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We’ve all heard that dreaded phrase at least once from a parent: “Because I said so.”

On the surface, this answer seems pretty harmless. Not only does it shut down the subject being discussed, but it also establishes parental authority; however, taking a deeper look at the phrase reveals its dangers.

“Because I said so” is an authoritarian phrase, not authoritative.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines their differences below:

Authoritarian: of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority; expecting or requiring people to obey rules or laws; not allowing personal freedom

Authoritative: able to be trusted as being accurate or true; reliable; having the confident quality of someone who is respected or obeyed by other people.

So why is the phrase so harmful?

1. It can hurt the child – literally.

A parent is expected to do what is in their child’s best interest, but having a baby doesn’t make one a good parent.

Horrifying stories of children murdered, brainwashed into cults or hate groups, and even pushed into lives of crime demonstrate the fact that being a parent doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Even more so, it acknowledges the fact that even with heavy parental control, many kids fall into these dangerous situations.

In addition, these children tend to fail at self-regulation. Letting your little bird “fly” is one of the hardest parts of parenting, but it is so vital. Without the freedom to do things by themselves, these children tend to panic when pushed out of the nest.

2. This lack of empathy promotes bullying.

Kids learn by following examples. Children who grow up practicing blind submission out of fear tend to go down the same road. They are being taught that those in power are always right, so they tend to associate love with obedience, not respect. Their relationships often fail or become abusive.

3. It devalues critical thinking skills.

These children are taught to obey, but not to think for themselves. Consequently, they are less likely to take responsibility for their actions and are more willing to fall to peer pressure.

Ann Landers

Regan Joswiak, a college student at Sam Houston State University, explains this in more detail:

“When I was in Pre-K I was told that I had to color a picture exactly as instructed, which meant rolling the crayon with the palm of my hand. The method made no sense to me, so I asked why. I was given a similar response that was along the lines of ‘because I said so.’ My parents were called in for similar situations with my brother. They were told that my brother was questioning instructions and that he shouldn’t. Not that he wasn’t following instructions —questioning them,” she said.

“My parents’ response: ‘That’s good. You should be teaching creativity and critical thinking. Why aren’t you?’ From an early age, we’re taught to obey authority without question, but I think that’s a very dangerous thing to teach. And in the workplace, if you have a better, more efficient way of doing something, should you really just follow someone else’s instructions without saying, ‘Why don’t we…?’ If I question or suggest something, it’s not as if I’m just going to do things my way if I’m shot down. I just want to understand why I’m doing something before I do it, or suggest something that maybe hadn’t been thought about before.”

Sources: Because I Said So, Merriam Webster, Merriam Webster, AHA Parenting,CNN, Socialization in the Context of the Family


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