Saying “Yes” to Children {Teaching them to Trust}

you are loved

Sticks hold a fascination for my 4 year-old.  As do rocks.  He organizes gravel into neat piles, and he carries bugs on the tip of his finger into the house to show me.  He is what they call all-boy {who are “they?”}, embracing the outdoors with enthusiasm.

And so it was no surprise when he approached me last week, inviting me on a walk in the woods behind our house.


Not today, I answered.  I was busy with dinner, and I was tired.

Not today, I answered the following day.  I was busy with cleaning, and I was preoccupied.

Not today, I was tempted to say when he next asked.  But this day, something stopped me.  Maybe it was the hopeful eyes or the sun shining.  But either way, I grabbed him and said:  Let’s go walking in the woods today!


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He scrambled for his shoes, excited and noisy.  And as we headed down to the ravine, I was washed over with delight.

For this moment with my son, and for an instant recognition of the bigger picture.


will walk


Saying No

Why do I say no to my children?

Well, mostly because there is always a valid reason.  I am tired.  I am busy.  I am in the middle of something.  I need to be here or there.  And yet, perpetual busyness can convince me that I am  unable to engage in simpler things.

Saying no is natural.  It is easy.  And it allows me to avoid the inconvenience of getting down on my hands and knees to see life through the lens of a person smaller than myself.

But, is this the right approach?  Am I really helping any of us by saying no for no good reason?


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Saying Yes

Sally Clarkson, author of The Ministry of Motherhood, speaks to the temptation to decline our children.  And she offers this valuable insight into why we should instead build a heritage of yes’s.:

“Make a list of some things your children like you to do with them but aren’t necessarily fun for you—playing a board game on the floor with a young child, going outside to throw a ball, sitting down with a child to read his or her creative story or to look at an artistic creation, and so on.

Commit to saying yes to their requests instead of no, knowing that if you invest in what is important to them, they will be open to believing in what is important to you.”

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Every yes I speak is not only a validation of my love for my children, but it is also- more importantly- one more stone laid in the foundation of our relationship.

My intentional yes’s teach them that what matters to you, matters to me.  And the older they become, the more powerfully that voice resonates.  I know this, because I was a child-become-teenager once myself.

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The Blessing of Yes

 My afternoon spent in response to a simple yes, was powerful for both my son, and for me. The tactility of walking, smelling, feeling and photographing, delighted him.  And his shouts of enthusiasm with every bug and tadpole, were sufficient reward for a few moments of my time.

I said yes again yesterday.  This time, dutifully preparing a tea party for a little girl who requested it.

And I hope that today I will demonstrate the same nod of approval when they ask.

I want my kids’ hearts.  And if the equation of love = time stands true,  I will invest as many nature walks and tea parties as it takes to win them.











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7 thoughts on “Saying “Yes” to Children {Teaching them to Trust}

  1. good word this morning!! I struggled with this so much when my big ones were little. I remember telling my husband that I would rather some one stab me in the foot that play trains with my boys. I wasn’t a very imaginative play person as a kid myself. But at this age with my boys it seems much easier to do what they want to do. And thankfully my husband is so good at saying yes. He challenges me often. And well, since baby Will will soon be asking, I assume I will have to put on my smile and say yes to those pesky trains once more. Keeping the bigger picture in mind of course :)

  2. After up all night with Noah with strep, the last thing I wanted to do today was play with the boys. But thank you, this post inspired me, reminded me of what really matters. I read this, and then went and grabbed the box of tracks and the box of trains, we will soon be building Thomas quite the track :) Thank you.

  3. Oh I so love this message since I’m in the same boat as you! Owen is always asking me to do stuff and it’s so hard but yesterday I was able to play basketball with him and he had so much fun and I loved seeing him so happy!!
    Thank you!!

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