Son, you used to use the word “why” constantly: “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do dogs lick their weewees?” “Why are you sleeping on the couch again?” You had an insatiable curiosity. Now, “Why?” is reserved for use only after I ask you to do something.
“Cheeky, please clean your room,”
“Why?” you ask, as if it actually matters.
I’ve always tried to avoid using the “Because I said so” approach, so I say things like this:
“Because it’s a mess and we can’t vacuum or dust when it’s like this.”
As a result, our conversations look like this:
“No it’s not,” you say.
“Clean it up anyway,” I say, because you don’t actually get to decide whether my request is worth doing.
“But it’s not a mess, so I don’t have to,” you whine back, still under the illusion that my request was just a recommendation to be considered among all the other options for what to do with your time.
Seeing that you clearly need a better understanding of the actual options available to you, I say:
“Do it or you lose screen time for the weekend. Your choice.”
Rather than clarify the situation, my statement causes you to forego all rational thought, drop to the floor and begin rolling side-to-side while kicking at the air and screaming:
“You don’t understand! Why aren’t you listening to me? I don’t have to clean my room because it’s not messy. If my room was messy, I’d have to clean it, but it’s not so I don’t have to. Why don’t you understand that?”
Still hopelessly clinging to logic, thinking that somehow it would work this time, I respond:
“I am listening. I hear you say you don’t have to clean your room because it’s not messy, but it is messy and you do have to clean it.”
To which you respond, at 3-times the volume and 10-times the intensity:
“See? You aren’t listening to me! I told you it’s not messy. If you were listening to me you’d have heard that.”
Using my calm grown-up tone, I say:
“I guess you’ve made your choice then. No screen time this weekend.”
Disproving my theory that you could not possibly get more loud and unreasonable, you shout:
“I did not lose screen time because you don’t understand! I don’t have to clean my room because it’s not messy, so I still have screen time. Why aren’t you listening to me?”
Finally, when we’re way past any chance of salvaging our evening, I remember that there’s only one adult in this conversation and stop trying to apply logic where it just doesn’t fit.
I still don’t like “Because I said so,” so I’m thinking of trying a few of these:
Because cleaning your room is less painful than the alternative.
Because if I have to do it, whatever’s on the floor goes to charity.
Because when your room’s a mess I get irritable, and when I’m irritable you don’t get dessert.
Because I’ll chaperone every dance you attend for the rest of your life if you don’t.
Because negotiating with a tired 11 year-old makes me want to stick a fork in my eye and I like my eyesight.
Because the neighbors won’t want to be awakened by the events that ensue if you don’t.
Because you don’t get to decide if my request is valid.
Because drama is not an adequate substitute for logic.
Because when I say, “I disagree,” you hear, “I don’t understand.”
Because– wait a minute, why the hell am I trying to fit my parental request into your warped 11 year-old logic? I’m sorry you don’t agree that it should happen but do it anyway because I’ve decided you must do it and I’m actually the only adult in this conversation, dammit!
Hey, that sounds a lot like, “Because I said so.” Hmmm…