Too Much Reasoning Is Illogical


The more I give my children the reasons behind my decisions, the more they argue and ask "why" about everything. Should I continue giving them my reasons?

Kids are true child psychologists, always six steps ahead of us grownups. When we ask Kitty why she threw the cat onto the roof, invariably we hear, "I don't know." But when she repeatedly badgers us about why she can't play with Sylvester any more today, we feel obliged to offer up fifteen different answers in the vain hope of hitting on one she'll approve of.

Giving kids the reasons underlying our discipline is wise practice. It tells them that there is method to our madness and that we're not simply bucking for "Tyrant Parent of the Decade" award. We actually do have a rationale for wanting the trash hauled out before the bacteria multiply enough to eat a hole in the bag.

Giving kids the reasons for our discipline becomes unwise — not to mention nerve-wracking — when we start repeating ourselves. What parent hasn't in total exasperation finally bellowed, "Because I'm your mother, that's why," or "Because I said so," or the wonderfully elegant "Because." The first time we fired these off, we shuddered, because we sounded just like our parents telling us the same thing thirty years ago. What's worse, back then we promised aloud: "I'll never say that to my kids." What we didn't realize then and what our own youngsters don't realize now is that kids can receive fifteen logical answers as to why bedtime is 9:30, each of which they will dispute until Mom or Dad, hitting the limits of human endurance, explodes with "Because I said so."

No doubt you've reviewed for Ripley the reasons for all your rules and requirements hundreds, maybe thousands, of times, and he's still a preschooler. It's not that he doesn't believe or understand your motives. He doesn't agree with them, or like them, or appreciate them. Can you really expect him to? He's a kid. If he agreed with all your parenting moves, he wouldn't need you to teach him values. He'd see childrearing from a parent's perspective. He could raise himself.

If Sherlock asks you more than once why he can't stay overnight at Watson's house, that's a dead giveaway he's not really interested in your reasons. He wants to debate. Have you ever answered fourteen "whys" or "why nots" in a row and, on number fourteen, saw Sherlock's face light up? "Gosh, Mom. I've been so blind. Thank you for explaining it to me. I admire your patience."

So, is it wise to provide reasons for everything you do? Yes — once, or maybe twice, if you suspect you weren't heard the first time around. More than that is just begging for an argument. To short-circuit any further inquisitions, you might reply with "I gave you my reason. You didn't like it," and then say no more. Or, you could use a line popularized in the workplace: "What part of `No' don't you understand?"

Obviously, on complex issues, such as smoking or driving privileges, discussions are in order. But on most day-to-day matters, I'm sure you've explained yourself ragged. Why drag through the same verbal ritual each and every time it's Madge's turn to clear the table or Tailor has to put his jacket in the closet instead of over the sink? Here, no explanations at all are called for. Discipline is.



Ray Guarendi. "Too Much Reasoning Is Illogical."

Reprinted with permission of Ray Guarendi.


Raymond N. Guarendi, aka Dr. Ray, is a practicing clinical psychologist and authority on parenting and behavioral issues active in the Catholic niche media. Guarendi is an advocate of common sense approaches to child rearing and discipline issues. Guarendi received his B.A. and M.A. at Case Western Reserve University in 1974, and his Ph.D. at Kent State University in 1978. He is the author of You're a better parent than you think!: a guide to common-sense parenting, Good Discipline, Great Teens, Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It; Straight Answers to Hearfelt Questions, Discipline that lasts a lifetime: the best gift you can give your kids, and Back to the Family.

Copyright © 2004 Ray Guarendi

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