Because I Said So.

            “Because I said so” is nothing more than an affirmation of the legitimacy of the authority of the parent in question. The parent is an adult; the child is not. The child is completely dependent upon the parent for his or her very survival. The parent would take a bullet for the child; the likelihood that the child would take a bullet for the parent is slim to none. For those reasons, the parent’s authority over the child is legitimate.

            And for all those reasons, the parent is under no obligation to justify any decision made concerning or any instruction he or she gives the child. As I used to tell my kids, ” Your mother and I pay for your lives. You pay nothing. We are responsible for you. You are not responsible for us. With those facts in mind, the arrangement here is very simple: We make decisions and give you instructions. You abide by and obey those decisions and instructions; and the reason you abide and obey is because we said so.”

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Anger Issues

Q:        Our 14-year-old daughter has difficulty controlling her anger. She has extreme outbursts fairly frequently here at home-screaming, cursing, and even throwing things when she doesn’t get her way. She appears to have no respect for us and very little consideration for her two younger siblings. At school and in other people’s homes, however, she’s a model citizen. She’s a straight-A student about whom all of her teachers have nothing but praise. When I describe her outbursts to friends and family, they are disbelieving. Is it too late to do anything about her anger issue?

 

A:        I flunked fortune telling in graduate school, so the answer to your question is “I don’t know.” Nonetheless, it’s certainly worth a good try.

            You’ve told me enough to know that what you’re describing is not an “anger issue.” Rather, it’s an issue of narcissistic disrespect and ingratitude. Mind you, today’s kids come by the latter fairly easily. Generally speaking, their parents give them entirely too much. In the vernacular of an earlier parenting era, all too many of today’s kids seem to think that money grows on trees (or in their parents’ wallets and pocketbooks). The completely unnecessary personal smart phone at age 10 is the emblem of this ubiquitous over-indulgence.

            It’s a short hop from over-indulged to disrespectful. Entitlements and respect for the source of said entitlements are incompatible. More often than not, entitlements engender an “I deserve” attitude. When the entitlers are parents, the outcome is likely to be as you describe: thanklessness, demands, and rages when demands are not met.

            In short, a problem of this sort does not arise independent of a certain set of home-based circumstances. If you’re going to solve this problem you will first need to accept that you provided the medium in which it developed. In that regard, the question becomes, “Are you willing to radically change your ways?”

            Your daughter probably believes that exemplary grades and behavior outside the home place her beyond the reach of consequences. You need to demonstrate the fallacy in her thinking. Do so by removing from her room all possessions save essential clothing and school supplies. Box them up and put them in a storage facility. Cancel her cell phone contract. If she has a computer in her room, move it to a common area.

            Do the above when she’s at school. When she comes home and asks for an explanation, tell her that her disruptions and disrespect will no longer be tolerated; that when she has been disruption- and disrespect free for a continuous 30-day period, her possessions will be returned with the understanding that if she backslides, her next rehabilitation period will jump to 60 days. If, during said 30 days, she has an “incident,” the 30 days begins over again the following day. When her rehab is complete, however, things must not go back to “normal.” You have to change your indulgent ways as well or a relapse is inevitable.

            You can do this. Just keep Admiral David Farragut’s famous order in mind: “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The Very Essence of Effective Discipline             

             Two months ago, I conducted a two-day small-group “parent retreat” during which I talked about, among other things, the legitimacy and power of “because I said so.” One of my missions is to promote the restoration of the attitude that accompanies the calm, straightforward (the operative conditions) delivery of that traditional parenting aphorism. Why? Because it is the very essence of effective discipline, that’s why.

            “Because I said so” is nothing more than an affirmation of the legitimacy of the authority of the parent in question. The parent is an adult; the child is not. The child is completely dependent upon the parent for his or her very survival. The parent would take a bullet for the child; the likelihood that the child would take a bullet for the parent is slim to none. For those reasons, the parent’s authority over the child is legitimate.

            And for all those reasons, the parent is under no obligation to justify any decision made concerning or any instruction he or she gives the child. As I used to tell my kids, ” Your mother and I pay for your lives. You pay nothing. We are responsible for you. You are not responsible for us. With those facts in mind, the arrangement here is very simple: We make decisions and give you instructions. You abide by and obey those decisions and instructions; and the reason you abide and obey is because we said so.”

            Neither of our kids ever had to see a therapist. They made good grades in school (and my wife and I did not help with homework or science projects). They made good social choices, never got in serious trouble, and were completely self-supporting by their mid-20s. “Because I said so” does not seem to have been traumatic.

            Beginning in the mid-1960s, child psychologists and other mental health professionals began claiming that those four words had a problematic effect on children. They robbed children of autonomy, denied their ability to think intelligently, lowered self-esteem, and blah blah blah. Said professionals had no evidence to support any of this. They made it all up. Nonetheless, American parents, having no reason to know that people with impressive credentials sometimes make things up (a mental health tradition stretching back to Freud himself), believed them and began giving children reasons. Since then, arrogant disobedience, once rare, is now legion.

            For example, consider one of the couples who attended the above retreat. They were desperate (no exaggeration there) for advice concerning their very disobedient and disrespectful 5-year-old daughter. The parents thought that by giving reasons for their instructions and decisions they were showing respect for her intelligence. The child, however, had no use for her parents’ respect.

            The parents took in every word I said, but paid special attention to my mini-seminar on “because I said so.” I received a progress report from them the other day. “(Name of daughter withheld to protect the guilty) is much better,” they wrote. “The other day, for example, we told her to do something, to which she asked ‘why?’ Before one of us could answer, she said, ‘Wait, don’t tell me; because you say so.'”

            Once again, proof positive that this parenting thing is really quite simple.

 

reblogged from John Rosemond’s newsletter.

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