Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More on saying Yes

When I was talking about saying "Yes" to our kids yesterday, I neglected to mention some examples of "Yeses" that our big kids want.

Most of them include something to do with friends (being with them or being like them), and invariably require lots of cash.

Besides letting go of my grip on the pocketbook, perhaps the hardest "yes" for me is when my kids are ready for new freedoms, and I'm not ready to grant them. There is that fear that they will take their freedoms and then royally blow it. There is also the mistaken idea that if we keep them from being exposed to every bad thing in the world, we can somehow prevent them from being tempted by it.

I remember when Allie was about 10 and she informed me she wanted to get her hair cut in layers, "Just like Mary-Kate and Ashley [when they were like, 11]." Oh, how I agonized over that decision! I don't want her looking to pop stars to determine what is fashionable! Next she'll be wanting to wear revealing clothing and end up living a fast and loose lifestyle like Paris Hilton.

After weeks of begging, the hair thing became an obsession of hers. An hour didn't go by when she didn't mention it. She looked online at hairstyles, wanted to buy hair magazines, and constantly looked in the mirror. I decided this was not a hill I was going to die on, and I relented: I let her get the "in" haircut.

Wouldn't you know, she fixed it maybe once or twice, then realized it was a lot of work to blow-dry it. Into a ponytail it went. She realized that growing out layers is no fun, but they do grow out. And that was the end of [that particular] hair argument. All that worrying, and for what?

Not long ago Neal-13 asked if he could go to the local bounce-house party place. "It's teen night," he explained. "All my friends will be there."

I inwardly sighed. Great, a bunch of thirteen-year-olds jumping on inflatables, supervised by a few high school students. Sounds like a bad idea to me. But, because he was going with a group, we let him go anyway.

Later in the evening we got a call from the manager. "It seems Neal was caught pulling the plug on one of the inflatables while kids were bouncing on it. When that happens, since it puts kids in danger, it's our policy to call their parents and tell them they can't come back for two weeks."

I politely thanked the manager and Dennis went to pick him up. "Dad, I wasn't the only one doing it. Kids were pulling the plug all night. They just thought I was the only one doing it, so they kicked me out."

Uh-huh. And your point?

It took little doing, but Neal finally admitted he needed to take responsibility for his own actions. It was embarrassing, but thankfully no one was hurt, and the point was made.

Failure? Yes. Effective teaching moment? Couldn't have asked for better.

A couple of months ago, Allie-14 and a friend from school planned to go to a movie on opening night. To beat the crowds, they were going early, so the Plugged In review was not posted yet. I knew from seeing the cast of characters and from what little I'd seen on the previews, that this was going to be a Really Lame Movie, all in the name of comedy. She was very insistent, however (here's where the argument comes in). Against my better judgment, I eventually said she could go.

When I got home from dropping the girls off, I read the movie review, and my suspicions were confirmed: It was full of bad humor. I felt horrible. What kind of mother am I, anyway? Letting my daughter see such rot?

Later, when I picked up the girls, Allie was breathless. "Mom, that was absolutely the worst movie I've ever seen. The women were all dressed with their [parts] hanging out, there were g*y references throughout the whole thing, and all the humor was suggestive. I'm never going to a movie like that ever again."

I tried to contain my surprise. "Allie, that was exactly what the review said about that movie. I'm really proud of you for recognizing how bad it was. Next time if you are at a movie like that, you walk out of the movie and call me. I'll come pick you up."

Allie looked smugly at her friend (who is not a believer), "See, I told you my mom would be proud of me!"

The rest of the ride home was discussing ways we could avoid having this kind of thing happen again. Allie was so proud of her ability to discern a good movie from a bad one. So was I.

I wondered later if telling her "No" to that movie would have had the same impact as letting her make the decision and realize it was a not-so-good one (granted, it was not an "R" movie or something blatantly harmful. Most decisions we delegate to our kids are going to be within pre-defined boundaries, preferably "good or better" rather than "right or wrong"). I doubt it.

Letting our kids have new freedoms is very frightening. There is a very real possibility for failure, and that may reflect on us poorly. There are consequences to saying "Yes" to teens that are much bigger than making a mess with play-doh or poster paints.

But I am finding that both success AND failure at handling new freedoms have opened doors for really great conversation with our growing teens.

Almost as well as denying our kids the freedoms they are ready for closes them.

It's a risk, but one I'm willing - as they are ready, and with lots of prayer - to take.


The Roaming Southerner said...

Ah, I love reading about your parenting style/ideas.

My mom had a revelation about this when I was 8 (she told me this a couple of years ago). She realized that her and my dad automatically said NO because it was easy but it wasn't fair...
and they tried to work on it.

It is really neat to read how you can see your kids learning their own boundaries

Deidre said...

My oldest is only six and we already have extensive conversations on 'dress'. I won't buy her certain dolls because of it. I heard relentless begging over a happy meal toy one day and then told her 'yes'. I found that doll later in the trashcan. She said she didn't like how the doll was dressed and it didn't honor God. YES! Thank you, Lord. I love those moments when all the teaching pays off and by saying 'yes', you get to see the Holy Spirit be the convicter and not yourself.

amyanne said...

Ohmygosh...your last two posts were amazing! You are so right...all those No's along the way actually help my kids make better decisions now that I'm able to say yes. And what a great reminder to say YES sometimes even when every thing in you says NOOOOO.


Hey and if you're ever interested in reviewing books on your blog...let me know! I'm a publicist. :)


Anonymous said...


do you promise to keep writing FOREVER? My oldest is only 10 and as those teen years approach I love you bits of wisdom.


mholgate said...

