“Mom, can I […]?”
“Because you can’t.”
“But why can’t I?”
“Because it isn’t good.”
“Because I say so.”
[Moans with disappointment, accepts defeat.]
Because I say so.
Impatience usually is the cause of these four words. Sure, one may object saying, “I can’t explain everything to a child. Their understanding is not as high as mine. If I try to explain, there’ll be an infinite regress of “why” questions. Therefore, it’s just best to tell them to do or don’t do certain things because I say so.“
But isn’t that impatience? Why does the child need to match your level of understanding? If it’s a good, hard to vary explanation, there will be no protests or further “why” questions from the child since they shall understand why.
That aside, with those four words you’re unwittingly implicitly instantiating in the child a longing to seek for justification from authority. Authority, I emphasize, and not reality. You’re teaching the child that what matters is you and what you say. Above reason, above logic, above the truth—what matters is what you say. What you say is the truth (!) you teach.
This usually gets extended for the child to agree with all kinds of authority growing up (because of parenting tactics that instantiate in the child a longing for justification). The child will seek justification from her teachers, for instance. She won’t question a method the teacher uses she knows to be wrong but would rather simply do as is told. She may start converging with the teacher’s methods and literally forget that it’s wrong since she’s been implicitly told “whatever the authority says is true”.
Then it may spread out to the boss at work, news and media, the government, downright irrational cultural norms among others.
Those four words.
With those four words and the patterns of behavior that imply anything close to what those four words signify one inhibits the creative and critical faculties of the child. Curiosity is punished through that lens. Agreeing is rewarded. This is not how we solve our world’s problems! Who’s going to find a solution to cancer? A person who does things the way they’ve always been done? No wonder why they depict scientists as crazy individuals in movies. Heck, Albert Einstein is commonly known as the Mad Scientist! Yet his name is synonymous to the word Genius. I often wonder why there are so many contradictions in society.
The fact that one can simply use Because I say so as a tool to shut up the child, to make him do a thing or drop another, to let him completely be directed by what the authority wants of him, to damage the mind on what it means to find truth (justification from authority is what it teaches) and to hinder the sense of wonder a human child is blessed with having—all this shows why it is so not cool to utter those four, so easy to use words anywhere you want.
There’s no reason to feel bad doing this. Unfortunately the cause behind why it is so mainstream to replicate this kind of behavior of saying Because I say so is how we were all raised and all the ideas we implicitly received through culture. We were raised by society having this justification from authority mindset. Now when we find ourselves at an authority standpoint (as a parent, for instance) we assume the natural role following from that philosophy. But minds can change. The philosophies you embody are malleable. Please start Taking Children Seriously.