Last week, a friend of mine wrote a nice little post about a subject that’s dear to my heart. The bulk of the post was about the nonsense of “phases,” which I’ve discussed myself, but Dave (check out his blog: Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad) had me at the title: It’s Not Just a Phase. Kids are Assholes. They sure are!
Unfortunately, despite our affinity for insulting our children, I have to take issue with one thing he said in his piece. I quote: “‘Because I said so’ is the phrase of a lazy parent…”
Ahem. I know lazy parents. Lazy parents are friends of mine (not you, Brendan!). I am a lazy parent.
“Because I said so” is not lazy parenting. Not all the time.
Any effective parenting tool can be stripped down and recast as laziness; all it takes is commitment and a little effort, or, more accurately, a complete and total lack of effort. “Because I said so” is no different.
There is almost always an ulterior motive to our parenting, whether the goal is as simple and selfish as having a child who cleans up after himself (so you don’t have to do it) or as grand and altruistic as raising your kid into a kind, successful adult (so he can take care of you when you’re older and hooked on heroin).
Let’s be realistic: nobody has kids just for the kids’ sake. We do it because we expect to get something out of it too. Things both big and small, both intangible and practical. Back in the day, having a big family came in handy when it was to harvest the crops. In the 21st century, having a kid around prevents you from having to use one of those humiliating selfie sticks. There’s always a reason to have children beyond merely granting another person access to the miserable terrordome of pain and stress we call life.
Instilling a work ethic in your kids is necessary, but it’s also a hell of an effective way to get yourself out of having to do the dishes. Forcing your son to walk the dog is an important way to teach compassion and responsibility but it also means you get fifteen more minutes to sit on the couch in silence. Demonstrating the art of a proper foot massage is… actually probably somewhat inappropriate so let’s hold off on that. We’re all looking for a little payback from this gig.
The rub of parenting is that our immediate goals can occasionally trump the long-term ones. But sometimes you just need the kid to cooperate, by any means necessary, future consequences be damned. Hopefully your desire for instant gratification doesn’t manifest itself in methods so extreme that your kid will require therapy twenty years down the line. But unless your laziness crosses into neglect and abuse, I doubt things will go that far.
There are few (reasonable) parenting techniques that should be judged without context. (Truth be told, nothing should be judged without context.) The world isn’t black and white; it’s impossible to ever truly know the full story unless you’re living it.
Maybe you do invoke what is probably the ultimate, stereotypical parenting phrase is because you’re being lazy and don’t want to bother justifying your orders, but I’m willing to bet there is usually another reason for it, whether it’s apparent to your kids, or the strangers who overheard you, or not.
Sometimes there’s no time to explain, sometimes it’s too hard to explain, and sometimes there simply is no explanation, at least not one your five-year-old will understand and/or accept without another one of his never-ending WHYs. Sometimes a parent needs to say “Because I said so!” to quell the uprising and move on the next battle. Just make sure you say it with enough authority to end the discussion and convince your kid to finally put on his damn sneakers so you won’t be late for the field trip he’s been talking about for the last two months. That way everybody wins.
No, I don’t think saying “because I said so!” to your kids necessarily makes you lazy. Tired, maybe. Sick of your kids’ bullshit, probably. And at the end of your rope, definitely.
But what else is new?