I can relate to saying Yes to things that may seem crazy at the time. Last weekend we dragged out the snow suits again so my kids could go outside and build the end of March!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Katherine, I love your posts. I wholeheartedly second Kathryn's plea :-)

Another thought on saying yes: my parents were (and remain now that i'm in college) definitely plentiful-yes parents. They were careful (not quite as careful about stuff like movies etc as you, since they're not believers) but in general let me do age-appropriate things and when great opportunities come up, even if they're scary or potentially "unneccessary", they often see the overall potential benefit for me and are excited.

One big pro to that way of parenting is that when they DO say no, I'm much more accepting of that than a lot of my friends with stricter parents. Since I know they only say no if they feel strongly about something, I don't mind as much, even when it's something I truly think I should be allowed to do.

anyway, just thoughts :-)

hope the raising five fam's doing well!! love from wheaton. -Emily (for some reason it won't let me sign in)

Keri said...

As my oldest child won't be 4 until May, the freedoms in question in my world are more along the lines of "Can I play in the backyard by myself?"

But I'm going to try to apply the well-thought-out principles from this post to my current situation as well as filing it away for all future stages of childhood. Thank you for the sometimes hard-earned wisdom that you so willingly share with us!

Julie said...

Oh girl, this is a great post. We let our 16 year old go to his first "party" where I didn't really know the family. He called us an hour into it saying it wasn't any fun and her wanted to come home. It turns out some kids brought some pot and he knew better than to stick around. I was really proud of him, yet, it freaked me out. Of course I hid my freak out from him and just told him his dad and I were really proud of his decision.

Parenting can be so dang hard. Great post.


Mary@notbefore7 said...

Katherine! It has been a long time since I commented...sorry...but I am around and reading :) I am in the process of moving too and have related well to your moving posts.

Loved these two posts and seeing how it applies in the teen years was very enlightening.

I once posted that before I say "no", I ask, "is it illegal, immoral or dangerous?" If it isn't, then am I willing to die on that mountain?

Now, I only have preschoolers, but I do feel like I have saved myself so much time from being wasted on petty battles with little ones. I imagine the "immoral" will come up more as will "dangerous" in the future, so I appreciated you sharing your experiences there!

Christy. said...

I love your insight! Thank you!

Becca~CapturingSimpleJoys said...

I am thankful that at this time my "no's" and "yes's" are to simple things like play-doh and snacks. It's good to hear of your experiences about when kids are teens. I also think it's good to keep in mind how to handle possible future events and situations and hearing from Moms like you who go before me is helpful.

Anonymous said...

May I just say - thank you, friend.

For being authentic.

For being a great blog-mom mentor.

Thank you.

E. Tyler Rowan said...

Thank-you so much for sharing this! I struggle some days, feeling like all I do is say "no, no, no" and run interference. Unfortunately, with 5 little ones in constant battle, this can become a habit. You just reminded me how important it is to take a moment to think, "is there any way I can say yes to this request?"

It is so inspiring to hear of others who've walked my path before, and to hear that their children have really taken Godly values to heart. Plus, it's so encouraging to hear that you're not insane (so obviously you've made it through the stage that I'm at in tact)!

I've also got 5, ages 10, 6, 5, 3, and 6 months. It's LOUD!!!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Our oldest daughter just started dating. She is 16. She is very mature and we have a good relationship. I have always told her no matter what time it is to call if she wants to come home. We also have another daughter who is 15 and we have to hold her back from some things because she is very gullible and easily swayed by peer pressure. We have let her go to certain dances etc when we role played some of the situations she might have to deal with. This works really well because she knows what to say. I also have told both my girls to use us as excuses. For example if it is something they don't want to do they can say "my mom says I have to be home in 10 minutes" etc. That way it is easier for them to remain "cool" with their friends. Clare

Laura said...

Love the post. So true - it's such a step by step process. You do have to decide what hill you are going to die on. My 12 year old wants a mohawk. I just said he had to wait until we did family pics and school was out. Then I am game. He was surprised, but I told him it's just hair. It will grow back. NOT a hill I am willing to die on. Nor a place of friction for me. We all just have to figure out what works for our family. My goal is not to let the fact that they are missionary kids create an extra burden for them.

Mrs. Darling said...

Oh my my oldest is 25 and I so re,eber these decisions. Now Tink is 11 and it wont be long until I'll have to face them again. Give me ten babies over one teenager. The agonizing prayer that goes into teenagers is something only those who have been there could know. I think your 14 year old is a wise little girl. Obviously she has good training. There does come a point when we need to trust them! But oh how hard it is!

Cheri said...

Thank you. I could go on and on, but honestly, just thank you. Thank you for your example. For your honesty and for sharing it.

Kristina at Learn2Luv2Run said...

I am behind, again, on reading posts but I LOVE your posts. You are always so wise and insightful. Thanks for sharing....

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

I appreciate this so much, Katherine. I'm such a control freak and I also have to admit to being over-protective. Though my oldest is still only 9, I'm trying to ease into the idea of letting him make some of these types of decisions -- ones that he can learn from, ones where he can practice applying what he believes.

Jamie said...

Found your blog from a friend's blog, I've been lurking for awhile. I absolutely loved this post! I'm raising teens myself and I completely agree with you. It isn't always easy though.

Jill said...

Thank you so much for this post. I am trying to say 'yes' more and keep things in the big picture. Sometimes it is OK to say yes to cake for breakfast!

Theresa said...

It's been a while since I have commented but thank you for sharing your awesome parenting skillz and insight once again! :)

I sometimes think I am the most prude-of-a-parent because of the choices I make about what my girls (6 & 3) can see/wear/have etc.

Reading your posts let me know that I'm not the only parent who cares and tries to put God's principles before all decisions when it comes to their children.