How To Parent: Answering Why With Because I Said So

Is This Parenting Phrase Effective? “Because I Said So.”

“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.

Is This Parenting Phrase Effective? “Because I Said So.” reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit

James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James’ foremost goal was to help kids and to “empower parents.”

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