The heart of The Disciple-Making Parent is helping parents pass the gospel to and disciple their children. Inevitably that spills over into what we might call Basic Parenting or Parenting 101. I cover this in my Parenting with Confidence seminar and course.
And in that teaching I make a Study Bible analogy. In a Study Bible, there are inspired words from God that you may not argue with, only seek to understand and obey. There are also words that are commentary from fallible men and women. This Study Bible notes are not inspired but come from wisdom.
I offer the following post knowing that it fits squarely in the “Study Bible Notes” part of parenting. I cannot point to a chapter and verse to back it up but I think it represents wisdom.
“OK?” is Not OK
With that caveat, what is the point of this post? – I want to argue that “OK?” is not OK.
In other words, as I observe parents giving commands to their small children, I often hear them ending with the question, “OK?”
For example, “Alex give that toy back to Sarah. OK?” “Jonathan, it’s time to go. I want you to start cleaning up your toys. OK?”
I don’t like this word pattern because of what it implies. It takes a command that should be obeyed and then softens it. In essence, we asking our child, “Is that ok with you?” It carries the tone of “I am giving you a command. But it has to be ok with you. You have to want to do it. If it is not ok, then don’t do it.” I believe that our young children internalize that message. They become the arbitrator of whether they will obey the command or not.
Positively, underneath this question is a desire not to be a military parent who goes around barking orders. And there is an openness to more information. Those are good impulses. But I don’t think they outweigh the possible negative message our children might hear.
Let me suggest an alternative that both engages a young child after a command and yet does not seem to offer him a choice. It rightly places him or her under our authority.
It is the question – “Understand?”
Thus a script might go,
“Alex?” “Yes Mom.” “Give that toy back to Sarah. Understand?” “Yes, Mom.” or
“Jonathan?” “Yes Dad. “Its time to go. Start cleaning up your toys. Do you understand?” “Yes Dad.”
This type of script should be going on tens or even hundreds of times a day.
There is: 1. A call for their attention with a response. 2. A reasonable command. 3. A question asking for their response and obtaining it.
The Appeal Rule
This also works well when combined with the appeal rule. The appeal rule allows a child to say something like, “Please may I appeal?” or “Please may I ask why?” It allows the child to offer more information that the parent might not know about and prevents frustration.
For example, in our scenarios above, Alex might say, “Please may I appeal Mom?” “What is it Alex?” “Sarah told me she was through playing with the toy.” or Jonathan might say, “Please may I appeal Dad?” “What is it Jonathan?” “I am almost done building my tower. Can I just have some more time?”
Thus there is an outlet for an appeal.
Loving parents try to combine asking for a response and an openness to more information by packing too much into the word, “OK?” Instead of giving the child the authority to choose, retain that authority by asking “Understand?” and having the appeal rule as an option.
I do not believe our child’s eternal destiny lies on whether we do this as a family. And we don’t want to judge others. But it does line up with the understanding of training our children to live under our authority.
This pattern was a blessing to our family. Try it! I think you will be blessed.