How to Tell Your Kids No—Even Though You Did It

Don't let guilt keep you from discussing sensitive issues.

All of us have done things we wish we hadn't done: stealing, drinking, cheating on tests. So, what right do we have to tell our kids not to do these things when we did?

I struggled with this question for years. My children knew I lived with their dad before we got married and was pregnant in high school. Guilt held me in bondage, and I felt I didn't have the right to tell my kids how to live their lives.

Finally, four kids and two divorces later, I realized I did have the right and the responsibility to tell my kids, "Don't do it!" I wanted them to enjoy life the way God intended. I couldn't make it happen, but I could help it happen by preparing them to understand the long-term consequences of their choices. I discovered several things that helped me prepare my children for the world outside the home:

Leave your guilt behind.

For a long time, I feared that if I brought up the subject of premarital sex to my kids, they'd reject my words and say, "Well, you did it. Who are you to tell us not to?"

It took years for me to accept God's forgiveness for my sexual sins. But the Bible tells me in Psalm 103:12: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Why should I let my children convince me otherwise?

Once I got over my fear of hearing those words, I felt free to train up my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I know God has a specific plan for our sexuality, and I want my kids to know it, too.

Be vulnerable and honest.

Though my sins are forgiven, I'm honest with my children about areas where I went wrong. I use times when I'm faced with the consequences of my bad choices to teach them the dangers of compromise, and show them how my big decisions to sin began with little choices to sin. This allows them to see the importance of daily making right choices according to God's principles.

Start when your kids are young.

At age five, my daughter, Audrey, asked me, "People have sex on a date, right?" Instead of demanding to know where she heard that, I explained God had special plans for her life, and part of those plans involved saving sex for marriage. She really didn't know what sex was, but from that point on, we have prayed for her own purity as well as that of the young man she'll someday marry.

Let your children suffer the consequences of their actions.

Remember the era when a father made his son tell the store manager he had stolen a candy bar? I was put to a similar test when my oldest son, Jason, decided to take part in a crime. When I found out he had information about a theft at his school, I called the police. I didn't know at that point he had received and spent some of the stolen money. Jason was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, handcuffed, and held for investigation until after midnight.

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May 25

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