“Because I said so!” What parent hasn’t said these words to their child in a moment of sheer exasperation? What you’re really saying is that you are the one in charge and you want the discussion to end. Of course, sometimes ending it abruptly is appropriate and sometimes it’s not. When this phrase is used in an offhand or sarcastic way, or in response to an initial question from your child, it’s much too abrupt. But despite what some people think, “Because I said so” is not necessarily a negative phrase—it all depends on when and how it is said.

Here’s an example of an ineffective way to use this phrase:

You: “Go clean your room.”
Your child: “I’m playing my video game. Why do I have to clean my room now?”
You: “Because I said so!”

Now, here’s an effective way to use it:

You: “Please go clean your room.”
Your child: “I want to play this video game first.”
You: “No, you need to clean your room first and then we’ll talk about video games later.”
Your child:  “Why can’t I play my video game now?”
You: “I just explained that to you.”
Your child: “But that’s not fair. Why do I have to clean my room now?”
You: “Because I said so.” Then, turn around and go do something else.

“Because I said so” is actually an appropriate phrase here. The key is to say it calmly after you’ve given a direction clearly and explained your reason once. After it’s said, just go do something else. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into an argument with your child. If he or she still refuses to comply, you can start giving them consequences for their behavior. There’s no more discussion and no more arguments.

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James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

Comments (3)
  • Matthew Bigelow

    You: “Go clean your room.”

    Your child: “I’m playing my video game. Why do I have to clean my room now?”

    You: “Because I said so!”

    That is an ineffective way to use the phrase? I would argue that there is nothing wrong with using the phrase that way.

    In the example of the effective way to use the phrase, the explanation was "you need to clean your room now." That's not really an explanation, that's just a slight paraphrasing of your demands; not a complaint, merely an observation. I do not think that the child is entitled to an explanation.

  • C

    "Because you will forget to do it after finishing your game."

    "Because it's better to do it to get it out of the way"

    Was that so hard? No "because i said so". You have a reason why you'd prefer your child to do it first rather than later, tell them.

  • henrypwhite67
    Ummm... Uh you actually just changed the child's response. In the first situation the child asked why immediately afterwards. In this hypothetical you never accually explained why. You just assumed the kid was dumb enough not to question what you said.
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