“Because I said so” is one of those phrases that drove us crazy as kids, that we swore we’d never utter and yet slips out of our mouths almost unconsciously.
Conventional parenting says that children are to be seen and not heard, which makes phrases like “because I said so” acceptable. They’re our last line of defence in a conversation that we’re seeking to end without any further explanation or inquisition. We expect full adherence because we’re in charge and what we say, goes.
This is a fundamentally broken approach. I’ve written before (see Why we’re always apologising to our children) about how us acting like we’re superior to our children in any fashion is a lie and a missed opportunity for connection. Enforcing this kind of behaviour fosters an atmosphere where children are expected to blindly obey us without understanding or questioning why.
Children need to know why. It’s one of their favourite questions, right? Why? Why? Why? They’re learning how the world works, physically, mechanically, socially and culturally. If you let children in on why you’ve taken a particular stance on something, they’ll grab it, accept it and learn from it. We’ve always done this with Ellie and I’m so thankful for it. It’s really apparent in the way she analyses situations.
For example, Ellie knows that she doesn’t get sugary treats like lollipops except in special situations. She knows that they’re very sugary and that sugary treats can cause your teeth to rot. She also knows that teeth (tooth enamel, specifically) are the only part of your body that can’t repair themselves, so once they rot, they’re gone. So when she sees something that she wants, like a fizzy drink (soda) and we tell her that it has a lot of sugar in it, she connects the dots and knows that she should steer clear of it because it’s not good for her teeth.
Children have an incredible thirst for knowledge: this drive is what lights their creative fire, what keeps them learning and developing, and what helps them to navigate the world. For heaven’s sake, if your child is wanting to know more, give them more! Teach them, take them to the museum, show them how it works, sign them up for a class to go further than you can take them. Doing this creates independent, free-thinkers that can handle any situation life throws at them.As much as I love my children, when they go off to college and their car breaks down, or they need to do laundry, or they’re facing an ugly social situation, I want them to instinctively know what to do instead of picking up the phone to me (of course, I’ll always be glad to help, but that’s not the point).
As much as I love my children, when they go off to college and their car breaks down, or they need to do laundry, or they’re facing an ugly social situation, I want them to instinctively know what to do instead of picking up the phone to me (of course, I’ll always be glad to help, but that’s not the point). The rewards come sooner than that of course: they’ll become emotionally intelligent children that are much better at handling social situations in the playground, at knowing what is safe and what isn’t, and at being creative.
Before you shut your child down, have a go at explaining what you said. Balancing giving them enough information and not going over their heads is a bit of an art, but once you master it, they’ll have a much better handle on the world and be better humans, children and friends as a result.