When Good Parents Say Yes and No: The Father’s Way

The Bible teaches that divine fatherhood is the source of heavenly fatherhood. In front of the Father, “from whom every family [literally, fatherhood] in heaven and on earth is named,” the apostle Paul kneels (Ephesians 3:15). This fundamental fact has the conclusion that earthly parents should emulate God’s fatherly role. He serves as our fathering role model (and mothering).

Parents would be wise to think about the connections and guidelines he created in the Garden of Eden while examining God’s fatherhood, particularly the way he employs the words “yes” and “no.”

The Yes World of God
Remember how God created the garden in Eden and planted trees that were beautiful to look at and provided food? (Genesis 2:9). The man was then given priestly guardianship of God’s garden sanctuary and placed in the garden to tend to it (Genesis 2:15). God then revealed to Adam the garden’s moral architecture:

The Lord God gave the man the following instructions: “You may certainly eat of every tree in the garden, but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” Verse 16–17 of Genesis

Take note of these three aspects of the laws God set up in the garden. In a universe of yes, there was only one no at first. The yes came before the second. Third, the rejection was genuine.

These three characteristics are all essential. God did not design a world of no, replete with constraints and prohibitions. He embraced it wholeheartedly and turned yes into a world. Adam was given a paradise of delights by God, complete with lovely trees and delectable fruit, and his first commandment was to “Eat from every tree (save one).” In this universe of yes, there is only one no. Let’s refer to this as “The Father’s Way” for our purposes.

Parenting Lessons from Lying
When the serpent attacks the Father’s Way, its importance becomes clear. Did God really command, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden,” as the snake claims? in Genesis 3:1. The serpent is essentially asking, “Did God create a world of no?” The serpent cleverly converts one prohibition into a whole prohibition by doing this. He creates a world of no out of the one no. Paul calls people who forbid marriage and demand abstinence from God’s excellent foods liars who are committed to the doctrine of devils because they are attacking the Father’s Way (1 Timothy 4:1–5).

Nonetheless, we must not lose sight of the fact that the answer was, in fact, nay. The snake likewise attacks this facet of the Father’s Way. The snake responds, “You will not surely die,” after Eve correctly observes that there is only one no in the world of yes and that breaking it will result in certain death (Genesis 3:4). The serpent no longer exaggerates a single no the way he used to; instead, he now minimizes its actual impact.

In conclusion, the snake tried to portray God as a stingy miser who makes empty threats. Nevertheless, unlike other fathers who make empty threats, ours is a giver who always makes good on his promises. The Father’s Way is that. So what can parents learn from God’s excellent design in the garden? How can we try to follow the Father’s example?

Lesson 1: Don’t Say Too Much
First off, limiting the number of noes we give to our children is a good and proper thing to do. Although we will undoubtedly require more than one (after all, we do inhabit a fallen world), it is noteworthy that the Ten Commandments served as the cornerstone of Israelite life, and that in the New Testament, Jesus sums up the Ten with just two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength” (Matthew 22:37–39).

The notes are constrained and concentrated on the major issues in each of these situations. Consider asking yourself, “What rules must my children always remember?” as one method to put this strategy into practice. Following the counsel of some more experienced acquaintances, we quickly established two fundamental rules in our household:

Always, immediately, and with a joyful heart, obey your parents.
Always be truthful.
We added a third as our children matured: Treat people like you want to be treated.

The first rule clearly covers a wide range of situations. As parents, we set expectations, directions, and directives for our children every day. Yet, we don’t demand that they remember every directive, house rule, or command we’ve ever stated. Instead, when instructions are given, we want complete, prompt, and joyful compliance.

Fewer regulations place the emphasis where it belongs. Like the moral order of the garden, the moral order of your house is mostly based on relationships and trust. The most important thing we ask of our children is to have faith in their goodness and judgment and to demonstrate that faith by giving them complete, prompt, and joyful obedience. Fewer (and wiser) regulations help them focus on the proper problem.

Fewer regulations also reorient parents. A manageable set of good rules prevents us from falling into the “If I’ve told you once, then you’ll remember” trap, which involves expecting kids to retain every rule we’ve ever given them. Why are you, Billy, standing up on your chair? Did I tell you not to stand on your chair last month, remember? When we have to constantly remind, discipline, and encourage our kids about the numerous house rules, we get frustrated (and basic courtesies of life). This completely misunderstands the purpose of parenting.

The fundamentals of the Father’s Way include instructing, reminding, correcting, and teaching. This is what parents are expected to do, and they must do it completely, immediately, and with joy.

The fundamentals of the Father’s Way include instructing, reminding, correcting, and teaching. This is what parents are expected to do, and they must do it completely, immediately, and with joy.

Let’s take a concrete example where Billy gets up from his chair at the dinner table (again). Instruction and a reminder are the first step. Billy, we don’t get out of our chairs to eat at the table. It will be fine if he sits down. Billy occasionally gives you a face that appears to be saying, “Who’s going to make me?” In that case, we take action by disciplining the offender, not for sitting up in the chair, but for outright defiance. Billy breached the first rule. Thus, there must be repercussions.

Billy may also briefly bounce on the chair before sitting down. Either that or he slumps over and slumps his shoulders. Billy complied, but not “all the way, right away, with a cheerful heart,” as the saying goes. This is a chance for more instruction and practice. Billy should then be asked to sit back up after being reminded of the entire regulation. Repeat the command and look for complete, prompt, and happy compliance. And if you do, give Billy a lot of praise and enthusiasm because he has correctly followed the Father’s Way to maintain the connection of trust and joy.

Lesson No. 2: Refuse to harm the good
We may think about how the Father’s Way employs prohibitions in addition to reducing the number of rules we require our kids to learn. Put, in the Father’s Way, every no safeguard a yes. The Ten Commandments provide rules intended to protect righteous things. The prohibition against murder defends life. Marriage is safeguarded by “You shall not commit adultery.” Property is safeguarded by “you shall not steal.” and so forth. These notes serve as walls around a city, ensuring its positive aspects can grow and prosper.

Applying this to our parenting, we frequently ask ourselves, “What good thing am I protecting when I say no to my kids? Which gift am I protecting? Frequently, when we say no, it’s not to protect something wonderful but rather to spare ourselves some trouble or annoyance. This leads to the third use of the Father’s Way.

Lesson 3: Accept Better When Offered
When we reject something, we should look for a chance to accept something else. According to Jesus, if we ask God for bread, he won’t give us a stone. He won’t offer us a snake when we beg for fish (Matthew 7:9–11). In other words, God grants our requests or greater ones. He will give us bread or cake if we ask for it. He provides us with steak or fish if we ask for fish.

It is necessary to define this “something better” widely. Because we are teaching our children the virtue of patience, we can respond with “no” or “not yet” (which is better than indulging their every desire). We may assign them a task in order to bestow upon them the virtues of assiduity and a devoted work ethic (which is better than allowing them to grow up lazy). We might choose to say no to more screen time in favor of more time spent playing games with our parents (since the long-term value of real relationships far outshines the temporary dopamine hit of our devices).

But in each of these instances, we aim to emulate God’s fatherliness and adhere to the Father’s Way. Real noes from our parents are inevitable and beneficial, much like the city’s walls. Yet, we must keep in mind that, as parents, the main thing we are providing is a city of yes, a home of yes, brimming with happiness and life and appreciation for the fullness of all that comes to us from the God of yes.