“Because I said so!”
Have you ever found yourself saying those words, even just in the heat of the moment?
I remember saying them once, jokingly, to my toddler (who didn’t understand a word).
The second the words were out of my mouth, I felt myself cringing. Even in jest, the words left a bad taste in my mouth.
But why IS that response a problem? Parents have been using it for generations as a quick fix to get their kids to do what they want them to do. What’s changed?
While there are many different styles of parenting, psychologists have divided those styles into four different categories based on how controlling and demanding parents are and how much they focus on communication and nurturing.
This graphic shows the four basic parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Negligent, and Permissive.
According to researchers, while there is not a universally “best” style of parenting, the authoritative style is best associated with raising independent, resilient kids.
In fact, there are three specific reasons why “Because I said so!” is bad parenting.
Undercuts Kids Feelings
Authoritarian parents don’t validate their kids’ emotions, letting them know that they are important. Children aren’t given the opportunity to express how they feel. This type of parent typically subscribes to the opinion that children should be seen, not heard. They certainly don’t discuss things with their children.
The problem with this is that children are never taught to make decisions for themselves. They may grow up to be adults who “play by the rules,” but they may never have the confidence in themselves to test the limits or try new things. In fact, children raised in this manner are very likely to live passive lives.
Children Will Have Difficulty Forming Meaningful Relationships
Authoritarian parents are typically less willing to accept anyone else’s point of view. Certainly not the point of view of a child. He or she believes a child should do as he is told…because the parent said so.
The problem is that, with this style of parenting, children aren’t given a voice and aren’t able to form a meaningful connection with their parents. And because the first relationship in their lives (the one with their parents) didn’t result in a meaningful relationship, these children often have a hard time forming meaningful relationships with other people as they get older.
Cooperation is the New Norm
Let’s face it, times have changed.
When was the last time, Mom, that Dad walked through the door and expected a hot meal to be waiting on the table?
When was the last time your boss demanded that you have a report on the desk by the end of the day or you would be fired?
It just doesn’t happen that way anymore. The authoritarian approach that was common when our grandparents were growing up has faded away. Women work outside of the house, parents consider themselves teammates in parenting, and two-way communication is the norm.
Our kids don’t see Mom blindly obeying Dad anymore. They see us debating with spouses and finding common ground and negotiating with our bosses.
As Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, explains, “While demanding compliance may have gotten you and your siblings to listen up, nowadays, it will only push your own kids further away.”
Our kids don’t see us blindly obeying today, so we can’t expect it from them.
McCready notes, “It only makes sense that our kids try to debate and negotiate with us because they see it all the time.”
While shifting a parenting style can be a challenge for some parents, it also means that kids will have healthier relationships both in and out of the workplace, have greater self-confidence, and will be able to think for themselves.
It doesn’t mean the kids are in charge, by any means.
Mom and Dad, you still call the shots. But each child can participate in the discussion and, at the very least, understand why you are making the decision you are.
Final Thoughts on Why “Because I Said So” is Bad Parenting
While “Because I said so!” may be tempting, it’s important to remember that those four words can do more harm than good.
Parents need to take the time to explain to kids why they’re being asked to do something (or not do something). Using the words “Because I told you so” causes:
- Children to have difficulty forming meaningful relationships
- Undercuts their feelings
- Takes away their self-control
It’s also just unreasonable to expect, given the example we set for them. Times have changed and it’s time for us to change our style of parenting as well.