The Power of Words and “Because I said so”

 The Championship Fathering blog by Brock Griffin

 

Have you ever used “Because I said so” with your kids? And should a dad ever use that line? Tweet this!

I have some thoughts on that as I step in for Carey this week. But first, some context and a reminder:

Several months ago, we launched what we called The Summer of Encouragement, with an ebook that included a checklist of 100 encouraging statements you can use with your children. I hope you have been using those positive words with your children all summer. If you have, keep it up! (And share some of the positive phrases you have used with your kids, and the difference it has made, on our Twitter feed using #summerofencouragement.) The best-case scenario is that you have created a habit that will continue indefinitely into the future. Your kids will love it—and really benefit from it.

If you missed out on this in May, it isn’t too late. You can still start affirming and encouraging your children every day, and our free download should be a big help.

Family playing cardsA few weeks later, in one of our weekly tip sheets, we came up with 16 Things You Should NEVER Say to Your Kids—things like: “Why can’t you be more like so-and-so?” “Go in the other room; you’re just in the way.” “Will you please get to the point?” “I don’t have time for you.” You can check out all those right here.

For me, thinking through how I talk to my three kids has been a healthy exercise. I definitely need to be more sensitive and more aware of how my words affect them.

I also want to put these phrases into perspective. While some statements are truly in the “never” category and we shouldn’t even think in that direction, the point is not that we should never upset our kids or always let them have their way. We need to be the parents and shape them into respectful, considerate people. And many times, the message we’re trying to get across to a child isn’t bad; the harmful part is more about the words we choose and our tone of voice.

For example, “Leave me alone” is pretty harsh. But that doesn’t mean a child can demand to be with us at any time, any place. A better choice of words might be, “Daddy needs to do something else right now, but what’s on your mind is important to me. So give me ten minutes and I’m all yours.”

And it isn’t cool to say something like, “Stop crying. Don’t be such a wimp.” But sometimes kids do need to be encouraged to stay strong when things don’t go their way. We just need to find a better way to say it. Maybe: “That’s really hard, Son. I know you’ll bounce back and be fine.”

Clearly, the more positive statements to our kids take a little more time and more thinking on our part. Tweet this! Maybe that’s why we often fall back on the other statements.

That brings us to “Because I said so.” We considered adding to the list of things we should never say, but then decided not to. Still, this one is worth thinking through.

To me, this one is a problem when it’s our first response to a child. They ask “Why” or resist in some way, and instead of explaining our thoughts and reasons, we throw out “Because I said so” to shut down the discussion and move on.

But should we never say it? Kids can be persistent and even nag us to get their way. They might not listen to our reasons no matter how calm we are. And if they keep pressing us or fussing, then it could get to the point where it makes sense to say, “Because I said so.”

Which brings up a larger point. It’s true that we should take the time to engage our children and explain things to them. And using “Because I said so” should be rare. Still, sometimes the point behind those four words is actually a good one.

Our expectations and requests should carry some weight with our kids. We need to be understanding and patient with them, but they also need to learn to respect authorities in their lives, especially their parents. So when we ask them to do something or tell them why we did something, ideally they will accept our answer and move on with life.

Maybe instead of simply saying “Because I said so,” we can try something like, “Sweetheart, I’m trying to do what’s best for you, and you need to trust me on this.” Or a situation could call for something a little more direct: “Buddy, I’m the parent here, and I’ve thought this through. There’s no debate. You need to make this happen … because I said so.”

Bottom line, dad, our communication with our kids is just as much about our tone, our body language, and often the context, as the actual words we say. And usually the messages we’re communicating have some truth behind them; our challenge is finding better ways to say them.

What have you said to your child recently that you wish you could take back? And what’s a more positive way of communicating that? Please join the discussion either below or at our Facebook page.

Action Points

  • Be intentional about finding something positive to affirm in your child—at least once or twice a day. Make sure most of your positive comments don’t have a “But …” at the end.
  • When addressing a problem, do all you can to focus on the behavior, not the person. It is possible to attack the problem without tearing down the person.

 

BG Brock Griffin 12-14Brock Griffin is Writing and Publications Director at NCF and co-author of the book It’s Great Being a Dad (available November, 2015). He handles or helps with many of NCF’s writing and editing projects, including books, blogs, Today’s Father Weekly e-mails, and articles for outside publications. Brock and his wife Tara have three children and live in the Kansas City area.

NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. We encourage you to help us change the culture of fathering in America by joining the Championship Fathering Team. You can also sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.

 

 



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