“It’s time to brush your teeth.”
“Because you need to clean them.”
“Because you don’t want a cavity.”
“Because you will lose your tooth.”
“Because the little sugar bugs will eat it.”
“Because they’re hungry.”
“JUST BRUSH YOUR TEETH!”
“BECAUSE I SAID SO!”
As a parent, I have always tried so hard to be patient with my children, to answer their questions and explain why. As a young teacher I remember exhorting my students to ask why about everything in their world. (I’m sure I was a favorite with parents.) I carried this belief idealistically into parenthood.
I grew up with such admonishments as “Children should be seen and not heard,” “Don’t make me come down there,” and “Wait ’til your father gets home.” But the one I hated most was, “Because I said so.” It was such a reminder of who held the power in the family. I vowed not to use it when I became a mother.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. I exhausted myself over-explaining every instruction or command to my children. Finally, I would just blow up and shout at them. This parenting style could not possibly be superior to the one with which I was raised. As sexist as this sounds, I found it easier to be abrupt and direct with my boys than with my girls. They seemed less fazed by my commands, if not more compliant than my girls.
I do think it’s important to explain things to children. Although explaining might not win instant compliance, ultimately kids come to understand why their parents established the rules that they did. And as much as I like to quip, “Why did I ever teach my children to talk?,” I do enjoy the give and take of our (sometimes heated) discussions.
Still, I reserve the right to use the time-honored response, “Because I said so!”