Princess Bride is one of our family’s favorite movies. The story is all about ‘true love’ and it begins with the farm boy Wesley winning the heart of a lovely woman named Buttercup. He wins her over by continually responding to her every request with the words, ‘As you wish.’ That kind of response makes for a delightful fairy tale, but when given without restraint in real life relationships it can lead to horror stories. ‘True love’ in real life means we must be willing to say ‘no’ to our children of all ages; to others we love; and especially to ourselves.

Unfortunately, I have observed that many parents today either don’t tell their children ‘no’– or if they do, it seems to be more of a suggestion than a command, and the child’s failure to comply rarely results in any negative consequences. I have also witnessed many children authoritatively shouting ‘no’ to their parents, and then getting away with such disrespectful behavior!  I have noticed a lack of disciplining by parents of children of all ages—from those whose three year olds basically decide their bedtime, to parents of teenagers who won’t say ‘no’ to coed ‘spend the night’ parties or parties where they know drinking and drugs will be readily available.

I believe that there are many reasons why parents fail to say ‘no’ to and discipline their children. Some of those reasons are: laziness; believing saying ‘no’ will somehow hurt their child’s ‘self-esteem’; the desire to be their child’s friend; the desire for their child to be popular by having or doing what other kids have/do; thinking that love means giving the person whatever they want; not having been disciplined themselves when they were children; lack of confidence regarding what is the right thing to do; not knowing how to effectively discipline their child for disobedience; and ignorance of or disregard for what God’s word says about the importance of discipline and ‘reaping what we sow’ (Galatians 6:7-9).

I readily admit when I was  a teenager I felt that when my parents said ‘no’ to me that they didn’t really love me. I felt they were out to keep me from what in my youthful wisdom I knew was best for me. I remember as a teenager my parents saying no to: my wearing halter tops; my going to certain concerts; my staying out past my designated curfew; my dating someone they didn’t think was a good choice for me. My problem was that my focus was entirely upon ‘me’ and my desires and feelings. Like virtually every child, I wasn’t wise and mature enough to consider the consequences of my choices, which is why God entrusted my parents with the job of instructing me and setting boundaries for me. How presumptuous of me to think that I knew better than my parents what was good for me! I realize now that my parents were secure in the rightness of their decisions because they knew and believed God’s word, and they loved me enough to remain resolute and not give in to my pleadings. Even though I often rebelled against their ‘no’ to me, I learned what was right and what was wrong by their giving me boundaries for living and decision-making. They honored God by instructing me in His righteousness, which as I grew older I did ‘not depart from'(Proverbs 22:6). I am certain I wouldn’t be who I am today if they had taken the easier path and caved into my every self-focused wish and desire.

I am grateful that my parents often demonstrated their love for me by saying ‘no’ to me, and I am even more grateful that my Heavenly Father loves me and His other children so much that He tells us ‘no’ when that is in our best interest, and that He gives us consequences when we disobey. If you have a problem saying ‘no’ to your children, I encourage you to consider that God– Who is All Loving and All Wise– gave us the 10 Commandments which are filled with ‘thou shalt not’ statements; clearly, God does not have a problem telling His children ‘no’!  

The Bible tells us that ‘God disciplines those He loves’ (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12: 6; Revelation 3:19). The word ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ are both derived from the same Latin word ‘discipulus’, which means ‘pupil’. It is essential that children be instructed by their parents, their teachers, religious leaders, and other authority figures regarding what is right and what is wrong.  That includes saying ‘no’ to choices that are not in the child’s best interest, and correcting the child when he disobeys. 

In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve that they could eat from every tree in the Garden…except one. He told them ‘no’ to eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because He knew that if they did so they would suffer horrible consequences. They chose not to listen to God’s ‘no’ and therefore they were cursed and cast out of the Garden. God knew what was best for them, and even though He knew in advance they would disobey Him, He didn’t change His mind about the directive nor did He choose to overlook their disobedience. He didn’t consider whether meting out the consequence for their disobedience might affect their self-esteem, or cause them to pout and give Him the cold shoulder. He loved them so much that He gave them clear instructions regarding what they could say ‘yes’ to, and what they should say ‘no’ to. And, He held them accountable for their disobedience. He knew it was imperative that they learned that He always means what He says; God is always a ‘Man of His word’.   After meting out the consequences for their disobedience, He extended His grace to Adam and Eve, and although all of mankind has suffered from their disobedience, we also all have been recipients of God’s grace. Every aspect of God’s ‘parenting’ of Adam and Eve was due to His love for them, as is true of His ‘parenting’ of us.

We have been created in God’s image, and we glorify Him when we follow His example as well as when we obey His formal commands. When we instruct our children in what is right and what is wrong, when we hold them accountable for obeying us, and when we say ‘no’ to their selfish, lustful, destructive desires, we accurately model to them the character of their Heavenly Father.  May we faithfully represent Our Heavenly Father by parenting our children as He so wisely and lovingly parents us, His dearly beloved children!

Do you need to confess to God or to your parents any disobedience that the Lord has brought to your mind while reading this? If you are a parent, is the Lord convicting you that you need to ‘instruct your child in the way he should go’ by saying ‘no’ to things that you have allowed him or her to get away with doing? When your children disobey you, do you consistently follow up with consequences that will teach them that your ‘yes is yes’ and your ‘no is no’ so that they will learn to respect and honor your word, as well as God’s word?

Written by Julie Van Gorp