Never Say No?

“Really?! Never say no? Like that will ever work.”

Maybe you thought that same thing as I did when I first read the title. But then wait I want to “raise big-picture kids” like the subtitle suggests. Plus, if this book is written by the parents of the band Switchfoot then they must know something.

I’m don’t read many parenting books, mainly because social media is full of experts telling me exactly what to do every step of the way :). However, when I saw Never Say No I knew it was a book I needed to read. I was not interested because of a fear the word or a fear of punishing Juniper, I just felt like this book could take a new and interesting look at raising children in a creative environment.

I see way too many parents trying to force their own interests on their kids. Seeing the opportunity to re-live a better life vicariously through their offspring. What I love about this book is that Mark and Jan lay out what worked for their family and establish some amazing principles that can apply to kids of any age. I’m not going to summarize and give a CliffsNotes version of the book here but rather capture some key themes that stuck with me.

Before jumping into those takeaways I will mention that this book is based on Christian themes and is written from a worldview that believes in God. I would say that even if your worldview does not align with this, it is still worth reading. If you regularly read this blog I assume that you truly want to be a caring and intentional parent. This book aligns with that, regardless of your religious beliefs.

Parenting isn’t about managing behavior

This was a realization that I always felt, but could never articulate. Our goal as a parent isn’t to manage our children’s behavior but rather to develop a meaningful relationship with them. This doesn’t mean being their best bud or teenage BFF, but it does create an expectation of time and understanding. The antithesis of this concept is perfectly summed up by the song Cats In the Cradle.

This is really the onus for the title of the book. By building into our children’s emotional bank accounts we have an understanding of each other and seek ways to strengthen our relationships. That is the first step to saying “no” less and having more pleasant children. I do understand that this is a gross oversimplification, but a generous understanding of this principle can make a huge difference.

Unstructured play increases creativity

One example used in the book was the Foreman parent’s not using coloring books because the lines influenced creativity too much. I felt like that extreme example really forced me to realize that we structure too much of our play areas and tactics. In addition, I know that for me personally, I feel the most creative when I’m surrounded by nature, with nothing to do but explore.

So while tv, tablets, and phones are all great “baby-sitters” they aren’t setting our children up to be the most “them”. We begin to influence their fresh ways of thinking by offering solutions through showing them how rather than letting them figure things out through discovery. This takeaway was very eye opening for me. I think all of life requires balance but I often lean too far in the structured direction.

Say ‘yes’ more

To their requests for your time. To their desire to explore. To something you may fear involves calculated risk. What if we knew our kids so well that our ‘yes’ answers weren’t scary because we saw and knew the potential they possessed? What if those yes’s outnumbered the no’s?

By saying ‘yes’ more we begin to build into the exploratory nature of what being a kid is all about. Individual discovery and learning becomes much more personal which allows it to stick with our kids for longer.


Those are just three takeaways, but this book was so packed with life-changing truth and knowledge! If I could summarize the whole thing into one line it would be this quote from the book:

Parenting involves progressive stages of releasing our children, allowing them freedom by inches to take calculated risks that lead to increased responsibility.

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