When our daughter Lisa was about nine years old, she came into the kitchen one day as I was shaping meatballs with my hands. She watched a moment and then asked if she might help. I, of course, said yes. After washing her hands, she dipped them into the bowl containing the ground meat, into which I had mixed milk, an egg, and bread.
As she started to shape a ball she found the texture of the mixture very disagreeable. Quickly dropping the meat back into the bowl, she told me, ''Ma, just because I ask you if I can do something, you don't have to say yes!''
This statement startled me, and as time went on became a source of guidance in raising Lisa and her two sisters. I became aware that there were countless occasions when my permission was asked for something not truly desired.
As a seventh grader, Lisa had a close friend who spent much time at our house. From time to time she invited Lisa to dinner at her home. The first time Lisa asked my permission, I readily gave it. It became apparent, however, from Lisa's reports about her visits that the girl's father and teen-age brother fought incessantly. Obviously, Lisa's visits to the home were a trial to her. After I discovered this, when Lisa was again invited to that home and asked my consent, I could easily say no, making some small excuse to save the girl's feelings. This took a great deal of pressure from Lisa.
Later, when she was the only one in her group of friends with a driver's license, they were all invited to a New Year's Eve party about an hour's drive away. They were hopeful she would do the transporting, but she really did not want the responsibility. When this became clear to me, I refused to let her have the car that night.
Today, with peer pressure so strong and starting at such an early age, a parent who has good rapport with an offspring can take many burdens from the child. Invitations to parties at which alcoholic drinks will flow, therefore posing to a teenager possible problems greater than any pleasures, can be declined because the parent says ''No!'' Peers cannot cry ''party-pooper'' because the child has not made the decision. For now, while the child is still learning how to say no, the onus is on the parent.