by Tom Vogel
Former Principal of Hammond Baptist Junior High

“No” is the first word most children learn. It does not require a detailed explanation. Its meaning is very quickly learned by every toddler whose parents with conviction and purpose say to their child, “NO!” It is an easy word to say and to form with the mouth. It is short enough to be said quickly in emergencies. It is clear enough so that it does not sound like any other word. It is a strong enough word so that it can stand by itself without any clarifying adjectives. So, what’s the problem?

“No” Means “No.”

For too many teenagers, “no” does not mean “no.” From birth they have been conditioned to believe that “no” means “maybe.” They have come to realize that Mom or Dad and perhaps both can be nagged into compromise. As Delilah nagged Samson into telling her the secret of his strength, so too do many teens vex their parents’ souls into changing a “no” into a “yes.” So in a world that should be black and white with very distinct rights and wrongs, our teenagers are conditioned to believe that, “Thou shalt not…” really means “Oh, alright.”

No” Means Strength.

When parents say “no” to a child or a teenager, they are also saying, “I have power and strength over you, and I am exercising it right now.” My wife and I were following a lady at the grocery store. She had a four year old in the cart as she shopped. It was obvious why the child was in the cart. It was because that was the only way she could control him. He kept reaching for everything he could get in his grabby little hands. Every time he would almost reach something, she would steer to the other side of the aisle and yell “No!” at him. Two aisles later she finally said, “Oh, alright, but that’s the last thing I am buying you.” She did not stick to her guns. “No” did not mean, “No.” Mama had no power or authority over her child. I knew it, my wife knew it, the child knew it, and every casual observer in the store knew it. The only clueless person in the store was Mama. The kid was, in reality, calling the shots.

“No” Simplifies Life.

God is very definite in His commands. We either obey or we disobey. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. There is sin, and there is righteousness. There are blessings, and there are curses. He says “yes,” and He says “no.” Life can be so simple if we follow the rules. Every problem we have in life is because we do “yes” when He says “no,” and we do “no” when He says “yes.” God eliminates many of our decisions for us by giving us commandments to follow. All we have to do is say “yes” to obeying them. It takes the guesswork out of life.

“No” Becomes More Important with Age.

A teenager who thinks he can change a “no” to a “yes” with Mom and Dad will treat God the same way or worse. After all, the teenager doesn’t have to nag God. All he has to do is do his own thing. A toddler who doesn’t understand the word “no” will become a teenager who doesn’t care what the word “no” means. That same child who whines to get around a “no” will lie, cheat, and steal to get around a “no” in the teenage years.

Because of a teenager’s mobility, his maturity, and his ability to commit more serious sins and offenses, his sins become more grievous with age.

Learn to say “No” and mean it.