I don’t subscribe to the “because I said so” parenting handbook. It might slide out of my mouth on a very rare occasion, but it is not the norm. It may very well work for others, but I loathed it as a child and don’t much care for it as an adult. “Because I said so” has always been a little too authoritative, a little too dictatorship, for me. It doesn’t offer much in the way of rationale and it can be a way of encouraging rebellion. I don’t over-explain myself to my children when I have made a decision, but I do engage in a bit of an explanation so that my girls know I am making decisions out of love as opposed to impulse. They need to know that being a mother to them is the most important job I will ever have — and I take my maternal responsibility very seriously. Scenarios tend to go a little something like this:
When you beg and plead for cell phones at seven and ten years of age, please know that I am going to say no. Not because I am mean or stingy, but because I love you so much that I know waiting a few more years is appropriate. At this point in your lives, you are too young to shut the rest of the world out while you bury your face in an impossibly small screen. You are too young for constant texting and sexting and cyber-bullying. There haven’t been conclusive studies done on whether or not cell phones can be harmful, and I think it is wise to postpone your exposure to constant radiation as long as possible. I enforce this rule because I love you so much.
When you ask for sleepovers on weekends when you have sports commitments, I am going to say no. Not because I am an ogre and want to keep you under my thumb, but because I believe in honoring your role as an athlete. I believe that when you are a part of a team, the team deserves your best effort at all times. Sleepovers do not foster athleticism, dedication, or teamwork. They foster sleepless nights and lots of junk food. There will be plenty of nights for sleepovers and pillow fights — but school and sports come first. I say no because I love you enough to teach you about responsibility and work ethic.
When I punish you for riding a bicycle/scooter/ATV without a helmet, I am not merely being a nag. It is because you have been fortunate enough to have been blessed with all of your faculties and I know how quickly your life can change when skulls forcefully meet pavement. I make these decisions and enforce these rules because I love you so much and it is my job as your mother to keep you safe and help you make good decisions.
When you balk at doing your chores, I will never tell you to do what you are told because I said so. I will gently tell you that we are all members of this family and, as such, we all have responsibilities. It is our family rule that everyone is assigned age-appropriate tasks and will be helpful, productive members of the household. I will explain to you that with privileges come responsibilities. I will tell you that it is my desire to raise two upstanding members of society because I love you, and my dreams will never be realized if you are allowed to laze around on the couch all day while we wait on you hand and foot.
When I put you to bed at a reasonable hour and enforce weekend quiet time when I see that you are exhausted, it is not because I am mean. It is because I understand how crucial quality and quantity of slumber is to your cognitive function and development. I do these kinds of things because I love you.
We are going to go many rounds over things like Gatorade, Vitamin Water, and soda. It’s really simple — you want to drink these things and I say no. Again, it’s about education and development. Kids do not need, nor should they have, these kinds of beverages. So, I will not have an argument with you about it, I will calmly pull you aside and have you read the nutrition label with me. We will then have a brief discussion about sugar, diabetes, and bone density. I will then lovingly and gently guide you to a plain glass of water, or a delicious glass of milk. Those are the things that growing bodies need and I enforce these rules because not only do I love you, but I have experienced firsthand the kind of damage that sugary drinks can inflict on your health.
The next decade will prove challenging from time to time — for all of us. Hopefully you will look back someday and be thankful that your parents didn’t take the easy way out. Because, let’s face it, it would be much easier to just let you do what you wanted when you wanted. But, that wouldn’t be right — and it wouldn’t benefit anyone in the long run. We made difficult decisions and stuck to our guns all these years — you guessed it — because we love you.