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

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

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.

I hope I'm teaching my kids to take responsibility for their own actions, and that consequences follow all their decisions—sooner or later. I'm not sure I would have had the courage to call the police if I'd known Jason would be arrested, but I don't regret the lessons he learned from the experience.

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