The Parent 'Hood
Is it OK to say 'because I said so'?
One parent uses 'because I said so' a lot. Other parent hates it.
Does your spouse use "because I said so" with your children, even though you hate it? (Buccina Studios Photodisk photo / November 9, 2011)
Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):
If it's clear to you that they already know why, and it's a challenge to your authority or a trick to buy time, it's OK to cut off the discussion. I have resorted to "because I said so." But then I feel like I'm 8, and worse, I've just lost an argument to an 8-year-old. The victory is hollow.
Sometimes, a quick and even "Why do you think?" throws the ball back in their court, and in my experience it can end there. And sometimes I take time to play the game, answer every why, and steer the outcome to very dire circumstances. "So, sweetie, unless you'd like to have everyone at school tomorrow staring at the soft green fuzzy mold on your teeth, I think you should go up and brush. Reeeally well. OK? OK."
— Michael Zajakowski
A good parent is always talking to his/her child, explaining, coaching, laughing, helping and disciplining. In the best-case scenario, the conversation at hand would not happen in a vacuum, out of the blue. The child will have been told/advised/warned about what's OK and what isn't.
The "I said so" comes after a fair amount of explanation regarding consequences — like not riding a bike without a helmet. You need to share some unhappy consequences or outcomes of an activity. If the child persists (insert personal tolerance level here), "Because I said so" is perfectly acceptable.
— Denise Joyce
This is a great time to invoke the mantra of positive-discipline guru Jane Nelsen: Be firm and kind.
"Often parents get the firm part or the kind part, but either one is not helpful alone," says Nelsen, author of several parenting manuals, including "Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems" (Three Rivers Press).
"Because I said so" is certainly firm, and may actually get your child to cease with the questions and follow orders. But it's not likely teaching her to respect you — or to behave respectfully in return.
Instead of focusing solely on the here and now, you and your spouse should ask yourselves what you want, ultimately, to teach your child.
"Right now, parents often want whatever needs to be done, to be done," says Nelsen. "But long term you want your child to feel valued, to be respectful, to learn cooperation, to know that things need to be done and they can't just be a parasite who gets without giving."
That takes some explaining. And modeling.
"Example is the best teacher," Nelsen says.
"'Because I said so' — What kind of example is that? Not one that teaches self-discipline and respect and responsibility. Not one that invites kids to think."
And teaching kids to think for themselves will pay dividends.
"If you want your kids to just obey, and all you teach them is obedience, watch out when they become teenagers," Nelsen says. "If they've learned to become obedient to the people they care about and respect most, guess who they care about and respect most as teenagers? Their peers. And if all they've learned is to do what other people tell them to do — they haven't learned to question, they haven't learned to make their own decisions — they will obey those peers."
Got a solution?
Your teen has the next 20 years meticulously mapped out. Except for time for fun. Can you force a teenager to stop and smell the roses? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.