“…because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:12 (NIV).
My mother told me when we were growing up, she and my dad always tried to say yes as often as possible, so that their “no” carried more weight when it needed to be applied. My aunt, several years later, offered me that same advice when I started having children – “say yes as often as you can, so when you have to say no, it’s more potent.” I also worked at a residential facility for troubled children for a period of time in college, and we were instructed on how to phrase the directions that needed to be given in a more positive light instead of just saying, “Do this, do that,” or “No, you can’t.”
Since raising my own children, I find when they ask for something, more often than not, I try to accentuate the positive in my response. When asked if they can have a snack, I will answer, “Absolutely, just as soon as you finish your dinner.” When asked if they can watch TV, the response they get is, “Absolutely, as soon as you have vacuumed the house.” When a request is made to go play with friends, the response is, (that’s right, you guessed it), “Absolutely! As soon as your room is clean using my standards.” By stating it that way, my goal is to keep my kids motivated on the prize and not thinking only about the work that first must be accomplished. To encourage, not discourage.
Even though I was given great advice from my mom, my aunt, and my supervisors at the residential facility, God has been showing me that example in His Word for years. There are many times in the Bible God gives explicit instructions like, “You shall not murder, You shall not steal, and You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” (Exodus 20: 7, 13, and 15, NIV). However, there are also countless times in the Bible when God gives us instructions in life, but He phrases them in such a way that we see the positive outcome of obeying instead of focusing on what we have to give up. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you,” (Exodus 20:12, NIV) is just one great example. Instead of telling us to quit disrespecting our parents, He shares with us the blessing we’ll receive if we choose to honor them instead with our words and our actions. Ephesians 4:32 is another great example. He encourages us to be kind and compassionate to one other, reminding us that He, Himself did the very same thing for us, which is another blessing we are promised.
Yes, there’ll always be times as a parent that we need to just get our point across: “Stop!” (if our child is running into a busy street or parking lot), “No, you aren’t going to the party if there is no adult supervision,” or “You can’t drive the car because you haven’t earned our trust.” There are multiple times in God’s word where telling us no and expecting us to obey “just because” are found as well. But, as with effective parenting, when we cushion as much as we can between positives, focusing on the reward and not on what is being given up, then the times God tells me “no” becomes easier to swallow. I can trust that He’s not out to ruin my fun, but in fact, He’s trying to protect me, probably even from my own selfishness.
And, just as when I love the times that I can wholeheartedly tell my children, “Absolutely!” to a request they make with no strings attached or no prerequisite required, I think that God loves to be able to tell us “Absolutely!” simply as a reward for our obedience.
Copyright: 2013 Cheri Swalwell