If you’re a “Because I said so!” parent, you’d better rethink this credibility-destroying approach with your kids.
When you say “Because I said so!” to your grade school, adolescent or teen child, who asks “But why?” when you dictate an order, here’s what happens:
• You come across as ignorant. Your child might assume that your curt response is an attempt to avoid answering a question you don’t know the answer to.
• You send the message that you don’t value your child enough to take the time to explain the “Why.”
• You come across as impatient, rude and only interested in being in charge.
• Your child doesn’t learn anything—which means that once they’re on their own, they will lack a full understanding of the “Why.” Don’t assume that once they’re older, they’ll understand.
A perfect example is the don’t-talk-to-strangers rule. A young child may pester you with “But whyyyy?”
A full explanation is in order. Don’t assume your child will automatically develop an understanding of the “Why?” once they reach a certain age.
After all, how many times have we heard about an ADULT who gets suckered into going off with a stranger, accepting a ride from a stranger or offering a ride to a pleading stranger—only to end up raped or murdered by that stranger?
“Because I said so” eliminates a teaching moment that can actually be quite gratifying for the parent—and child—if the parent would just take a few deep breaths and change their perspective. An inquiring child isn’t exactly dumb.
If you’re raising your children with the “Because I said so!” approach, you may end up with ignorant kids who mindlessly follow rules.
Now this may be exactly what you want: a child who follows rules without challenging them.
But here’s the problem: What if the rule-maker is unhinged? I don’t mean you, the parent.
But what if this child, now a teenager or young adult, is in the workforce, and their bully of a boss senses that your child will mindlessly follow orders without question?
This bully will take advantage of the employee; the young worker has been groomed never to “question authority.”
Your child isn’t questioning YOU when they ask why.
They simply would like an explanation. It’s not that they don’t trust you. In fact, if they didn’t trust you, they wouldn’t be asking YOU for the answer!
“Because I said so” leaves kids with no tools to effectively navigate the dog-eat-dog world once they are grown.
Some parents use this phrase because they believe there’s no time, at the moment, to explain things.
But these same parents don’t exactly follow up with the answer later on when there IS time.
How about, “Right now I’m in a hurry; I’ll tell you ‘why’ later when I can sit down and have more time with you.” Unfortunately, this isn’t simple enough for many parents.
And of course, often, when parents dish out the “Because I said so!” they have all the time in the world at that moment. And their child knows that. This wrecks your credibility with your child.
Do you really think they will come to you for life advice if you keep sending out the message that:
1) They’re not important enough to you to take the time to explain something, and/or
2) You’re ignorant and more interested in belting out orders to show who’s boss than in educating your child?
Doggone it, if your child wants to know why he can’t wade in grimy one-foot-deep water, then TELL HIM WHY.
No child admires the parent who snaps, “Because I said so!” You will not be a hero in their eyes. You will not be a role model. You’ll come across as ignorant and self-centered.