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Because I Said So

Because I Said So

Show of hands.  How many of you heard that phrase above as a kid, and vowed never to say it when you had kids of your own?  Umm hmm.  Yep, I thought so. Well, I recently heard it come out of my mouth and had to do a little self-evaluation…

I admit it. I can be pretty stern when it comes to disciplining my daughter. I’m a “I mean what I say, and I say what I mean,” kind of momma.  And Gabby usually really has a desire to follow the rules.  But my daughter is also, well, a kid. So testing the limits of said rules is tempting. And lately, she has found it hard to resist. I have tried, often much to my dismay, to set up some well-defined rules about TV and internet time as well as her responsibility to keep her room clean and pick up after herself around the house. Pretty simple stuff. And look, I know kids will be kids, so clothes will be left on the floor, water will be left running, and 5,000 requests will be made to turn off the TV and start getting ready for bed. However, I decided it was important to set some expectations for Gabby that everyone in my multi-generational household could follow.

[sws_pullquote_left]At times, I’ve thought I might be overcompensating for the fact that Gabby’s dad and I are not together by being more assertive.[/sws_pullquote_left] I tried everything from a simple dry erase board with a list of things for her to check off and corresponding rewards to taking away “privileges” to an online goal site. (Note:  It’s way too tempting to have your kid log on and log off without wandering over to YouTube.) Still, it seemed I kept fussing at Gabby about the same things and then having to reassure her that mommy does indeed still love her despite my seemingly constant lectures.

Then, I found myself wondering if I was being too stringent in my rule-setting and trying to figure out why. The first question that popped into my head: “Am I a stricter disciplinarian BECAUSE I’m a single mom?” In many two-parent households, there’s usually one parent who’s lenient and one who’s strict.  For example, when I was growing up, my mom definitely took more of the democratic approach while my dad was of the “Because I said so” school of thought.  At times, I’ve thought I might be overcompensating for the fact that Gabby’s dad and I are not together by being more assertive. Or maybe I just inherited more of my dad’s style.

Discipline Styles, Parenting
Spending time with Grandpa.
I also considered that my approach might be in response to living in the same house with my parents.  Grandparents are notorious for indulging their grandkids.  And in some way, maybe that “good cop, bad cop” dynamic is playing out between me and my parents, instead of between me and my would-be husband.  Though the debates over differing parenting styles often take place between me and my mom, it’s my dad who has now become Mr. Permissive.  I’ve actually overheard Gabby ask my dad for something he KNOWS she’s not supposed to have and then rather than say no, he just tells her to come ask me! See what I mean: me=bad cop.

This 180-degree turn has absolutely blown my mind, and I must confess, often frustrated me. But even as I struggle to strike the oh-so delicate balance in my own disciplinary approach, it absolutely warms my heart to see my dad and my daughter together. Yes, my dad often chooses to look the other way when it comes to Gabby. But if I happen to be overcompensating in the discipline area as a single mom, he certainly makes up for it by ensuring that my daughter has all the love and support every little girl deserves from her father.

And I couldn’t ask for anything better than that. Happy Father’s Day, daddy. I love you.

So, what’s your parenting/discipline style? Where did it come from and do you ever have to “check” it?



View Comments (5)
  • Taralyn, I wouldn’t let the “Because I Said So” get to you. It took me awhile to really understand it and the psychology behind it- but once I did it’s one of the tools I use strategically in my parenting arsenal. I found this great explanation of it in one of John Rosemond’s books and I really agree with it. Basically, Because I Said So pops up in situations where the kids are asking “Why?” (usually followed by a “But, Why?”) repeatedly. And honestly, do they REALLY care why you won’t let them not wear their seat belt/watch SpongeBob 24 hours a day/eat 350 cookies? No. The “Why’s” are just prolonging the argument, and inevitably the moment they have to do whatever it is they don’t want to do. And Because I Said So ends the argument. If you use it correctly, it can reinforce parental authority. Why do kids hate it (and why do we have such unfond memories of it)? Because it meant you lost the battle. It meant you had to put your seatbelt on/turn off the tv/eat your vegetables first. In our house when the Why’s start, I give him one reasonable, semi-well thought out answer as to Why I’m asking him to do something. If the Why get’s repeated, then Because I Said So comes out. But that’s just me and my parenting style. It could be totally different for someone else!

    As for the rest of it- good luck! It’s a battle that I’m fighting and I don’t even live with parent/inlaws!

    • Lexie, thanks for the support… and the theory! And honestly, I don’t think I’d evaluated my experience with the phrase as a lost battle, but that totally makes sense. I just thought that was the most annoying phrase on the planet with absolutely no justification. I will know use it strategically… and with confidence! Lol

  • “Because I’m your father and I wish it” was/is my not-so-artful dodge of “because I said so.” Heh. My whole take there is that, while I may frequently indulge a child’s request to explain my reasoning on a decision, I do so as a courtesy. The child is not owed it. That I said to do it is a necessary and sufficient condition for compliance.

    Two other things come immediately to mind when I think about my parenting style. One is that it really, deeply surprised me how reluctant to spank I was. I was (responsibly) spanked as a child, and to the extent that I ever considered it, I just assumed I would too. And then when Nathan was of age for it to be an option, it was pretty far outside my view of discipline. The boys have gotten an occasional swat on the bottom—maybe eight or ten in their whole lives?—but it’s never been a primary punishment for them the way it was for my sister and me.

    The other thing is that I reject utterly that I can’t be my boys’ friend. I can. I will. Watching a movie? Going to the lake? Enjoying a sporting event? We’re buddies as much as we’re anything else, aren’t we?

    I’m just never going to be their friend instead of their father, and they have a solid, unambiguous understanding of that. They know that if I have to choose between them liking me at the moment and me doing something that I think will help them on the road to being happy and well-adjusted adults, I’ll choose the latter every single time.

    “I want to be your friend, but I have to be your daddy.” I think it’s correct, but it’s never much fun. A child of mine crying because I’ve had to take a privilege or outing away is an awful sound.

    I don’t think very many parents who are self-examining enough to wonder whether they’re too stern, are. I think the opposite is closer to epidemic. 🙂 Hang tough. Good column.

  • Thanks, Bo! And before I go any further, let me say welcome aboard! Thank you, thank you for your thoughtful and eloquent comment. I must admit that I often get a little too in my head about parenting, but hey, this is important stuff! I also really appreciate your insight on the whole friend/parent phenomenon. I completely agree. So, even though my mom may have been a bit more lenient, she was also very clear in making that distinction as well. I really grew to respect and appreciate her for that, especially now that I’m on this motherhood journey myself.

    • Thank you, Taralyn! I’m delighted to be here. Parenting is more susceptible to overthinking that just about anything else I’ve encountered, I think. You can drive yourself crazy because it is so important. But, just as with anything else, the best you can do is the best you can do, and there’ll be times you just have to go with your gut.

      (I say that all nonchalantly like I’m really good at it. Ha! I get wrapped around the axle from time to time just like anyone.) 😉

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