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Because I Said So

February 2, 2019

Over the last 50 or so years, the phrase, “Because I said so,” has fallen out of favor with parenting gurus.  It’s so authoritarian.  It seems to disregard the innate dignity of the child.  It’s demeaning.

“Because  said so,” has been replaced by conversation and explanation.  Heavy on the explanation.  “Let’s talk about your feelings.”  And then a generally unproductive exchange of words that is almost a conversation in a futile attempt by the parent to explain and justify their request.  God forbid a parent would ever make a demand of a child.  Requests are so much more open-minded and progressive.  A far better model for children than demands and rigid rules.  If only they know why we want what we want, they’re so much more inclined to do what we ask.

Umm.  No.  That’s not how it works.

There really are times when, “Because I said so,” is the finest answer a parent can give.  Explaining to a 3- or 4-year old why you want them to do or not do something is generally a waste of time and effort.  A friend of mine says it’s like trying to teach a pig to sing the National Anthem.  The pig won’t be interested in learning it, and even if it does learn it, it’ll be just awful when it belts it out.

Your explanation, no matter how well-reasoned and open-minded it is, won’t create a tipping point.  Not because the child doesn’t deserve to have an explanation, but because they won’t understand it, no matter how well you explain it.  They don’t have the neural wiring to be able to understand your explanation.  Even if they’re “exceptional” (as are all of my grand children).  They are unable to connect the dots of your explanation, even if they’re smarter than the rest of the kids in their preschool class.  Even if they already know their numbers through 43.  Even if they know how to make your Roku work better than you do.

Basically what little kids can understand is this: you want me to do this; I want to do that; I’ll do what I want unless you make me do what you want me to do.  Your reasons for wanting them to do what you want them to do are immaterial.  It’s not about what might or might not be a good idea.  Why you want what you want won’t even be a dim blip on your kid’s radar.  It’s about what they want verses what you want.  Bottom line: it’s about who wins and who loses, and what the cost for losing is.

Yeouch!  That seems pretty hardhearted.

I’m good with the fact that some people are going to take exception with what I’m writing here.  I’m fine with the fact that I’m out of step with progressive parenting and a raft of politically correct child psychologists.  Truth is, if I weren’t a little out of step with them, I’d feel like I was slipping.  I don’t mind being classified as old school and contrarian.  I’m even OK with “crotchety.”  I want you to like me and all, but I’m trying to stay on the side of reality here.

The line between being able to reason through to a conclusion and not being able to, especially in the world of discipline and obedience, is fuzzy.  You can’t just say by a particular time every child can, and before that time, no child can.  Kids are different.  But I can talk about it in confident generalities.

Generally, when children are in the concrete stages of mental and psychological development, hoping they will connect the dots of meaning in your explanation for why you want them to do something, or not do something, is just not reasonable.  You’ll wear yourself out, and your kid will walk all over you.  They’ve always got the ace in the hole.  They can always throw a fit in the check-out line at Walmart or in the lobby at church, or any number of other socially embarrassing times and places.  They’ve got leverage.

John Rosemond ( is an intelligent voice in this conversation.  He wrote a book, Because I Said So, way back in 1996 that was a great find for me, and that I recommend to you.  He’s written several books since then, all helpful and insightful, but I’d say start with this one.  If you’re on Facebook, you can like him and get his videos and written advice on a pretty regular basis.  His main contention is you’re the parent.  Your status isn’t up for debate.  God made you the parent.  You might be better or worse than your parents were, better or worse than the other parents in your social or church circle, but you’re the parent of your kid(s).  And believe it or not, that gives you the authority to legitimately say, “Because I said so.”

Explaining the theology and philosophy behind this fact won’t make any difference to your child.  It won’t change their mind.  Give it your best shot and they’re still going to want what they want unless you can come up with a reason they don’t want it (as in a negative consequence) or possibly something they’d like better (as in a viable alternative).  But explaining won’t get you any closer to either.

Before I land the plane, I need to tell you that there’s a lot more to this whole thing than I’ve got time to write or you have time to read right now.  Get Rosemond’s book and see what you think.  Trust me, though, you attempting to explain your way to getting better and more compliant behavior out of your kid is a dead-end street.

Here’s where I’ll land the plane.  Consistently applying the rules of your home with calmness and confidence will set your kid(s) up to be able to navigate their way to consistently acceptable behavior, even when they aren’t enthusiastic about behaving well.  “Because I said so,” can be enough of an explanation when your child knows that you’re not kidding about being the parent.  You don’t have to be mean about it.  For crying out loud, don’t be spiteful with it.  But trust that you have been given your role by the God of the Universe, and that you’ll make better judgments than your little one will.


From → Marriage

One Comment
  1. Dureen permalink

    PTL! So true and informative! Thank You 🙂

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