A philosophy for raising children in which one explains the reasons behind one's orders and never says "Because I'm your father", "Because I'm your mother", or "Because I say so". Often yields more intelligent and inquisitive people in the long run, which can be a blessing and a curse for kids raised this way.

My own parents did this. They also increasingly encouraged me to make my own decisions as well, but lately they've been rethinking that part, prompting me to start trying to figure out some way to run away...

I think that you should teach your children that when you say "Because I say so", they better believe you, because there is some sort of critical situation and there is no time to explain.

People should generally want an explanation, but not feel entitled to one ... think of situations like rappelling, having your child's hand close to a hot stove or to the power button of your file server. In those cases obedience, blind and trusting, is expected.
As a parent, it is your call to convince your children (by example, and not by words) that you deserve that kind of obedience.

Of course, this is not an excuse for being arbitrary. When there is time and possibility, explanations are better. When the handbrake is about to get loose, explanations lose.

When my daughter grew old enough to talk, I started trying to explain everything to her:

"You can't have a snack because it's close to lunch time"
The main thing this accomplished was that she quickly became good at explaining her view on things:
"I can have a snack, because snacks are very good, and I want one."
I still believe that it's best to explain things as much as possible. However, trying to convince a child to do something by explaining to them why they need to do it is often an exercise in futility, especially when the child is strong-willed. A parent who relies on that approach becomes the one you hear in public places (like playgrounds, for instance):
(In a high pitched, pleading tone) Come on, sweetie, we really need to go now.... It's getting late, and Mommy has things to do.... Okay, just one more minute... Come on, now sweetie, please.... Honey, we need to get home so I can start making supper.... (and so on)

In the end, a parent (or other adult in charge of a child) needs to be able to tell the kid what to do. You need to establish the fact that, in the end, you are in charge. Certainly, respect their opinions, give them choices when you can, explain things to them when the time is right, but the bottom line is -- there will be times when you need your child to do what you tell them.

An obvious example -- if they're dashing toward the road, do you say "Honey, I don't think that's a good idea, please stop because the cars might hit you." or do you say "STOP!" ?

When you have some time, and the child is in a receptive mood (it does happen, now and again), talk to them about the fact that when you tell them to do (or not do) something, it's important for them to listen, and to do what you say. Let them know that, as they get older, they will be able to make more decisions for themselves. They're still going to ask "why", or say "no", or flat out ignore you, but they'll begin to understand that you do have reasons when you tell them what to do.

"Because I say so" might mean "I'm too stressed to argue."
"Because I say so" might mean "I'll explain later."
"Because I say so" might mean "because I don't have time to explain it right now."
"Because I say so" might mean "I'm sorry you don't trust me implicitly, but please trust my judgment anyway."
"Because I say so" might mean "because I have to deal with the repercussions, I'm going to make the call."

But I doubt it. If it were those things, then why wouldn't you just say those things? I think we say "because I say so" when that's just how it ought to be but we can't figure out why. And each time it's a cop out.

If you can't figure out a convincing argument, then you're probably wrong. Admit it. Face up to it. Get over it. It happens to all of us.

There is nothing preventing you from explaining the reason for a particular need to a child. Certainly there are times that require quick action -- preventing a child from running into the street is the classic example. But you only act without explanation in the same way you would for a strange adult -- pull them out of harm's way and explain your behavior. Certainly, children will not always (particularly when very young) respond rationally to the disappointments of reality. But you can often still negotiate with them; and when they are very young, explanations don't make any sense anyway -- you do what you must.

"Because I say so" is lazy. It fails to take into account that the parent owes the child rather than the other way around.

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