As a parent, it can be very frustrating to have to repeat yourself over and over again. The inquiries of why are a crowd-favorite for kids and one that can sometimes make you, the adult-ish person, a little stir crazy in finding answers to a seemingly infinite supply of questions into the minutia of the way things are. In moments of frustration and just wanting your kid to do what you said, we sometimes reply with “because I said so” as a way to make it all stop for a brief moment. At that moment, we put ourselves and the little sanity we have for the day before our kids. Instead, I think we should take a step back, have a sip of some apple juice, and explain. Here’s why!
We Aren’t Raising Soldiers, But People
Sometimes, as parents, we think of our children as “our children,” which can give us a really subjective view of them as our responsibility and, in a weird way, our property. But they won’t always be kids. The small, waddling creatures we’re raising aren’t just our children. They’re just very early versions of the people they will eventually grow up to be.
This can be very important to keep in mind when having to discipline or explain to our kids. If we think about our children as only our children, we want to them to just follow our orders. When we think about them as early versions of future independent people, however, we realize it’s important for them not to do as told for the sake of being told to do so, but it’s far more important to teach them to think conscientiously about what they’re doing.
In other words, we should teach them how to think in, observe, and assess their environments and the people in them, especially themselves. Wanting them to simply follow orders leaves them at the possible disadvantage of not even understanding why we asked them to do something in the first place, assuming we actually have a reason. Without a firm understanding of reasoning, we leave them too ill-informed to have greater motivation to alter past behaviors for better ones.
It Can Make Them More Responsible
I know of some people who believe that kids hate responsibility. I think it’s quite the opposite: kids love responsibility but you have to learn how to frame it. At that point, it’s really about checking out your kids' styles. I don’t think this is something you can copy and paste on all of them.
When you start incorporating more reason into what you ask of your kids, it gives your children the opportunity to be aware of what it is that they are doing. By arming them with information, you give them the keys to make conscientious decisions, all the while observing, correcting, and helping them understand more when necessary.
Bringing their attention to their diversions from better judgment helps them internalize their ability to make conscientious decisions and holds them accountable for careless ones. Giving them this sort of agency can help make them feel more autonomous over time and, in efforts to make you proud, they’ll be making smarter choices in exercising their skill.
Respect Goes a Long Way
I’m a firm believer that the best way to get respect is to give it. By taking the time to explain to your kids why it is that you ask certain things of them, it tells them that you respect them, their processes, and their ability to do well. By holding them to a high standard that isn’t only based on expectation, but ability, you help them foster respect for themselves, as well.
Raising people can be tough. I just ask that next time you feel like responding to their “why” with a “because I said so,” you take a second, grab that apple juice and give them the chance to be a little bit wiser, a little more conscientious, and a little prouder of their decision-making power.