Tell Your Children No
August 5, 2021
Telling your children, “No” may be obvious or repulsive. It really depends on your upbringing and what books you’ve read on child rearing. However, it is my goal to encourage you to tell your children “no.” I am not articulating this in a vacuum, but after reflecting on many conversations I have had with many young parents (most specifically one conversation that I had a few weeks ago) it seems time to write this out.
There is a common notion that instead of telling a child no a parent should redirect their child. The idea is that you give the child a positive alternative to his or her current desires. The problems with this approach are abundant, but I would like to highlight two. First, it is not biblical. It is impossible to translate the Bible, interpret the Bible, or to communicate either the law or the gospel without using the word ‘no’ or any similar word (such as deny, turn away, reject, etc.). Although the two greatest commands are positive in formation (do), the Ten Commandments contain eight (8) explicit negative commands (do not) with only the remaining two commands being positive (do). In other words, it is impossible to communicate the law of God without using the word no. But the law, which is holy and good, is not alone in using the word no. The gospel is also filled with no commands. Commands like, “do not love the world” (1 John 2:15), “as obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14), “do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13). In other words, parents you cannot teach your children how to obey, love, and honor God if you do not teach them about the word no.
This brings us to my second point; your children cannot come to know about their need for a Savior unless they have a clear understanding that disobedience to the word no has severe consequences (see Proverbs for more on discipline). Young parent, your child cannot grow into godliness unless they are well acquainted with the word no. You did not come to believe the gospel because God redirected you. You came to believe because God told you no. This is in direct conflict with the worldview that truth is relative. In this relativistic worldview not only is truth relative but so is right and wrong. Further still, a relative worldview is an attempt to deny even reality itself. But a child must know what is right and what is wrong, what is real and what isn’t. Every child must know what is truth. Ultimately, truth is bound up in the God-man, Jesus Christ. But to learn this a child must be told, no. No, Santa is not real. No, the easter bunny is not real. No, Buddha is not the truth. No, Islam is not the truth. No, evolution is not true. No, the world is not right. No, atheism is not right. How can these no’s have any meaning, merit, or worth, if they are not first learned with those old-time sayings? Do not touch, it’s hot. Do not throw your food. Do not hit. That is not love, this is love.
Oh parents, this is not easy. But before you listen to the worlds empty promises of how to raise children turn to the Scriptures. May I suggest the book of Proverbs? Perhaps our eternal Father knows a bit more about parenting than the most recent humanist who just chose to kill her baby, because she was too busy earning a degree in social work with an emphasis in family counseling.