The Power of Words and “Because I said so”

by Brock Griffin

Have you ever used “Because I said so” with your kids? And should a dad ever use that line?

I have some thoughts on that, but first, some context:

The best-case scenario is that you have created a habit of positive encouragement that will continue indefinitely into the future. Your kids will love it—and really benefit from it.

Family playing cardsAlso, there are some things we should never say to our kids; statements like: “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so?” “Go in the other room; you’re just in the way.” “Will you please get to the point?” “I don’t have time for you.”

For me, thinking through how I talk to my three kids has been a healthy exercise. I definitely need to be more sensitive and more aware of how my words affect them.

I also want to put these phrases into perspective. While some statements are truly in the “never” category and we shouldn’t even think in that direction, the point is not that we should never upset our kids or always let them have their way. We need to be the parents and shape them into respectful, considerate people. And many times, the message we’re trying to get across to a child isn’t bad; the harmful part is more about the words we choose and our tone of voice.

For example, “Leave me alone” is pretty harsh. But that doesn’t mean a child can demand to be with us at any time, any place. A better choice of words might be, “Daddy needs to do something else right now, but what’s on your mind is important to me. So give me ten minutes and I’m all yours.”

And it isn’t cool to say something like, “Stop crying. Don’t be such a wimp.” But sometimes kids do need to be encouraged to stay strong when things don’t go their way. We just need to find a better way to say it. Maybe: “That’s really hard, Son. I know you’ll bounce back and be fine.”

Clearly, the more positive statements to our kids take a little more time and more thinking on our part. Maybe that’s why we often fall back on the other statements.

That brings us to “Because I said so.” Should this be added to the list of things we should never say? It’s worth thinking through.

To me, this one is a problem when it’s our first response to a child. They ask “Why” or resist in some way, and instead of explaining our thoughts and reasons, we throw out “Because I said so” to shut down the discussion and move on.

But should we never say it? Kids can be persistent and even nag us to get their way. They might not listen to our reasons no matter how calm we are. And if they keep pressing us or fussing, then it could get to the point where it makes sense to say, “Because I said so.”

Which brings up a larger point. It’s true that we should take the time to engage our children and explain things to them. And using “Because I said so” should be rare. Still, sometimes the point behind those four words is actually a good one.

Communication with kids is just as much about tone, body language, and context as the words we say.

Our expectations and requests should carry some weight with our kids. We need to be understanding and patient with them, but they also need to learn to respect authorities in their lives, especially their parents. So when we ask them to do something or tell them why we did something, ideally they will accept our answer and move on with life.

Maybe instead of simply saying “Because I said so,” we can try something like, “Sweetheart, I’m trying to do what’s best for you, and you need to trust me on this.” Or a situation could call for something a little more direct: “Buddy, I’m the parent here, and I’ve thought this through. There’s no debate. You need to make this happen … because I said so.”

Bottom line, dad, our communication with our kids is just as much about our tone, our body language, and often the context, as the actual words we say. And usually the messages we’re communicating have some truth behind them; our challenge is finding better ways to say them.

What have you said to your child recently that you wish you could take back? And what’s a more positive way of communicating that? Please join the discussion at our Facebook page.

Action Points

  • Be intentional about finding something positive to affirm in your child—at least once or twice a day. Make sure most of your positive comments don’t have a “But …” at the end.
  • When addressing a problem, do all you can to focus on the behavior, not the person. It is possible to attack the problem without tearing down the person.

BG Brock Griffin 12-14Brock Griffin has been with NCF for more than 25 years and is co-author of the book It’s Great Being a Dad. He handles or helps with many of NCF’s writing and editing projects, including books, blogs, weekly e-mails, and articles for outside publications. Brock and his wife Tara have three children and live in the Kansas City area.

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