I’ve been thinking a lot about Jennifer McGrail’s post, “Six Things My Kids Are Allowed to Say to Adults.” Her post was in response to an article called “6 Things My Kids Aren’t Allowed to Say to Adults.” One of the sayings was “I don’t want to.” The original article tried to say that obedience to authority and God should be immediate.
Well, as Jen beautifully states in her article, we adults say “I don’t want to” all the time. In fact, I’ve said that many times throughout my adulthood. I’ve felt like a child at times when life gets hard, and have told God, “I don’t want to” throughout some painful stuff. Not once has God corrected or convicted me for telling Him, “I don’t want to.” Rather, He validates me, comforts me, asks me to trust Him, and is right here with me when I must do things I really don’t want to do. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children?
Another thing the original article said that children shouldn’t be allowed to say is “No.” This is so dangerous. If we don’t allow children to say no to us, how will they ever feel comfortable saying no to someone who tells them to do something bad? The majority of sexual abuse cases happen with a familiar adult. Also, children need to know how to say no to their peers. And yes, God allows us to say “no” to Him and argue with Him. Check out the story of Moses. And in Matthew 21:28-32, the son who said “no” ended up obeying.
It’s important for us to allow children to back talk so that they learn how to respectfully argue their case. If they never complain, voice concerns, and even point out when we are being unfair, they’ll get trapped in bad situations and they’ll be fake. Nobody is always happy! Even Jesus complained. The only time we shouldn’t complain is when we are serving others.
Children are human beings with real feelings. They are shy sometimes. We shouldn’t force them to talk to strangers at church. We shouldn’t get mad when they say, “Hang on” after we ask them to do something. After all, we do this to them all the time! If they don’t like something, let them express that.
Our job is to teach them how to respectfully back talk. They need to learn that it’s ok to argue, but not call names, not whine, not insult, and to realize that they may still have to do what they don’t want to do. If they mess up and say something disrespectful, tell them they need to try again because they may not talk to you that way. Do overs allow the child to calm down and say it more respectfully.
Of course, toddlers need us to give them appropriate words since their vocabulary is limited. A toddler that doesn’t want to leave the park and cries can be told, “I know you’re sad about leaving the park. You wish you could play longer.” Modeling respectful arguments and validating a child’s feelings will ultimately teach children how to respectfully back talk.
One final good thing about back talk is that it means children are thinking for themselves. We need critical thinkers, not robots! God would have created robots if that’s what He truly wanted. Instead, He gave us the ability to think for ourselves and ask questions. He wants a relationship with us and sometimes that means we complain and back talk to Him. He knows this is human nature and loves us for it. Let’s teach our children we will do the same for them!