Saying ‘Yes’

The words of an older generation lamenting the children who will one day take their place ring with some truth. The problem with kids these days is that they need to learn the word ‘no.’ Of course, they are referring to an over-indulged generation that they feel gets everything it wants without working for anything.

My son has asked on more than one occasion for an iPod. He cites the fact that a boy in his kindergarten class has one. I cite the opinion that six year olds should not own electronics that cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. However, he now is on a quest to fill his savings jar thinking that if he earns $200, I will relent. I’m thinking that saving that much money will take a long time….

Nonetheless, I understand why he asks. More and more kids around him do seem to have fairly expensive gadgets, and, if I’m honest, he’s not faring too poorly, himself. Yet, lately, I’ve started contemplating that, perhaps, the problem isn’t that I tell him ‘yes’ but that too often he hears the word ‘no.’

I think of requests from him, requests from his sisters, simple requests really, and many times the answer is ‘no:’

Can we build a fort in Hannah Grace’s room and all sleep their tonight?

Can we have a makeover party?

I have my reasons. Sometimes, they’re valid–the kids misbehaved and, therefore, won’t get rewarded. Sometimes, my answers are a little more forced: They went to bed too late last night. Little girls shouldn’t wear make-up. Then I hear a little voice reminding me that it is summer–now’s the time to build forts. Little girls don’t have to leave the house with make-up on, but they can have a little fun with Mommy. I start to have a nagging feeling that I say ‘no’ a little too much because it’s just easier.

‘No’ doesn’t require planning. ‘No’ doesn’t keep me from the bills I want to pay or the myriad tasks I want to give my attention. ‘No’ doesn’t entail a massive clean-up.

But ‘no’ doesn’t reward discovery, create memories, or keep kids away from the T.V.

The other day, I read David Brooks’s article, “Honor Code,” in the The New York Times. Brooks argues that if Shakespeare’s character Henry V were in an American school, he would do poorly. He continues that today’s school punishes boys who are active and aggressive and adventurous compared to those who sit quietly in their desks, and these factors contribute to boys’ lagging performance compared to girls.

I would argue that there are many factors that would lead to a decline in educational performance and cannot simply be blamed on gender differences; likewise, not all girls fit the model of thoughtful, organized, attentive student. However, Brooks’s article did make me think about how I taught my former students and how I parent now.

I would argue that the thoughtful, organized, attentive student is easier to teach. Similarly, the orderly, obedient child is easier to raise. However, the adventurous student, curious child, the child who gets into trouble for dragging mud through the house or creating a culinary masterpiece all over the kitchen floor is the child whose mind is ready to absorb all the new information and discoveries that come his or her way.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as a parent, and I pray daily that I won’t fail my God or children. I try my best to teach good manners. I discipline my children when they break rules, and I monitor what they eat. All of these actions are important, but probably the easiest thing to do, getting down on the floor and playing, is the most essential.

God created children with curious little minds, and they learn through play. They create memories of the adventures they’ve had and journeys they’ve taken–assuming I haven’t thwarted all of this self-discovery by saying ‘no.’

Yesterday, I heard the hose running while I was in the kitchen. I stepped outside in the backyard where the kids were supposed to be playing, anticipating that I’d see them spraying each other in an attempt to cool off. However, I knew they didn’t have on their bathing suits and would be a mess, so I was already frustrated before I made my way through the back door.

They surprised me, though; instead of watering each other, they were watering a section of the garden that I never planted.

“We’re making a dam,” Caleb informed me.

“Yeah, we’re just like beavers!” Hannah Grace exclaimed.

Chloe mimicked her sister, and the three of them continued to flood the soil with water. My first instinct was to say ‘no;’ I could visualize the mud covering their ankles and shins. I saw the sloppy mess all over the kitchen floor and the work I’d have to do. Instead, I went inside and got a dirty towel. At least the area I carved out for a garden that I never planted would see some action.

We talked over some rules. They needed to ask before they turned on the hose so I could make sure I’d still have enough money to feed them next week; when they were finished, they needed to wipe off with the towel; and they needed to know the proper placement of the pine straw to stop the stream of water.

I was amazed that these little minds even somewhat knew the concept of a dam since, at their age, I would’ve thought they were just cursing (but then again, I never liked getting dirty). I was amazed that the three of them worked together without fighting. And I was amazed that I almost told them ‘no’ because I felt lazy.

Parenting is a tough job. From the time a baby is born, one can be bombarded with theories on eating, sleeping, and pooping. However, I’m starting to think that we made parenting harder than it needs to be. Perhaps God just wants us to let kids be kids.

Perhaps He just wants us to say ‘yes’ and let the kids play.

