Parenting: Why It’s More Important to Be Wise Than Generous

“But, Mom, please

I knew what my answer had to be.

Sneakers and Mini Daisies

But it wasn’t going to be easy.

Sometimes right before I tell my kids no, that split second before the word comes out of my mouth, I am afraid.

I am afraid to be strong.

I am afraid I can’t follow through.

I am afraid of what will happen when I say no.

I think every parent knows this fear.

Because it’s often easier to be generous than wise.

Lately, it seems the harder we work at raising grateful, hard working kids that put others first, the harder the job gets.

And when kids resist chores and grumble about dinner, slam doors and argue constantly with their siblings, it makes a parent feel like a complete failure.

We had all of the above going on at the same time the other night.

My husband and I left our kids to clean up dinner dishes and locked ourselves behind our bedroom door. And we asked questions we couldn’t answer: Why is parenting to hard? Are we doing this right? Do we have wine?


We reassured each other with these truths: It’s okay for children to be temporarily unhappy and their resistance doesn’t mean our failure.

But it’s not going to be easy.

Easy is saying yes to cultural norms.

Easy is giving in to demands.

Easy is being like everyone else.

Sticking to standards, saying no, choosing wisdom over generosity is hard.

I think parental generosity comes naturally. We want to give our kids what we didn’t have, we want to see their faces light up. We want them to be “happy.”

But when we give in too early, too soon or too much, or just because standing our ground is tough, we lose more than we might think. When we cower to an unsatisfied child we both lose.

I’m sure that’s why there are triumphant toddlers leading the shopping trips at Target, young kids playing teen-rated video games and high schoolers in brand new Mercedes. AmIright?

But generosity like this–born out of fear–can be dangerous. Because when we give too much, too soon, we exchange hard work and the hard knocks of life for the easy road. And sometimes the easy road, is also a dangerous one.

And this societal norm of giving kids what they want is causing destruction.

Generosity is great. It’s freely giving to our children. But wisdom is more important because it gives us the insight when to be generous and the courage to say no when our world is saying yes, more, now.

Back in the kitchen, I answered her question. “No, I’m sorry. You’re grounded for the day, remember?”

I braced myself and stood my ground and calmly suggested another day.

When I returned later, that same child was humming in the kitchen, making dessert for the rest of the family. There wasn’t pouting. The anger was long gone. She didn’t ask again.

Sometimes our kids ask for something or demand their way, not to get us to say yes, but to see if we will stick with no.

And sometimes our wisdom begets their generosity.

Moms, don’t give in.

But mostly, don’t give up.


  1. 1

    Allison H. says

    I am really feeling this with our 4 year old already…sticking to no and the consequences of her actions is really hard but I know it’s better to start now! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. 2


    I needed this today. Thank you for the encouragement. My husband and I had already discussed a situation and determined the answer before the question came up. I felt guilt for saying “no” and it didn’t help that everyone knew I would say “no” and seemed to condemn me for it. I know the reasons we said “no” and I did say “yes” to what I could but stood firm on the “no” where we had to. Still, I felt a bit like a lousy mom (and others weren’t helping with the condemnation that was being cast my way). Your post encourages me. I think it’s a gift from God for my heart. So, thank you.

    • 2.1

      Lisa says

      I LOVE READING YOUR BLOG. You are 100% right. What you wrote is so true. I found it easier saying no when my child was younger but as he gets older it seems to get harder but I do stick to my guns and am always glad I did. The times that I give in, I feel lousy because I am allowing generosity to win out over wisdom. I always try to remember that I am grooming him to be a responsible and self-sufficient adult (we see many adults that aren’t these days). It’s perfeclty normal and ok for our kids to push back but it’s up to us as their parents to not give in when we know we shouldn’t just because it’s easier.

  3. 3


    Thank you so much for this. It was such an encouragement to be reminded that I’m not the only ‘mean mom’ out here, and to read again in black-and-white why it’s so important to stay the course…the long term payoff is so worth it!!

  4. 4

    Conda says

    I was at a Hearts at Home conference where a speaker said the best thing to ask your child was “Why should I say yes?”. I have used this several times, and more times than I can count my daughter couldn’t come up with a good response. Such a simple thing to do, but so powerful!

  5. 5


    Oh Kristen, I needed this today. My kids are very similar age to yours, although 3 boys, & this summer has been SO hard. I thought it was suppose to get easier when they were older, lol!

