A Father’s Most Important Word Isn’t the One He Most Frequently Uses

You’re probably going to say no, but…

Kid 2, asking for permission

It was my day for middle school pick up and with kid 2 home sick it was just his best friend, and kid 3. Bestie told me he watched 40 hours of Manga this weekend.

Why are bestie’s parents letting him spend 40 hours in front of a screen? The kid is 13 years old, have they no control, no sense of being parents? I can’t conceive of my boys having 40 hours of screen in a week, much less a weekend.

The first word a child understands is the word most often spoken by his parents, “No.” We tell them “No” so often that it becomes habit. Reflex. They request, we deny, often without thought, because reflex.

In the early years, this is good. The world is dangerous, especially for an infant or toddler’ but they don’t stay infants or toddlers and while we develop the habit of saying “No,” they are growing up and needing fewer nos.

Now, as my boys transit their tween and teen years, I have to think before I answer. Not just because it is often fine for them to do what they request, but because if I always say no, then what message am I giving, and what lesson are they learning?

I think back on my youth, and remember the lessons I learned.

  • Forgiveness is easier than permission, so do what you want.
  • Authority is capricious, do as you please and deal with the consequences.
  • If mom and dad don’t know about it, it never happened.
  • If you get caught, deny, deny, deny.

Basically I learned to be a sneak.

Is this the lesson I want to teach my boys? Not only no, but Hell, no!

So, instead I’m learning to use a more important word.