“Because I Said So!”
Who among us did not hear that as a kid? And who finds themselves saying it to their own kids now? Children can really wear you down, and some of them are more persistent than others — even after a reasonable “no”, they still keep harping and nagging until they break through your calm attitude and leave you barking these four words.
The problem with “because I said so” is that it sends the message to the child that you don’t really care about his point of view, that when it really comes down to it, what he thinks and feels is not really important compared to what you want. It makes it tough for him to take you seriously when you tell him that you want him to come to you with his problems or his desires, because he doesn’t really believe that you’ll listen to him anyway.
You may end up with compliance, at least for a little while, by using the “because I said so” strategy. But in the long run, you risk damaging your credibility when you tell your kids that what they think matters, you may set them up to be taken advantage of by authority figures, or they may get angry, secretly rebel, and stop concerning themselves about you and what you say.
This doesn’t mean that children should be allowed to do whatever they want. As a parent, you have a legal and moral obligation to keep your kids safe and to look out for their best interests. When it comes to issues of safety, legality, and morality, you need to reserve the right to limit your children’s activities. But instead of just resorting to “because I said so”, let your kids know (in age appropriate terms, of course) what your concerns are and that if they can find a way to really address all of those concerns in a way you both feel good about, that you’ll reconsider. (Barbara Coloroso describes this idea by using the phrase, “Convince me” with kids.) This isn’t a blanket acceptance of what they’re doing or a suggestion that under any circumstances you should be forced into doing something or letting your kids do something you don’t feel comfortable with — it’s a way to teach critical thinking and problem solving skills that they’ll be able to use over and over again in their lives. We need to practice these kinds of behaviours for them to become natural and second nature, and kids can’t go wrong with the ability to identify a problem, consider the options for overcoming the problem, and presenting these options to the involved parties. And it keeps you out of the dog house in having to fight with your children over “because I said so” over and over again.