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Although I haven't used the "because I'm older" or "because I'm your dad" argument before with a child who questions my reasons, I know many adults who do. Is this harmful in any way? I have taught my children that age is never a reason why somebody is correct, and people need to be able to back up their arguments. I have studied some psychology, and have read about the Milgram Experiment and I'm scared that my kids will develop this kind of blind obedience to authority figures.

TLDR Is age or experience an acceptable "argument winner"?

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It's not an age argument. It's a 'caregiver/responsible adult/I'm the parent' argument. –  DA01 Aug 15 '12 at 3:27
    
I frequently hear "because I'm older" or "because I said so" rather than a concrete reason. Does this not lead kids into blindly following authority figures? I feel like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment is a very good example of what I am trying to avoid –  Snakes and Coffee Aug 15 '12 at 3:54
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I don't know if I'd equate a parent saying "because I said so" to questionable electric-shock experiments. I think it's OK to expect your children to obey you. –  DA01 Aug 15 '12 at 4:47
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Plenty of people say "Because the bible says so," and ... Oh wait. –  Dave Clarke Aug 15 '12 at 8:48
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Its not "blind obedience". As a parent/caregiver, there is an established relationship, with (hopefully) countless precedents to let them trust your decision making abilities. "Because I'm the mommy/daddy" is far better than "because I said so" or "because I'm older". It's really short for "because I'm the mommy/daddy, and you know that I look out for you and make decisions that have your best interests at heart". –  Beofett Aug 15 '12 at 13:19
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3 Answers

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"because I'm older", or "because I said so" are a cop-out. When I was a child I thought is was a cop-out when a parent said it, and I still think so. It's an answer when a parent is losing patience and/or doesn't have time to explain. It is better to say "I don't have time to explain, and this is how it has to be" as it's more constructive. It says to the child, "I do want you to understand but there isn't an opportunity" rather than "I don't care if you know why or not".

If a parent always says "because I said so" and never gives them any reasons then their children won't learn anything, and that would be harmful and I could see it hurting a child's self-esteem. That would have to be a default answer rather than the occasional use though. Every parent's going to say it at some point or another, and although it isn't going to satisfy a child it isn't going to hurt anything. If you show your child love and attention and teach them as much as you can then all is probably going to go well and the occasional short answer isn't going to make any difference. Children want to know why because they want to understand the world and that's a good thing, occasionally you won't have the time and that's fine, they have to understand that too.

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In general, this is not a good response for reasons you and other responders already offered.

If it is safe to let them experiment and isn't beyond set and defined rules, once in awhile, don't say anything and let them make the mistake - they learn a lot from this.

If you have given a direction, it is realted to a rule in your househole or a value you hold dear, or safety but you have the time to ask your children if they can think of any reasons themselves (in a respectful, loving, tone of voice not a sarcastic one), do so.

If you have time to explain why, do so.

If a quick decision has to be made and you just need obedience because of safety or trying to catch a bus or something, say, "I'll answer your questions later" and then expect compliance. Make sure you follow up and honestly do discuss the event and how you came to the decision you made, with them.

Once in awhile, they simply don't know enough to understand. If you only rarely answer, "I've just lived longer and know a few things you haven't learned yet", it won't be a make or break, life or death, emotional turmoil creator.

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Very hard to answer this question. It really depends on the context. You absolutely should cultivate their immediate obedience to your direction when it's appropriate. Those are usually situations of danger/harm. We do a lot of climbing, cycling, and skiing in situations where there's no margin for error. They can get all the details after the situation has passed and when it's safe to elaborate.

There's been a 'couple times where there's been social context, like a meth-head approaching or the kids putting themselves in situation where something socially-driven could go wrong. When the inevitable "why" comes up we've cultivated the simple short phrase "Explain later!" which is to say you're potentially in danger and this is not the time.

Later means we've explained in graphic detail the possible things that could happen. And I'm talking "keep them up at night" detail. Indelible image in their little brains. It sucks to have to do that but personally I could not live with myself knowing that I witheld knowledge from my kids that may lead to harm at a later point in life.

The context I'm sure you mean is perspective/worldview stuff that is nearly impossible to explain because developmentally or experientially they do not have the skills or capacity to understand. Or worse, you've personally developed a perspective or worldview that has meaning to you and drives your decision but is in conflict with their perspective. That's not easy because it's not rooted in something very real and objective, only lens. Subjective differences are by their very nature messy and, well, subjective. At that point I suppose you have the option to put your foot down and hope that one day in the future they will arrive at your perspective and thank you for it.

And sometimes you can be delighted to know that they will surprise you and defy your opinion and be right. When they school you...then you know you've raised a good child.

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