Say yes to everything you can, say no to what you must.
Someone wise told me that when I was a mom of 6 and 4 year old boys. It has stuck with me and I must admit I did not really see the genius of it until I was the mom of 12 and 10 year old boys. This lady who gave me this wonderful advice was talking about how not all issues are really important and learning to distinguish between the two. In my life as a mom I have been tested over and over in my willingness to allow my children to be who they are, and not reflections of who I want the world to see me as.
So in that pursuit, I have created guidelines around when to say yes or no. I ask a few questions:
Is what they are doing/saying a clearly moral issue? (ie. is it sin, does it violate a principal of God?) Things like wearing wrinkled clothing, how they style their hair, the way they want to spend money, etc. are often things I want to say “no” to, but after asking this question I decide “yes” is ok.
Is what they are doing dangerous? (physically, spiritually) Now as a mom, it’s easy for me to say lots of things are dangerous that my husband says, “Nah, they’ll be all right” in response to. (much to my annoyance) However, as he and I clearly have different standards for dangerous, my rule is if dad’s around, he’s the say on that issue. If he’s not, I’m the final say. As a result, the kids are always hoping dad’s around when they are ready to jump off the roof.
Has this same issue caused a problem in the past? With Emma I’ve learned there are some things I have to say “no” about, not because it’s immoral or dangerous, but simply because she can’t handle. Spending the night with her cousin two nights in a row always sends her into a cranky melt-down. So she has to come home after one night now. We’ll revisit it in 6 months to see if she can handle that much fun without the “crash and burn” effect. Revisiting is an important thing to consider as well- just because something was a problem, doesn’t mean your child isn’t maturing and over time better able to handle it.
Those are my general guidelines and of course, there are exceptions as with anything, but I really do talk myself through these as I get barraged with requests. (With three children, it generally feels like a barrage.) It’s been so helpful over the years to have a way to evaluate my answers, to things like Klynt wanting to wear flip flops in January, or Kyler driving by himself to a friend’s house at night when he first got his license. (Yes and No respectively)