The power of “No.”

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I go to a certain restaurant most mornings to sip coffee and peacefully read for a few minutes before clocking into my regular job. This particular fast food establishment is quite popular with young moms who tend to bring their kids with them to breakfast. It is hard not to overhear the interaction between them.

As many of you may have observed, young children can be particularly fond of the word “no.” Admittedly, it is a word that many kiddos have heard early and often. Maybe they’re just parroting back the sounds of their environment. I don’t think so. I think that they are beginning to flex their authority as individuals.

Of course, they are subject to their parents direction and dominion as a fact of life. So then, is the persistent objection that many children exhibit a bad thing? That depends upon what you mean by “bad.”

We parents have the complex task of bringing our children to submit to our instruction in order to prepare them to choose on their own. They instinctively know that they have a little ‘kingdom’ that they have say over. Too young to rule it wisely and too young to understand, they chafe against our imposition of authority. Yet their rule over their sphere will be, largely, what defines them. It may be foolish and blind or it may be humble and wise.

They are made to have a will and it is the center of who they are. Their yes and their no are central to their personhood because we are all essentially choosing beings. I hope that I will see this clearer with my grandchildren than I did with my own kids.

 

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