“Because I said so.” How many times have we as mothers chanted that mantra? The phrase is sort of a “get out of jail free” card for us moms when we don’t really want to take time to help our children understand the reason behind our requests.
Sometimes “because I said so” is all we have time for. And yes, it’s true that children need to be taught to respect the parents’ decisions and to obey, without needing to engage in the why conversation every time they receive instruction.
But you can’t always say, “Because I said so.” If you never take the time to explain, your son won’t grow in understanding. If your goal is simply your son’s obedience – at any cost – eventually you will find yourself resorting to anger, frustration, and bribery just to get him to obey. You might get him to obey temporarily on the outside, but you will have done nothing to shape his heart.
Obedience is a fundamental foundation in parenting, and should be cultivated from the very first time your son insists upon rolling over when you are trying to change a messy diaper. And when he is old enough for you to brave the discussion of why, you will help him to process, with his mind and heart, the reason behind your instruction. Then his obedience will come from a conscious heartfelt choice, as opposed to a reflex response to keep you from harping on him, or to obtain the trinket with which you are bribing him.
Not long ago, all of my children were home. I cannot think of anything more delightful than to have my house filled with the noise and laughter they all bring. Add to that the unspeakable joy of having the grandchildren around us as well!And there is always a lot of laughter and commotion as the uncles try to outdo each other with their creative ways of flying the children around the house.
In the middle of the activity, my granddaughter, Karis, was politely removed from the “uncle rides” to have a soiled diaper changed by her mommy, Meredith. When Karis attempted to resist her mother and continue in the amusement, Meredith firmly took her into the next room.
As they walked away, Meredith explained, “Karis, you have to learn to obey mommy, so that you will learn to obey God.” Karis whined, “Obey God” as she burst into tears, certain the fun would be over by the time she returned.
The scenario immediately brought back to my mind similar conversations I had with Meredith over 25 years ago. Meredith could have responded to Karis’ resistance by telling her, “You have a dirty diaper and your uncles do not want you to sit upon their shoulders until you are clean.” Her statement would have been true – very true, in fact.
Meredith could also have barked any of the following statements:
-Get over here, right now
-Don’t make me come after you
-You’re making me mad
-You’re gonna get it when I catch you
Instead, she chose to use the situation as a teachable moment. Meredith explained to Karis, in two-year-old terms, the value of an obedient life.She planted a seed in Karis’ mind by stating the importance of training herself to obey God.*
When you are attempting to get your child to comply with your wishes, don’t make it your goal to simply get your kids to obey – tell them why.
While it is your prerogative as a parent to expect obedience without giving an explanation, it is human nature for a child to genuinely want to know why he is being asked to do or not do something.
The time it takes for you to explain the motivation for obedience may seem like an inconvenience. However, if you take advantage of teachable moments when your children are young, as they matures, they will be equipped to discern why obedience is best.
The sooner you involve the mind and heart of your child in this process, the sooner you will equip them to make life decisions on their own, and release yourself from having to monitor their every decision.
So the next time you’re tempted to say, “Because I said so” in response to your little one’s question of, “why?” remember you are doing yourself a favor taking the time now to think through the reason they should obey your request, so that in the future, they will be equipped to discern right choices before you say so.
*Excerpt Moms Raising Sons to Be Men