When your child asks, why, after you give him an instruction, have you made a habit of responding with the mantra, “Because I said so”?
The truth is, because I said so is a valid response, mom, because you do have the God-given authority to tell your kids what you want them to do without having to give them a reason every time they ask, “why?”.
But you would do well to remember your goal is not simply to get your kids to do what you say, when you say, without question. You are raising the next generation of adults who desperately need to learn how to think, and how to properly respond to authority.
Whatever your child’s age, you should establish a pattern of taking time to communicate clearly and calmly what behaviors are not acceptable–and why. Telling him why does not undermine your authority. Rather, it teaches him to think through your command, and allows him to realize there is a consequence if he chooses to disobey.
Proverbs 15:23 says, To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!
So the next time you need to give your child instruction try following these steps:
1. As you speak to your [child], make a habit of looking into his eyes. This will enable you to asses his interpretation of your instruction.
2. To most effectively parent your child, take the time to see what he sees, hear what he hears, and think what he thinks. Know your kids well so you can discern what is going on in their minds, as they process your direction.
3. When you give your child instruction, ask him to repeat back to you what he heard you say. This will give you the assurance he clearly understands your request. If he does not, and you discipline him for defiance, you will confuse and frustrate him.*
While your child is young, the more time you take to help him process your request, the more equipped he will be to make his own wise decisions as he matures.
Teaching him how to respectfully ask you when he doesn’t understand the reason you are asking him to do something, is part of the maturing process.
Consider answering the “why” for your kids before they even ask.
For example, if you ask your son not to bring food into his room, and he asks “why?” you can say, “Because I said so.” And you’ll likely find yourself repeating the “no food in your room” rule over and over again.
But if you say, “Son, can you not bring food into your room because when you do there is a chance crumbs will fall on the floor. And if that happens your room will be bombarded with ants,” you are giving your son the rule with a reason. And you eliminate the need for him to even ask “why.”
Now you have provided your child with the full picture so he can learn to apply the information you gave him to his obedience. (And of course, if he decides he doesn’t agree with your reason and chooses to defy you, you would be wise to impose a consequence for his disobedience.) Or better yet, a room full of ants may be just the thing to correct his behavior!
There is a fine balance between answering your kids, and answering to your kids. So, when your kids ask why, help them to understand you do not owe them an explanation. And explain to them the reason you are telling them why you want them to obey a request is to equip them to make good decisions on their own.
In so doing, you may find your kids will feel respected by you, and in turn may give you their respect as well.
Read more parenting advice by Rhonda Stoppe in Helping Your Child Find His Worth.