When your kids ask you why they can’t do something, or why something is bad, how do you respond?
Have you ever been told by your parents “because I said so?”
Did that satisfy you, or did it frustrate you?
Did it cause thoughts of rebellion in your heart for not getting a good answer, or you felt like your?
“Because I said so”… is dangerous with teenagers…
When talking to kids about things you can’t fully explain at the moment, or wouldn’t be appropriate to explain, you need to be careful not to default to responses like “because I said so.” This is especially dangerous with teenagers because they are used to getting answers or finding them on their own. That’s what we teach them to do, right?
Instead of fumbling around for insufficient reasons and becoming flustered, try this. Focus on their past experience of seeing you protect them and how you have done what was in their best interests for the past ___ years of their life.
“Son, let me ask you a question – do you trust me?”
Let that hang until you get an answer.
If the answer is something other than YES, you have a longer discussion ahead of you. BUT, don’t fear this – you want to know this is in their head and take time to listen to them.
When the answer is YES, follow this way.
“Would you say I do things that protect you and benefit you to lead to your happiness and success – OR – would you say I do things to harm you and to make you unhappy?”
They may jokingly say making them unhappy, but make sure you have a good attitude and have them answer seriously.
When they say you do things to protect them and for their happiness, then logically follow with:
“On this one, I need you to trust that it’s not quite time to discuss this in depth. However, when I think the time is right we will talk further on this subject. Can you trust me enough to accept this answer for now?”
* As a caveat, I would suggest when talking with a son that is 12 or older, you make sure you speak more matter-of-factly vs. trying to convince them. Young men start to “smell” weakness and lack of leadership around this age, and they are hungry to be led. They won’t tell you, but you will see it in their faces and actions.
If you need an example:
“What if when you were 7 years old you came to me and asked me Dad, how do you build a bomb?
Do you think me telling you exactly how to build a bomb would have been wise or responsible?
Exactly, you may have taken that information and hurt yourself or others, simply because I gave you too much information before you were ready. And I know doing that can work on your imagination and cause you to take actions that are dangerous, because you don’t have the benefit of life experiences or knowledge that I have gained.
So for now, I can tell you this much about [bombs], and later we can discuss in full when I know you’re ready to handle that information.
Can you trust me enough to accept this answer for now?”
Working with trust statements is a powerful way to reinforce the need for your children to place their trust in you. And using the past protection you’ve already provided helps them to deal with their need to want to know answers now.
Insert trust to bridge the information gap, and have a discussion that builds the relationship – instead of creating resentment or distance.