Several years ago, my family helped an African family of six assimilate into American culture so they could study ministry. One of my most vivid memories was their first visit to our house. Almost every question we asked started with “Do you like____?” (everything from the temperature to the school they attended).

Interestingly, the hardest adjustment for them was not electricity, driving laws, or the weather, but the constant question “Do you like this?” That night, we were gently reminded of something valuable: There is freedom that comes with permission to NOT have to ‘like’ everything. To this family, it didn’t matter what they liked or didn’t like as long as they accomplished what they set out to do.

You may not be hosting a family from a foreign country, but how many times did you feel that your preschooler had to “like” the way things were done that day? From putting on a winter coat to having a “nap opportunity” that they desperately needed (that you desperately needed!). As parents, we constantly struggle with the pressure of making sure everyone likes every decision we make, and that can be exhausting.

The truth is, if we can teach our kids how to face the things they do not like, we prepare them to experience more out of life. We prepare them to push through the hard things to get to the good things. To do the things that don’t feel good in the moment, but that are good in the long run. And along the way it helps them to know how to be gracious, patient, and kind.

What to say:

“You don’t have to like it but you still have to do it.”

What to do:

Carry on even if they do not like it. The non-optional events of life happen anyways. We do not have to “convince” them to like it all. The nap ensues, the meal happens, the five-point car seat restraint is secured. And then in your mind, as you may be fielding a hundred toddler questions, a tantrum or a “sit in,” pray:

“God, please show me Your will and give me the strength to keep that in place even when I know my kids may not like it in the moment.”

Although it may not seem like it at the time, they will appreciate being given permission not to “like” everything in life but to know how to do it anyways. And as a parent, that gives you permission to not have to please everyone all the time.