Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - March/April 1996

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

Just Say No... For Parents

by Dr. Raymond Moore

"Just say  No'" is one of the truly creative sayings of our age. These days it talks most often to drinking, smoking and premarital sex, especially for teens. But we miss the boat   a grand boat   when we think the big "NO" is only for our kids to firmly repeat. Teaching self-control and respect for authority is a ticklish task for parents, but it starts with their own self-control and respect for authority and then their tender control of their young ones from birth and extending through teens as appropriate. Respect for God's authority as found in His written word is built first on respect for parents, then others.

Our son, Dennis, was a manly 16 with plenty of places to go when my wife dropped by to retrieve him from the supermarket where he was vegetable boy and part-time checker. Waiting nearby was his buddy, Jim, with his latest accession, a genuine (used) Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Dennis opened the car door more slowly than usual.

"Mother," he asked gently and with calculated uncertainty, "Jim said he'd ride me home today. Do you mind?"

Dorothy read his request correctly. There was no body language nor other expression that would suggest urgency. So at the same conversational level and just as gently, but making sure Jim could hear, Dorothy replied, "Be sure you thank Jim, but I think it would be better for you to ride with me."

There was no "Aw, Mother." That wasn't in the family vocabulary anyway. But as soon as Dennis thanked Jim and they were out of earshot in the car, Dennis blurted, "Wow! Thanks, Mother, for rescuing me." He knew Jim well, and that the risks outweighed the thrill; he had his own motorcycle for trail riding, but seldom went out on the road, certainly not with another teenager. Yet it would tear him up to turn his buddy down for a gala-demonstration ride. Such is the nature of the peer connection. Such is the security of parental guidance. Such is also prep time for more times when a parental "No" may be more crucial.

Few children learn to say "No" to their peers unless we first learn to use the word firmly and tactfully as adults with adult peers as well as our kids. A wise and consistent "No" is good parenting from your child's earliest months. They can understand your actions and tone of voice when very young.

Some parents make it easier even from birth by setting up a regular routine for eating and sleeping times which help to establish good lifetime habits, the basis of self-control.

After all, babies have no knowledge nor judgment about eating to live instead of living to eat or the wisdom of "early to bed, early to rise". Occasionally a mother protests such scheduling, but to date we've never had a complaint from any who thoroughly tried it. Especially joyful are those parents who schedule for the first time after yielding to the demands of earlier offspring.

Some parents murmur with eyes closed about strong-willed kids. Yet there's a wide disparity between strong-wills and willfulness. We urge caution here, for strong, well-trained wills are to be prized. The danger lies in turning children in infancy from strong-willed darlings into willful brats, by letting them have their way   saying "No," but failing to follow through. This is a test of parental character: honesty, patience, compassion, dependability, even love. And bedtime, TV, games, et al. Even home-taught children with enviable reputations for manners are not immune, especially when you have guests or you are a guest family in a home where parents are plagued with a menagerie of willful imps.

Rivalry sports present a particular problem. Some youngsters survive quite well, but the great majority become caught up in stresses that build selfish willfulness more than selfless strength of will. One of the best guides or tests here is a family rule that abides the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Apostle Paul was even more definitive: "Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another." For those who are heaven-bound, this has special meaning, for there is no rivalry up there.

All this will be much easier in your family if you...

1. EAT TOGETHER, two family meals daily if possible, even if the kids have to go to bed earlier to get up with dad. Few do this, but this is a golden opportunity for fellowship and conversation to communicate attitudes about life and values.

2. SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER IN CONSTRUCTIVE ACTIVITIES that build manual skills than you do in rivalry sports and idle amusements. The latter enhance ego but seldom, if ever, build true self worth.

3. TRY TO PUT YOUR "NO" IN THE CONTEXT OF COMRADERY, of helping young ones realize that your counsel is a step toward real maturity. Smithsonian talks of "warmth" and "responsiveness." Scripture says to do all things with love, even for your enemies. Here love has special meanings of understanding, kindness, forgiveness, patience, faith.

4. FOR FAMILY VALUES, SET A STERLING EXAMPLE in thoughtfulness that leads to gentleness and good manners. For example, sharing in the kitchen with meals, dishes; bringing in the groceries for mother, picking up clothes that clutter floors; (for men) putting the toilet seat back down if there are women in the home and opening the car door or front door for mother keeping a clean and orderly closet, garage and car; a litterless, weedless yard.

5. DO ALL AS A GAME or for fun, and "No" is less often needed.

6. AND DON'T FORGET TO START EARLY, as soon as they are born.