Let Their No be No

Your job as a father is to let your children fail. This is the only way they will learn. You provide them a safe space for them to fail, so they come to no real harm and the consequences are minor…but fail they must.

I take one of my children out to lunch once a week. They get to eat wherever they want and get some one-on-one time with me. It rotates in a neverending schedule.

It was my oldest’s turn. I ask her if she wants to go to lunch with me tomorrow.

She thinks for a few moments. “No, thank you.”

So, I turn to my second-oldest and ask him if he wants to go to lunch. It’s now his turn if he wants it. He says yes.

As soon as he does, my oldest says “Wait, no I want to go.”

And so jealously reared its head.

“It’s too late,” I said. “You already said no, so it is no longer your turn.”

She begins to cry, and I reassure her that she will get a turn next week. I also told her that her words have power and weight. She should mean them. If you say “no,” you better mean “no.”

Next time, I hope she considers her words a bit more. The stakes were relatively low in this situation, as they should be when children are learning and growing up.

But there should be stakes. There should be consequences to their actions. Otherwise, they will never learn.

And here, I hope she learned that her yes should mean yes, and her no should mean no.

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