How many times have you found yourself saying, “because I said so!” in response to your child’s demands? Especially in frustration after hearing the same question over and over? I get it. Those four little words roll easily off the tongue and aim to shut down the situation as quickly as possible. But, on a second thought, does it actually solve the problem for either of you? Probably not.

Four Types of Parenting Styles

In order to understand why this strategy fails, we need to know the four types of parenting styles: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, and Negligent.

• Authoritarian: High control/Demanding/Poor communication/Little nurturing.
• Authoritative*: High control/Demanding/Strong communication/Nurturing
• Permissive: Low control/Few demands/Strong communication/Nurturing
• Negligent: Low control/Few demands/Poor communication/Little nurturing

While there is no “perfect” way to parent, Authoritarian parenting tend to utilize the “because I said so!” strategies to problem-solve in order to maintain full control of the situation. On the other hand, an Authoritative style of parenting is considered to be the most effective strategy as it maintains parental control over a situation while allowing the child a space to feel heard and nurtured.

Why “Because I said so!” Fails

Authoritarian parenting is invalidating, minimizing the child’s emotions, limits reciprocal communication, and reinforce passivity in relationships. When children aren’t given a voice with those closest to them, they fail to develop skills to advocate for their needs and are restricted in developing close meaningful relationships with others later in life. Modeling healthy communication and attachment begins at home, but Authoritarian parenting limits cooperation with others and ultimately teaches children to “be seen, not heard.” After all, how is your child going to learn to have self-control and regulate his or her emotions if they are consistently shut down?

Alternative Strategies

1. “My answer is no because…”: While you may feel you do not “owe” your child an explanation, taking this approach facilitates a conversation that opens the door for the child’s emotions, while providing a clear and direct answer. It also provides an opportunity to model responding in a calm, cool, and collected manner.
2. “My answer is STILL no because…”: Of course, this strategy may not stop a child from continuing to ask, but this response provides you an opportunity to be consistent in your response style and teach your child that you are predictable. It is true that children crave structure and find comfort in predictability.
3. “Why do you think I said ‘No?’: This is a useful strategy if you have a determined child. It also puts the responsibility back on them to see if they do understand why you said ‘no.’ You may be surprised to discover they do not understand, which continues the open dialogue about choices. It also avoids the dreaded power struggle.
4. “How about we work together to find a solution that works best for both of us”: Negotiating. It may seem counterintuitive to problem-solve with your child this way (after all, YOU are the parent), but this is a powerful strategy to facilitate your child developing assertiveness and understanding of his/her thoughts and feelings. Using “If you do this…., then you can do that” can give the child what he wants in a way that feels comfortable. Most importantly, it gives the child the feeling of being in control while you also maintain control. Compromise, it is a beautiful thing!

The goal: teach your children communication, problem-solving, and how to be respectful. Why? Because I said so!