Note: The following is an excerpt from a book in progress called Traditional Child Training.
Sometimes the grandkids come over when I am engaged in study or writing. My office is removed from the living room where the kids will be visiting. When they discover I am in my office, they come and open the door. After I greet them and explain that I must be busy for a little while, they will walk away and be happy as long as I leave the door open. But if I shut the door, they are uncomfortable until they get it open and look in on me. At about two years of age they have the ability to open a door but cannot understand my need to shut it, particularly if they are left on the other side. I have come to see that kids do not like a shut door, especially if it is directed at them.
Think for a moment. How do your children view you—as a door shutter or a door opener? Do they know you as the one who gives them pleasure through opening interesting and exciting doors of opportunity and learning, or do they know you as the one always saying no and shutting them out? You will “Train up a child in the way he should go” so that “when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6) if you are a door opener and not a door shutter.
Don’t be a no person. Be a yes person to your children. The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is God’s “yea” and “Amen.”
“For all the promises of God in him are yea [yes], and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Jesus is the Yes of God. In him is life and liberty. At his right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). People embroiled in religion, be it heathen or Christian, view God as the No in their lives. They know him through the negative commandments—“Thou shalt not…” To them the Christian life is a series of shut doors—things one cannot do lest he be damned. Their God is distant and out of reach, critical and displeased. He must be placated with contrition and religious works. Such people cannot love God. Their guilt and humility cause God to be paramount in their lives but always out of reach, though their lives are dedicated to appeasing him. Their desperate fervency causes them to appear to be the most devout among us, but no one who knows them well is drawn to their God, for even they are not sure of his love or forgiveness.
Children raised by “religious”-tempered parents are the most miserable of all. So many doors are locked to them. I am not suggesting permissiveness or worldliness; I am talking about the many little things of life.
I knew both of my grandmothers well. One I remember with the utmost fondness, and the other I could have done without. I never did like her. I cannot remember one pleasurable feeling in her presence. She was never mean or angry. She was always proper and pleasant. But she had a gift for saying no. I knew that when I went to her house I would be in the way—as in “children should be seen and not heard.” She never said such, but that is the way she made me feel.
“Don’t put your feet there.”
“Take off your shoes.”
“Stop making that noise in the house.”
“Don’t you ever comb your hair?”
She did have a beautiful garden that fascinated me, but she slammed the door shut when I tried to walk in it. I remember her as a door shutter. She never taught me anything. She taught manners at me, but they didn’t stick because I did not want to please her in her interests when she was never pleased with what interested me. I know that is immature, but I was immature at four … and seven … and nine … and twelve.
When I got old enough to know better, I spent time with the other grandma who was ready with a laugh and a “Have you ever heard of …?” or “Come over here and look at what I have been working on.” Many a time my yes grandmother said, “Can you help me with this?” I can think of no sweeter words, nor have I known a more interesting person, for she was interested in me. I always wanted to please my yes grandmother. I didn’t care one way or the other about my no grandmother. I think I went to her funeral, but I can’t remember. I do remember quite well my yes grandmother’s funeral, the one who opened so many doors for me.
My daddy was a door opener—a yes daddy. When I asked if I could use the scrap lumber he brought home from the job, he said yes and offered me hammer, saw, and nails as well. When I asked if I could have the red paint that was left over, he found some old brushes and blue paint to go with it. When I went to the job with him and met someone for the first time, the stranger would say something like, “So you are the boy Ed is always bragging about. Heard you can throw a knife like Tarzan.”
When I was fourteen, I suggested I needed a horizontal bar in the backyard. My daddy hired someone to make it and he and I dug the holes and concreted it in place. It became the center of my after-high-school activity. When I remember my father, I remember a yes daddy—a yea and Amen daddy.
How do your children view you? On this one point hangs all of your parenting. I can say with certainty, if you have a good relationship with your children and they want to please you, it is because they think of you as a yes daddy or yes mama—a door opener. If there is tension and they are stubborn and rebellious, it is because they know you as a no daddy or no mama—a door shutter. In our next digital magazine (April issue) I will discuss how you can become a door opener, not a door shutter. In the meantime, think of ways to open doors of delight, and you will not have as many occasions to say no to their naughtiness.
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