In an ideal world, parents and kids should communicate freely. If the child is asked to do something and has legitimate questions as to why, she can ask and Dad has an obligation to explain why. That’s the ideal world though, and in the real world, this PracticalDad has on more than one occasion simply responded with because I said so. It clearly isn’t the best response and not one that teaches kids the rationale behind why things are – or aren’t – done, such as why it’s not good to clean off the muddy shoes in the bathtub or why a window has to be opened because a bedroom is thoroughly penetrated with Axe body spray.
The real world is different from the ideal that parenting experts and child psychologists hold up for multiple reasons.
- The child, and that includes the teenager, is using the question as a means of postponing the request and if the kid is really lucky, getting Dad so caught up in the response that the request is completely avoided. Talking is easier that actually getting up and doing something. When the question is one that’s been repeated on more than two or three occasions and Dad’s comfortable that the kid isn’t the drooling village idiot, then the response is an entirely appropriate one.
- The child isn’t actually asking, but whining about it. There’s been more than one occasion when the response is nothing more substantive that because I said so when the question is a reflexively whining why do I have to? And it’s been more than once that PracticalDad’s response to that has been when you can ask and not whine, then I’ll explain it. Otherwise, because I said so. Kids have to learn that whining is unacceptable to the request or direction of someone in authority. Make no mistake, the authority in the household can’t reside with the kids.
- PracticalDad is human as well. Things in a busy household have to get done and when someone’s trying to multitask – and it’s not really easy for a guy – then the press of events overtake the ideals of good parenting. This is when it really is important to try to rebound from because I said so, because children are a blank slate and while they’re older now, they won’t learn how to choreograph a schedule or do something if you don’t actually take the time to explain it. That doesn’t mean that conversation won’t become tense, but it does mean that I have to make the effort.
- Related to the first bullet point, the fact that a kid will just repeat why out of stubbornness, even when it’s been answered simply and satisfactorily already. Now it’s a matter of imposing parental authority on the kid. While some believe that parenting shouldn’t be a contest of wills, there are moments when it is and as my father stated on multiple occasions, I’m not losing this argument to a (&*^&* second grader (or third, or fourth, or even ninth). We do learn from our parents and now that I’ve got my own, it’s a stance that I can appreciate.
One of the keys to parenting is to follow-up with the kid and when I’ve hauled the phrase out, I’ve usually tried to have a subsequent conversation when the job is done and the angst is passed. It’s uncomfortable and I’ve even occasionally apologized, but more often than not, the result has been that the child does understand so that there isn’t more angst when the request arises again.