When do I tell my teen “Yes” and when do I say “No”?

The teen years are tough – tough on parents and tough on teens. Mark Twain offered some advice on how to deal with this difficult time.

When a boy turns 13, seal him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole.
When he turns 16, plug up the hole.

I said he offered advice. I didn’t say it was helpful advice. Although, if you can get away with it, well ….

From my experience, here’s a tip that I think will be helpful.

Set your default to “Yes”.
It’s much easier and safer to say “No” to our teen’s requests. “No” means no risk, no mess, no fuss. Unfortunately “no” usually means, “I don’t want to think about it or mess with it.”

It almost never means what it should mean – “I have considered your request in light of your current age and the level of responsibility you have shown up to this point. I have weighed the dangers and the benefits and this is what I have concluded.”

There’ll be times we say “Yes” and our children disappoint us. They may fall flat on their face and may even get hurt. We cannot, nor should we try, to shelter our children from all risk and hurt. God doesn’t deal with us that way. In fact risk is essential to faith and every believer I know has experienced pain and disappointment in serving God. It’s part of His growth process.

Obviously we don’t say yes to things that are sure to cause serious injury but some risk is part of every experience. So how do we find a balance between safety and risk?

You’ve done this before. You know how it works. You did this when they were learning to walk. You watched anxiously as they toddled around and fell flat. You tried to keep them from major injury – hitting their eye on the edge of the coffee table.

But you knew they had to stumble, fall and even get a few bruises as part of the process. And all the time you were there encouraging them, “You can do it! Come on. Try again.”  That’s exactly how we help them learn to walk into adult life. 

This information is part of Chapter 5 of Spare the Rod – Five Times You Should NOT Spank Your Child. Get the entire book by signing up for this blog or get a paperback or Kindle copy HERE.

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