  6. 6

    a says

    Let me say as a daughter of a parent who gave me everything bc i was raised in abuse and they felt guilty..i know what a ruined life looks like. Trust me if you want to do them a favor love isnt always saying yes. I didnt realize but its crazy raising little people nowadays. God will never change His mind so since parents model His character its better to obey.

  7. 7


    I appreciate this. Although I have to say I have to opposite problem lately. I can’t hardly bring myself to say yes to even reasonable requests. I’m having issues showing grace at times too. Ah, yes this parenting this is so hard.

  8. 8

    Amber Kemp says

    As a mama of a little boy with Austim and severe anxiety, I struggle with this as I know what happens when I say no at times. But standing my ground and being consistent is so so vital. Thank you for this insightful post!

  9. 9

    Stacey says

    Interesting. I actually have the opposite issue. I’m too good at saying no. :) I’m training myself to not default to no. Yes, you can help me cook. Yes, make mud pies. Yes, I’ll read another book. I was saying no because it made my life easier.

    I think you may have set up a false dichotomy here. Generosity born of fear is not truly generosity. Saying no when that is best for your child and family is not un-generous. It is a kindness, even if the child doesn’t experience it as such. (Because my kids don’t always thank me for my efforts to keep them safe and healthy or protect their little hearts and minds. LOL)

    I think we can be wise AND generous (and from what I have read of your blog, I believe you are). Generous with our time, affection, grace and kindness. And generous with our explanations when we make unpopular decisions.

  10. 10

    Jason says

    Great article, but it applies as much to dads as moms. Keep that in mind for your future articles on parenting. There are a lot of guys out here raising theirs kids too

  11. 11


    Thanks for this! It definitely is EASIER to give in (in my case usually to avoid a tantrum), but I know that the long term harm in that action far outweighs the temporary discomfort of a screaming fit.

  12. 12

    Dita says

    Thanks for this post! My four and a half year old daughter is starting to notice that she does not have as many toys or things that a few of her friends or relatives have and before now she never really cared because we had items for her that she truly loved, and we cleared out on a regular basis things she did not play with or wear any longer. We also spend quality time with her interacting instead of plugged in all the time to electronics, outdoors play instead of TV, etc. She never really wanted more until recently. I feel it’s getting harder to say no but I still believe she does not ask for things like I see other children doing, because we never made a big deal of shopping or collecting things. It’s not that we can’t afford it, we just A) do not have a lot of space for so many toys etc. and B) we did not want to have a spoiled child, who takes things for granted. She very often does not get her way with things she wants to do, places she wants to go or items she wants us to buy for her but we make it a daily practice to help her appreciate everything she has and to “earn” the rest. I know it will get harder and harder to do this, but I love your message and feel like we to can stick it out for her well being and a very strong character one day. Thank you!

  13. 13


    Thank you for this. We are in a tough season of transition with an almost three-year-old, and a newborn. Being a mom is a dream come true, but it is so much harder than I ever dreamed, and very little is what I expected it to be. Grateful for the reminder to parent wisely, with the end in mind!

  14. 16


    Excellent post. Our kids are all older now…only one left in high school and two are married. Many, MANY days of saying “no,” and wondering if we were doing the right thing. And many, MANY days of saying, “yes,” and wondering if we were doing the right thing. Parenting is so hard. Thanks for the encouragement of this post. :)

  15. 17


    It is so hard to see their disappointments and deal with their emotions. It breaks my heart, but we truly do them a disservice to keep them from all discipline or disappointment. They won’t learn the small lessons, which will mean when they really have tough choices, they won’t have the experience to draw from in order to make wiser decisions. Plus, we don’t teach them consistency or demonstrate who God is – steadfast and always faithful.

  16. 18


    Excellently written. Often parents feel so overwhelmed to be the parent who is the best friend ever that we forget that parents are expected to be adults for a reason- to carefully guide those under our charge. I’ll definately share via the Jamaican Mommies networks.

  17. 20

    Nicole M. says

    Oh Kristen! You hit the nail on the head with this one. Tough love is SO hard! Especially when coming from an upbringing that lacked nurturing and love and now as a mother trying to overcompensate for what I never had. The earlier we start standing our ground the better – it’s been a tough road but better late than never. Truly those baby/toddler years are exhausting, more physically, but the older they get the harder this tough-love thing gets. Thanks so much for the encouragement.

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