Last Updated on March 20, 2018

Recently I was chatting with the mother of a 4-year-old. This 4-year-old, according to others, has never heard the word “no.” Unusually bright, this child is a terror to be around. She is difficult to control, throws temper tantrums, and demands her own way. She does not like rules of any kind. Her parents are bright Ivy League graduates. They love their child and want to encourage her creativity and independence and they want her to be secure. However, they seem to feel that if you say “no” to a child you are restricting and limiting their growth. So they employ diversion, distraction, and reasoning in an attempt to get her to behave.

Now there is nothing wrong with diversion and distraction. They can be effective with a 1-year-old or an 18-month-old. It is wise to avoid conflict when possible. And reasoning can be effective, especially with an older toddler. However, you cannot always reason with a child—particularly a 1- or 2-year-old. And diversion and distraction are not enough. Our children must learn to cope with the word “no” and we must not be afraid to use it.

We teach our child not to run into the street. He must hear us say “no” and immediately stop. There is no time for diversion. It can be a life or death issue. The same goes for touching a hot stove. Our first “nos” have to do with safety issues. Soon we move on to other “nos.” “No you may not bite your brother.” And we follow through with swift punishment when they proceed to bite. Our kids have to learn that our “no” actually means “no” and not “maybe, if you pitch a fit.” We must follow through with a swift punishment when they disobey. In this way our kids learn that we are reliable—we mean what we say. They can count on us. As they mature, reasoning becomes crucial but there will still be times when they (and we) have to accept “no,” even if we don’t understand the reasoning. “No, you cannot stay out all night even if you disagree with our rules.” A lot of life is full of “nos” and we don’t prepare our child for adulthood if we are afraid to say “no.”

Every mom wants her child to feel secure and valued. But we have to remember that a young child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure. God did not intend for a child to have that much power over his parents. His security comes because, although he will try, he begins to understand at an unconscious level that he is not the boss. Mom and Dad are and this gives him security.

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  1. Kimberly McDaniel says:

    Susan, I just bought two of your books today and they have been such an encouragement to me. Also, I just found out that your son is the pastor of the church that meets in my twin girls' school. It has been so hard to transition from homeschooling to high school dating and let go of control. Thank you for your ministry. It is a blessing to me. Kimberly

    1. Kimberly,

      Thanks so much for this note! It is so encouraging to hear from you!

      What fun to know of our connection at St. David's and with Holy Trinity Anglican! May God bless you wiht those twins!

      Warmly, Susan