While working in my secret parenting laboratory deep beneath the earth’s surface and accessible only to me and a small, select team of associates, I recently made a huge and history-making breakthrough that promises to greatly improve parenting the world over.
But first some background.
For years, I have stood almost alone among America’s parenting pundits in defending the legitimacy of “Because I said so” (BISS)—perhaps the most maligned four words in all of human history. These words affirm the authority of the parent, provide an honest answer to a child’s demand to know the reason behind the parent’s decision, and all but eliminate the possibility of a mutually debilitating parent-child argument.
I’ve pointed out that adults have to accept the BISS principle, for example, when we pay our state and federal taxes, and asserted that it’s therefore in the best interest of children that adults make them aware of this reality from an early age. Furthermore, there is no evidence that “Because I said so” damaged the mental health of my generation—the last bunch of American kids to be universally exposed to it. Thus, there is no good reason to think that it will damage the psyches of today’s children.
Many folks have suggested alternatives to BISS, such as “Because I’m the adult around here and you’re the child, and it’s my responsibility to make decisions of this sort on your behalf, and you will not understand my actual reason until you are my age and have a child your age, so there’s no point in my sharing it with you, and whether you agree or not, you have to obey.” Needless to say, the child lost the parent at the word adult. Given the choice, I would recommend the simpler, shorter form.
Also, I would never recommend that BISS be said in anything other than a kind, yet decisive tone of voice. It should not be screeched at a child, but then neither should anything else. But all of this may be moot, because after years of painstaking and highly secret research, I’ve made a breakthrough. I’ve discovered an alternative to BISS that’s shorter and sweeter.
It’s “Trust me.”
Think of it! When a child demands to know why or why not, the parent simply says, “Trust me.” This affirms that the parent knows what is best for the child, whatever the situation may be. The parent knows (but the child does not) that eating broccoli is better than eating deep-fried, processed junk food, that play should be balanced with household responsibilities, that “my friends all have one” is not justification for buying a 12-year-old a cell phone, and so on.
Children do not know what is best for them. They only know what they want. And given the choice between what is best and what they want, they can be relied upon to choose the latter. Furthermore, when parents make the right choice for a child, there are no words under the sun that will cause the child to agree. The child will agree when he or she is an adult and is the parent of children who are demanding what they want. No sooner.
In the meantime, all one can do is ask the child to trust. To which someone might say, “But he won’t understand that either!” True enough. Faith is a long-term investment.
Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (817) 295-1751.