Because I Said So

The politics of strict parenting

Amber Fraley

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Photo by Suzi Kim on Unsplash

I heard it a million times growing up, and it enraged me every single time. Whenever I’d ask my mother why I had to do something she’d reply, “Because I said so,” and that was supposed to be that. End of discussion.

This kind of parenting works with some kids. With others, it just doesn’t. I was one of those kids. So was my daughter. My mother always stuck to her guns and refused to explain why I could or couldn’t do certain things, which only infuriated me and didn’t teach me anything. It also didn’t help our relationship.

I didn’t do the same to my daughter because I knew it wouldn’t work, so when she’d ask for an explanation, I’d give it to her. Did she always like my answer? Of course not. Mostly, though, my husband and I didn’t force her to adhere to a rigid set of rules “because we said so.” Instead, we let her make her own choices and let her learn from the consequences.

I had an epiphany about ten years ago when I was rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of books growing up on the prairie as a settler-colonizer. Laura mentions several times that if she and her sister Mary hadn’t listened to their parents, there were many instances in which the girls could’ve been killed. That’s where that tradition of “Because I said so,” comes from — a time when children frequently died or were killed, and not listening to one’s parents could have lethal consequences.

I’ve noticed the parents who are the most strict and require absolute compliance at all times are often religious and vote conservative. They also tend to hold on to those old ways of parenting, which requires blind obedience from your kid, and not sparing the rod when they don’t obey.

The problem with that kind of parenting is it’s often abusive. At one point, it may have kept kids alive, but that’s not where we are, anymore, as a society. Today’s kids are far more knowledgeable than kids of previous generations, and they’re perfectly capable of reason when given facts.

But people learn to parent from their parents, who learned to parent from their parents, and so on. That’s why generational trauma is so difficult to stop. There are still millions of people parenting kids with outdated methods and they’re loath to change…

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Amber Fraley

Writing about abortion rights, mental illness, trauma, narcissistic abuse & survival, politics. Journalist, novelist, wife, mom, Kansan, repro rights activist.