big of a deal at all. When I look at this picture of me and my dad, I look at it with fondness. It reminds me of how much I love him and look up to him as one of my lifetime heroes. It’s been that way most of my life and even more so these days as I find myself doing the very things with my kiddos that he did with me.

However, I do remember a time when I didn’t look at my dad in that loving, respectful way. It was part of my growing and maturing that bent me towards independence. I looked at my dad with an eye of criticism; mostly thinking he was out of touch, out of style, and behind the times. Seriously, there were some short shorts with color-striped gray tube socks. It wasn’t a good look. Now, however, I find myself firmly in that stage of fatherhood. I know that I appear “dorky” at times and that my kiddos are having those same kind of thoughts more and more every day.

All-in-all I am completely okay with this and ready to see what God has in store for my family in the next few years to come. The main thing I have learned through this process of self realization, it is that time is fleeting. James 4:14 reminds us just how short life is- “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

My son and daughter no longer fit in my lap and I can’t hold them as they fall asleep on my chest and drool on my shirt. Their days under our roof are fewer and fewer. My job is to grab each of those days, live them to the fullest, and attempt to impart as many tidbits of wisdom as I can. Even if I do so with my own fashion faux pas version of the gray tube socks with colored stripes.