Why “Because I say So” can be a Powerful Phrase – Part Two
We covered why limits are so important in Part One. So, let’s get back to why the statement, “Because I said so,” is so much better than what most parents say!
When we understand that our kids need limits or banks, just like a river does, then we are already halfway to understanding why that age-old phrase, is not such a bad thing to say to your children. Your child doesn’t need to always agree on why there are limits. In fact, a child who is learning to accept limits will often fight vehemently against ANY logic that you come up with. The problem then with explaining your logic is that your child gets distracted from the job at hand, which is to accept the limit. Instead, she puts all her energy into trying to overcome it. She’ll try to convince you that it is wrong, or that you should make an exception this one time, or she’ll search desperately to find some creative way around it. You know exactly what I mean, don’t you?
Part of accepting a limit for kids usually involves having tears. This is true for us as adults too, especially with big things. That’s why when a loved one dies, or we lose a job, a family member or a friend moves away, etc., we often cry. It’s physiologically how we are designed to accept the things we cannot change.
The cold hard truth is that when we don’t have our tears about some things, we don’t adapt. This is even true for us as adults. Many of us are stuck, or know people who are stuck, in lives that are far from what they want. If you are able to accept the things that aren’t working for you, often by having your tears, you then can move on to change them.
Some adults are mature enough that they don’t need to have their tears often. NO child is born mature! To learn to adapt to a world full of things they can’t have, they have to cry a LOT of tears. Once we understand this, we’ll stop our common reaction of trying to stop tears, and instead, encourage them.
That’s where the gift of this phrase, comes in.
When we refuse to give logic, especially at first, it gives our kids no logic to fight against. When you can say the equivalent of, “Because I said so” with empathy in your voice, it represents the wall or bank that your child needs. When they are clear that there is no getting around the fact that they can’t have what they want, it makes it that much easier for them to cry.
Now, many kids and adults are resistant to having their tears. That’s another topic, and I wanted to mention it. However, if you spend some time empathizing with your child while lovingly maintaining the limits, they will get there.
Later you can explain your logic. But in the moment, it is not only okay, but healthy to say to your child, “I’m so sorry that you are so upset. You want x, and I’ve told you, you can’t have it. You want to know why, when the fact is, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is you can’t have it right now. I know that is soooo hard, and I am so sorry that is the case.” And you put a lot of empathy in your voice and of course the words in themselves don’t matter. Less can be more, but the long and short is you (and sometimes you have to say it a bunch of times) keep coming back to “I am so sorry you can’t have what you want.”
One last quick little note. The fact of the matter is in many cases we need some help in managing our emotions and seeing this situation can help us manage our emotions better so that we are able to be empathetic in those moments.
When you are the angel of comfort while holding up the wall of futility for your child, magic happens. This is classic work of Dr. Neufeld’s, and it will transform your stuck child, or perhaps yourself if you are stuck, into a well-adjusted, happy person over time. And I am speaking from personal experience as a mother, individual, as well as a parenting coach.
One last note on why empathy is so important. Think of how when you are facing something like the end of a significant relationship when someone uses a sympathetic tone with you, you’ll often start to cry, right? It’s the same with our kids, and it is a huge gift! And is part of their maturation process and them becoming the intelligent, social, and emotionally intelligent human beings that we know they need to be.
Next time, I’ll talk about whether or not it matters if your limits are arbitrary or not!