Part 2: A Way to Weigh our Parenting on the Restrictive-Permissive Scale, Using Our Giving Attitudes
This weekend my children waited somewhat impatiently for a certain package to be delivered. My oldest set a strategy for making the “unboxing” a special experience by recording a special video for his YouTube channel.
The watch began as soon as they woke up. “When does the delivery person usually come?” “Will it come with the regular mail?” “I can't wait any longer!”
Just before lunch, our ears tuned to engines, my sons rushed to the front window to see if it could be. When the unfamiliar car turned into our driveway, the bouncing began. “It's here! It's the mail lady! There's the package! It's got to be it!”
Confining our loud watch dog to the bedroom, I opened the door and accepted the package through the drizzling rain. “Thank you! We've been waiting for this one!”
I carefully cut the plastic bag off, thankful they didn't leave the box on the wet porch without protection from the elements. Moisture would have ruined this highly anticipated gift.
My oldest was already setting up his recording equipment. My youngest couldn't stay away and “helped” his brother with the unboxing video.
As soon as he stopped recording, they began setting up the console, plugging in the correct cords, and figuring out where each part connected.
When the video game console required updates to continue, the waiting became excruciating! Fortunately, the updates didn't take long, and the cartridge for our only game was inserted.
At this point, I could divide readers' reactions into three camps. There are those of you who think that video games are a waste of time and we parents who spend almost $300 on one console are being too permissive. You might say we were being over-indulgent.
Then there are those of you who already have a Nintendo Switch and think that waiting for two whole years after it came out was too strict. You might say we were being stingy for making them wait too long.
Then there are the rest of you who either don't care :) or who agree with us that we balanced our values with our children's desires.
My husband and I wanted to teach them a valuable lesson that they must work for things they want in the “real world.” We wanted to show them that video games aren't necessities and that there were other things we needed to pay for first. But we also wanted to show them that we heard the desires of their little, growing hearts and that they are important to us. We wanted to show them we loved them by our actions.
Which camp of readers is right? Can we even know what's right in scenarios like these? That's what we're going to answer today.
In case you missed it, this is part two of my March Parenting series, a more practical continuation of my blog post last week, balancing permissive friendship with restrictive authority. Please read part one first if you haven't already.
Do you want to know what a balanced Christian parenting style looks like? Taken from Jesus' parable in Matthew 7, here's a way to weigh our parenting, using the scale of giving, whether we answer with “yes” or “no” more.
1. The Power of Saying Yes
Yes, I can say “yes” to my children too often. I can over-indulge them and teach them the habit that they can get whatever they want. That's obviously not how real life works, and believing this will only bring them heartache when they get out into the “real world.”
We have an example, an ideal, that we're supposed to work toward. And that model is God.
In Matthew 7:7-11, God says that good parents, who are “sinful” (NLT) (some versions even say “evil,” like the ESV & NIV), still know how to give good gifts to their children.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Bad parents don't just say “no” and give them nothing; they give them something bad instead. Here's a chart to show the degrees of giving in parenting:
But God is the perfect Parent, who gives us way more than we could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)!
2. The Danger of Saying No
However, there is a danger of saying “no” too often, also, that I was never taught. Examples of children rebelling against super-strict parents were quietly hushed up with, “They're sinners.”
Well, we're all sinners. But we're also supposed to not only be obedient to our parents (Ephesians 6:1) but also train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
I know people want to see Proverbs 22:6 as a guarantee no matter how poorly they parent. But the point of this verse (and all other parenting proverbs by Solomon) is to motivate the parent to do the best they can, knowing that how they treat their children will affect who they become.
There are times to say “no,” however:
when what they ask for will definitely hurt them
when what they ask for will teach them a wrong lesson or help them develop an undesirable character trait
when the sacrifice for that object is not worth it (for example, when it would result in a financial struggle that would adversely affect the entire family)
You are the parent. You are responsible for more than fulfilling the every whim of your children. That's not what I'm trying to say. You must be aware of the considerations that are more serious than children can see.
I am saying that our automatic response can easily default to “no.” And that's generally not good for the child.
Children take specific circumstances and use them to generalize about the world. If you answer “no” to too many requests, then the child begins to feel unimportant, even unloved, especially if their primary love language is gifts. They can feel that their wants and opinions don't matter or are even worthless, not just to the unresponsive parent but to everybody. This might be the beginning of low self-esteem, which can lead to many heartaches and mistakes.
Does God do that with us? When we come to Him in prayer, does He want to say “no” more often than “yes”? I guess we'll never know for sure. But I would guess that His desire is to see us asking for more of the right things so that He say “yes” more and more.
3. The Wisdom of Saying Yes and No
My point is that if we want to be good parents, we need to say “no” sometimes, yes, but we also need to say “yes” a lot, too.
The problem is wisdom to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”
When our children are asking for something that won't hurt them, or when they are just asking for their needs to be met—not just physically, but emotionally, too—then we can give them good gifts. We can say “yes.”
James 1:5, NLT: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8, ESV: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
We Christian parents want to do the right thing by our children. But there are so many different philosophies and methodologies in the world giving conflicting advice. We must drown them out and ask what our example, our ultimate model, God the Father, would do. Because give good gifts to us, His children, we should be more inclined to say “yes” than “no,” always keeping in mind wisdom as to whether the request is good for the child or not.
Let's work to balance our parenting responsibilities with our generous giving, working to stay away from either extreme of being too permissive or too restrictive. Let's teach our children what to ask for and how to ask for those right things more often so that we can answer “yes” more often.
What is your default? I admit that my first instinct is to say “no.” I'm also working on this, too. What is your first response to a request from your child? Comment below!
Continue on to the last of this parenting series, Part 3…