At the end of a long day of work, if you are anything like me, you are looking for the path of least resistance when you walk through the front door. Unfortunately, with children, it doesn’t take long for reality to set in. They question, argue and refuse. Compliance, especially when kids are tired or hungry, is not usually high on their priority list.
It’s tempting to resort to “because I said so” when we are questioned. My version goes a little something like this: “Because I’m the daddy and you’re the little kid, and I know more than you.”
While this is probably not the response that will earn me the “Father of the Year” trophy, it’s true. We do know more. And, as parents, we have been given the authority, by God, to lead our children. It’s a responsibility none of us should take lightly.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Saying “no” to a child’s request is a frequent – and necessary – part of “training” a child. Children are commanded in Scripture to obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1). Most often, denying something our kids request is in their best interest, even if they don’t understand why and question our decisions.
Offering an explanation for a decision does not diminish your authority. In fact, using the “because I said so” strategy does more to undermine your effectiveness as a parent, even if it’s an easier solution for us at times.
In the same passage directing children to obey their parents, there’s a command for fathers: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Deploying the “because I said so” strategy prematurely or harshly surely provokes anger and resentment in your kids. Furthermore, you can’t teach if you end every discussion before it begins.
Why it Matters
Parenting is personal. We each have our own opinions – often, quite strong ones – about the most effective strategies. I’m not a child psychologist or parenting expert. I have no letters after my name. But I do feel the most important thing we can do is try to empathize with our children and see the world through their tiny eyes. In that mindset, we can see the negative impact authoritarian leadership can have on their development. If you have trouble seeing it, consider the effect that type of leadership has on you in your workplace.
Constantly saying “because I said so” is like throwing a bucket of cold water on the fire of their curiosity. As parents, we should encourage our children to be respectfully inquisitive. To do that, we must foster an environment where it’s okay to ask questions. To be clear, this doesn’t mean you allow a child to be blatantly disrespectful. Instead, you offer them explanations that make sense to them, with your directives.
Saying “because I said so” communicates that their opinions or feelings don’t matter and can negatively impact your relationship with your child.
In the short term, you may get your child to obey. But, in the long term, you sacrifice so much more.
There’s a Better Way
Often, saying “because I said so” is easier. We are fed up, tired and frustrated. Honestly, what parent feels like they should have to explain themselves to a child? It’s easier to play the role of dictator than it is servant leader. The latter takes much more thought.
The next time you feel the urge to take the easier road and resort to “because I said so,” try a different approach.
When they ask why they can’t – or why they have to – do something, tell them. Give them a reason for your decision. Doing this teaches them to make logical choices that have longer term benefits.
My daughter used to give us a hard time about brushing her teeth. So, we explained the consequences of bad dental hygiene. When she wants to go outside in the cold without a coat, we remind her of the last time she was sick.
When explaining, it’s important to use words they understand. If you aren’t sure, ask them to repeat back what you said or what it means. That’s an easy way to determine if the message has been received.
Lastly, ask them questions in return. Make them give sound reasoning about why they should get to do something (or why they shouldn’t have to do something). Odds are, they won’t be able to.
If you give your children reasons for your decisions, you are equipping them to think for themselves, which will pay off later. It’s easier for a young child to obey his or her parents. At that stage, the parent is the most important thing in their life.
During the teen years, peers come to the forefront and, if taught to obey just “because,” it’s more likely they will obey their friends. None of us want to see our children easily influenced.
We want our children to be obedient. But, obedience is not something that can be forced. It has to be earned. God doesn’t force our obedience with the law. He loves us into obedience by his grace and love. If we want to truly be effective as parents, the best example we can emulate is that of our Heavenly Father.
Brent Rinehart is a PR practitioner and freelance writer. He blogs about the amazing things parenting teaches us about life, work, faith and more at www.apparentstuff.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brentrinehart
Publication date: July 29, 2014