Because I said so!

Most of us grew up hearing those famous four words, “Because I said so!” and promised we would never say them to our own children.  Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t, but the need will arise. Yes, children need their parents to assume authority. There is a direct and positive correlation between parental authority and a child’s self-esteem. 

Why is it that parents fear assuming this role?  Or, we half-heartedly assume it through pleading, bribing, and wishing?  What does it mean to assume authority?

There seems to be a dangerous misperception that assuming authority results in squelching the child’s personality or sense of self.  This is wrong! Assuming authority shows respect to your child by understanding and honoring their innate needs to be shown limits and boundaries. Understanding limits and boundaries is an important life skill.  

Often when a parent has a different viewpoint from the child, the parent talks and talks excessively trying to explain her different point of view.  Children are not able to participate meaningfully in this process and, therefore, hold on to their ideas with a tight grip.  This quickly disintegrates into a frustrating conversation, argument, or meltdown. Have you been there?

Yes, children want and deserve to be heard, but rarely do they listen during these disagreements. They are often on the ready to interrupt and assert their viewpoint. Rather than getting trapped into a long-winded oration regarding a decision, listen to your child and then calmly and compassionately (and in less than 25 words) tell your child your decision — not your wish, your decision. 

Better yet, when a decision needs to be made, try offering your child two choices. Make sure you can live with the outcome of either choice.  Offering these choices empowers your child, allows them to participate meaningfully in decision making, and defuses the power struggle. This shares some of the power and responsibility with your child, but you are the one assuming authority because you are creating manageable options. Remember, you have to be able to live with the outcome, so choose wisely! 


Filed under discipline, Parenting with Zing!

4 responses to “Because I said so!

  1. Anna

    I love how you put that there is a correlation between parents setting limits and children’s self esteem! I see parents in my work every day who so fear being mean or not liked by their kids, whatever, and you see the kid then suffering… (not having limits, they don’t feel safe).I would love to talk to you more about this topic in person. It is good that I HAVE a child now , though, because I used to have less patience with parents on this topic than I do now. What I did not understand before is how intensely your child can trigger you, and how very hard it can be to control your own responses. Takes a lot of looking at yourself, your own parenting, etc. We are working with a particularly difficult stage Una has been in with hitting us (does not hit others, ) but has done some real whacks in the face, etc. to Mom and Dad. For this I am using the ” 1,2, 3 Magic..” approach and time out, which so far is getting results. Then redirecting her to drumming has also helped, (after she gets the immediate consequence for hitting). Good stuff, Emily. This is a great blog.

    • I appreciate how you reflect so honestly on your experiences as a counselor and parent. It is, after all, self reflection that helps us to recognize these triggers and maybe take baby steps toward changing our reactions. I too struggle with the emotional intensity that can rear its ugly head, and wish that I could always control that. But, showing true honest feelings is vitally important to our children, as long as we can be productive with that emotion (i.e., describe what makes us angry and avoid attacking or degrading the child). Thanks for sharing here!

  2. thatpatti

    Looking forward to following your blog, Emily. Good stuff!

  3. Very nice piece Emily, enjoyed the blog!!

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