This morning I walked outside to see how the dam held up in the storm. It didn’t fare well–the neat wall of pine straw piled high to form a pool of water was strewn all over the muddy ground. Luckily, I know of some little beavers who can handle this mess….


Do you have trouble saying ‘yes’? If so, why do you say ‘no’ more than you should?

15 thoughts on “Saying ‘Yes’

  1. I am totally with you on this… I love your blog by the way.. you always have great insight about parenting/mothering! Anywho- I am the same way- saying No just because it will be a mess or because I don't want to do the clean-up, etc. And it's not fair to the little people who just want to have fun and discover and play and be kids. I have made an effort to try and be a yes mom this summer- I could still do a better job at it, but I have been trying! Thanks again!


    1. I've caught myself saying 'no' and not really knowing why. My goal isn't to be the cool mom, but I do want to help my kids discover their interests. I have to say 'yes' sometimes!Thanks for saying 'hi' today, Melissa!


  2. A girl I work with won't allow glitter in her home and has a little girl and a newborn girl – its too messy and gets EVERYWHERE.

    I don't have that rule. I don't care if someone "finds" glitter on my kitchen floor and thinks less of me. My daughter loves to make art with glitter – that is more important to me.


    1. Good for you! I must admit that I've outlawed certain arts and crafts products at times, but it was typically because my kids snuck something without asking and then painted a wall or cut off their hair or something. Currently, paint and scissors are allowed again–I feel like since I've just typed out this sentence, I'll need to be on guard tomorrow! 😉


  3. I was never a get-down-on-the-floor-and-play-with-my-kids kind of parent. First of all, my knees are lousy and I don't do floor-sitting. BUT I was not afraid of mess – most of the time. In fact, I was more comfortable with mess than many parents I knew. Probably because my mom was a neat freak and I hated it. So We got all kinds of creative goin' on in the yard and in their rooms. The messiest parts (except for blanket forts, which we all loved) didn't bleed out into the general living areas of the house too often, but I encouraged crafty messes, mud messes – as long as they were outside, and building block messes – including legos/dominoes/anything else that could be stacked creatively. Now my daughters are somewhere between me and my mom – not quite as tolerant of mess as I was, but not as neat-freaky as my mom, either. We each have to find our own way – letting kids be kids is number one and that's what you're saying with these good words. Thanks for them.


    1. I'm definitely not a neat-freak, either. However, after I wrote this post, I think I figured out my problem: I get overwhelmed easily. I have no problem with crafts, but it seems when I try to involve all three kids, I have a hard time managing. Now that the youngest is three, I am taking more risks and don't feel so out-of-control, but I still have to get over that initial wave of feeling overwhelmed.I'm sure your daughters had a lot of fun growing up with you! Thank you for sharing!


  4. I know you missed me while I was gone… I missed the beautiful expressions of your life. I have to say, this is like all things in lie; God directs our paths and we struggle to honor Him. I can say while you are trying to do the right thing, the best things you and I ever got… are things that we never got… Let me know if that make sense…


    1. Hey, Floyd! I was wondering where you had gone! I haven't been the most consistent this summer, either, so I haven't visited as many blogs as I used to.Well, I don't know if I got your intended meaning, but I made my own sense of your words! Life is a journey that we're never going to perfect, but some of those struggles that we never do right, like parenting, are the best parts of life. Good to hear from you again!


  5. Perhaps God does just want us to let them be kids. But it's such a battle, and am I yes-ing when I should be no-ing and no-ing when I should be yes-ing? Some days I'm not sure.


    1. Oh, I know, Amy. I had that day yesterday–the kids did what I asked, but after too many times asking. Am I only remembering the bad moments? Am I unreasonable? Am I not strict enough? There's nothing like the job of a parent to send you to bed not knowing if what you've done was right or wrong.


  6. A big PS: The comment you left the other day about the socks gift and then the pin gift had me rolling. I mean, hello, I could totally see myself giving an amputee socks, and after you strike out with gifts both times, where do you go? If it was me? My car!

    Thanks, Jennifer!


    1. Ha! Yeah, I've visited nursing homes since, but I don't think I've volunteered for any Christmas parties! 😉


  7. Funny. Matt and I had a similar conversation a few weeks ago. I find myself saying "no" a lot because "no" is more convenient than yes. Like you said, less mess, less dirt, etc. However, I have been convicted, seriously in the spiritual sense, to say yes more. It is not about me, my convenience, etc. It is about childhood going by way too fast, about them discovering and about "why not?!" In addition, now I find that when I do have to say "no" it is taken better by them and it carries more weight. I really liked your thoughts on this.


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