Giving Our Kids a Reason Why Other Than ‘Because I Said So’?

Do you remember when your children asked “why?” after darn near everything you told them?  Or perhaps you are going through this stage with a child now, haha?  Regardless, when they ask why, do you give them an answer or a reason why to their questions?  We tend to answer them (as patiently as possible) after each of the 17 “whys” when they are young yet when this stage passes we tend to forget our kids still might want to know why even though they don’t ask.  I believe explaining helps when you discipline them and when you set household rules you expect to be followed. 

I have two kids, an 11-year-old boy and a 3-year-old daughter, and I’m certain my son at least would tell you his Momma isn’t perfect. The reason I say this is because I am honest with my kids, I admit my failures to them (as much as is appropriate for their ages) and we talk about them.  I strongly believe this helps them to deal with failures of their own. Obviously, when I discipline my son I go about it differently than when I correct my daughter due to their age differences, but I have also come to realize that I approach the genders differently.  My children each have a sensitive side and both also relate well to humor-and I use this even as I’m scolding them.

We don’t have to teach our kids to be naughty, ever notice that?  For some reason, my son, as a toddler was a laid back little boy.  Seriously, I rarely had to punish him, it was crazy!  My little girl on the other hand is a bit more ‘curious’ and tends to put caution aside, getting herself into trouble.  I understand curious kids and all but I can recognize when naughty is just naughty!

So what do you do? How do you get your child to listen to you? How can you get them to respect you enough to understand that no means no?  Well for one, this is a process.  Your kids of course will forever be testing you to see if no, indeed, means no.  I can’t wait for the eye rolling teen years!

I enjoyed being a youth sponsor in my local church for several years.  Since these adolescents were not my own children, I (usually haha) wasn’t the target of any of their eye rolling and muttering under their breath.  However, we did play a ‘parent ‘ role in their life, at least an authority role.  Through experience which led to wisdom, I had a life-changing moment when I realized something:

These teens were actually ok with being told yes and no to things in life by authority WHEN THEY WERE TOLD WHY.  In fact, they WANTED to know the reasons to why their parents had the rules they had and why we as youth sponsors set certain rules as well.   Doesn’t mean they always agreed but they seem to respect that there were reasons other than “because I said so”.  Preteen and teens are going through life deciding what is truth in their lives at this time.  Do these truths change?  Yes certainly, but I believe at this time in their lives they lay the groundwork for who they are, what they believe in…and to be told why so they can then relay why they believe what they believe-powerful.

Going back to my own kiddos, I have put this to practice when disciplining them.  For example:

Loving my dog

Loving my dog

To keep it simple, we’ll use my 3-year-old (explaining and discussing reasons to an older child are obviously more detailed haha).  The other day, I caught my daughter yankin on our dog’s tail.  I love animals, dearly and on purpose or not, I just can’t handle it when kids do things like that to them and I don’t tolerate it.  I quickly said no firmly.  She backed off, some. However, she went right back at it not even 5 minutes later.  I gave another warning, firmer this time.  You see, she has been told “do not play with the dog’s tail” a handful of times.  I think sometimes I figure if my voice is louder where I’m nearly yelling it or are yelling it, that’ll work and she’ll back off.  Not.  This last time I told her, I sat her down on my lap and said again, “no, I said leave it alone.”

Then it dawned on me!  Explain why, give her a reason!  Maybe she wasn’t understanding what a dog’s tail even was.  Could be that she was just being naughty and yankin on her tail was fun.  Ok, regardless, I decided to try giving a reason to see what happened from here on out.

I gently said, “Sweetie, that hurts Lucy (dog) when you do that, she will cry and say ouch.”  Then I took my daughter’s arm and kinda pulled on it, then pulled on it harder and asked her, “see that can hurt huh?”  And she looked up innocently at me with a scrunched up face and I smiled.  Removing her from my lap, I went over to Lucy and held her tail (I’m sure she was thrilled about this haha) and tugged a little on her tail, still tugging my daughter’s arm.  I repeated, “see, this is your arm and that’s Lucy’s tail, we have to be careful and be nice.”  I watched her as she observed and tried to soak in this lesson Mom was teaching her and smiled again.  I asked her to please give the dog a hug and say you’re sorry.  She did so and even gave her a kiss.

I’m happy to report, as is Lucy, that there have been no tail-pulling incidents since this time.  Can I credit it to giving my daughter a reason we will not pull the dog’s tail?  I don’t know, but I know she’s not doing it anymore.
Perhaps we as humans need to know the why, the reason(s) behind an authority figure in our life says no to something?

On the flip side, I also believe it’s beneficial to be told the reasons behind a yes answer as well.  Some are common sense reasons of course though you might be surprised how many people are running low on common sense!
This was a breakthrough for me years ago and it’s a practice I still implement today.  I try my hardest to not use ‘because I said so” to my children.  Admittedly, an earlier bedtime after a stressful day though could very well get that answer!
Well, gotta go folks…why? Because I’m hungry! : )

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