Parenting is hard. Communication is hard. Put them together and you have something that can feel virtually impossible. At best, it can feel like a completely uphill task.
One reason communicating with children is so difficult is because every word means something, and we often say things that we don’t think much about, but that can communicate so much.
Today, I want to share one word that I am striving to reduce in my vocabulary with my children. At the very least, I am trying to change one specific way in which I catch myself using it. The reason is simple: whether I mean it this way or not, this one word gives my children authority over me, instead of the way it is supposed to be.
What is the word?
Now, it’s not that “okay” is a bad word. It is how I have found myself using it so often that makes all the difference. See if some of these sentences sound like what you say to your kids:
“You need to clean your room, okay?”
“Your mommy needs help with the dishes, okay?”
“Finish your math work, okay?”
Do you see how that one little word at the end of the sentence changes them dramatically? Instead of stating what is expected, and then knowing it will get done, we have put the child in charge of the situation. Rather than saying, “Clean your room,” what you are doing is giving your child the option to clean his/her room…if it’s okay with them.
I am not suggesting a parenting style where we just give out orders like a drill sergeant. There are times to put the ball in the court of our children and let them decide certain things.
That said, when we give a direction, we should expect for it to be followed. Parents, we must remember that part of our work is to build within our children an understanding of authority. God, being the ultimate authority, does not tell us, “believe in me, okay?” Instead, He simply states what is expected and we are to obey.
We may not think too much about adding “okay” to the end of our sentences, and we may think it is nothing more than just a “filler” word that does not really mean anything (sort of like “um”). But to a kid, “okay,” when phrased as a question, puts the authority with them. While that is fine sometimes, it is not fine all the time.
Instead, we need to build the type of relationship where we can state an expectation and know it will be completed. That’s not cruel parenting. It is teaching children to respect authority, which is something our society desperately needs.
AUTHOR: Adam Faughn
Photo background credit: Spirit-Fire on Creative Commons