I know lazy parents. Lazy parents are friends of mine (not you, Brendan!). I am a lazy parent. However, using the phrase “because I said so” is not lazy parenting. Not all the time.
There is almost always an ulterior motive to our parenting, whether the goal is as simple and selfish as having a child who cleans up after himself (so you don’t have to do it) or as grand and altruistic as raising your kid into a kind, successful adult (so he can take care of you when you’re older and hooked on heroin).
Let’s be realistic: nobody has kids just for the kids’ sake. We do it because we expect to get something out of it. Back in the day, having a big family came in handy when it was time to harvest the crops. In the 21st century, having a kid around prevents you from having to use one of those humiliating selfie sticks.
Instilling a work ethic in your kids is necessary, but it’s also a hell of an effective way to get yourself out of having to do the dishes. Forcing your son to walk the dog is an important way to teach compassion and responsibility but it also means you get 15 more minutes to sit on the couch in silence. Demonstrating the art of a proper foot massage is … actually probably somewhat inappropriate, so let’s hold off on that.
The rub of parenting is that our immediate goals can occasionally trump the long-term ones. But sometimes you just need the kid to cooperate, by any means necessary, future consequences be damned. Hopefully your desire for instant gratification doesn’t manifest itself in methods so extreme that your kid will require therapy 20 years down the line. But unless your laziness crosses into neglect and abuse, I doubt things will go that far.
Maybe you do invoke what is probably the ultimate, stereotypical parenting phrase because you’re being lazy and don’t want to bother justifying your orders. But I’m willing to bet there is usually another reason for it, whether it’s apparent to your kids, or the strangers who overheard you, or not.
Sometimes there’s no time to explain. Sometimes it’s too hard to explain. Sometimes there simply is no explanation, at least not one your 5-year-old will understand and/or accept without another one of his never-ending cries of “WHY?” Sometimes a parent needs to say “because I said so” to quell the uprising and move on the next battle. Just make sure you say it with enough authority to end the discussion and convince your kid to finally put on his damn sneakers so you won’t be late for the field trip he’s been talking about for the last two months. That way everybody wins.
A version of this first appeared on Dad and Buried.