As a parent, it can be exasperating when your kids question your authority. You have a set of rules and you expect them to be followed, but there’s no avoiding the inevitable question, “why?” In fact, you’re lucky if that’s all the defiance you get. In a more likely scenario, you might find tantrums, shouting matches or maybe even threats to run away.
The truth is, your kids may never understand why your rules are the way they are. But, when your kids ask "why," the worst possible response you can give is “because I said so.”
It only fuels the fire
Do you remember the last time you gave that answer? How did it go? Did your teenager suddenly snap to attention, apologize for bothering you and run off to mow the lawn or pick the weeds? If that’s exactly what happened to you, you’re lying.
Giving such a strong, final response will almost certainly build resentment in your child. Why? Because it signals to him that you are always in the right and he is always in the wrong. No one wants to be told he is wrong, especially by the person who has the power to ground him.
Kids need to know why
Believe it or not, your kids really do deserve a reasonable answer to their question. Gone are the days when pure authority holds sway on its own. The rise in technology and innovation has made people in general, especially children, extremely curious.
Add to that the rise of social media, where everyone is free to express himself without filter, and you’ve got yourself a teen that likely won’t go down without a good debate.
Of course, while the real answer may not completely satisfy your child at first, he's much more likely to understand over time if you don't simply exert authoritarian dominance.
Don’t turn communication into a one-way street
Would you ever say “because I said so” to an employees you manage at work? Absolutely not! Doing so would be detrimental to your relationship with your employees and make it difficult to get anything done. So why would we use that response with our kids?
A happy home requires two-way communication between parents and children. The unintended consequence of turning your home into a one-way street is that your kids won't likely be willing to come to you when they feel they need validation or emotional support. In such vulnerable times, they can’t trust in a deep relationship that isn’t there. The only way to have that deep relationship is to respect your children’s curiosity and to show them you have an “open door policy,” so to speak.
The bottom line is that we need to be more open with our children as we help them understand why the rules are the way they are. Chances are, you won’t get a good response regardless of how reasonable your answers are. Some kids will just want you to let them do what they want. But if you keep the communication lines open at all times, admit that you aren’t infallible and signal that your children's curiosity is valid and worthy of a response, your kids will be more likely to come to respect your authority over time.
Then maybe they’ll take back that threat to send you to a nursing home when you’re old.