I knew it was coming, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. The other night, as we were preparing our 2-year-old for bed, she wanted to take out a new toy, and I told her “no”. That’s when it happened. For the first time she asked me, “Why not?” I thought about my response for a moment then told her we couldn’t start something new because it was time for bed, but I had to laugh at myself. My moment of thought had been necessary because the very first, knee-jerk response that had flashed through my mind was, “Because I said so. That’s why not.” It was one of those beautiful, revelatory instances when you think about your own parents and then think, “Yep. I get it now!” But I’m really glad I took a moment to give my daughter a real answer and I think we all need to strive to do that more often.
As a ballroom dance instructor I have wholeheartedly come to believe in the maxim that you can never really understand something until you have to teach it. Well, being a parent means that I have the tremendous opportunity to really understand what it takes to be a good human by teaching my child to be one. While I know I want my daughter to understand that what I say goes, even at 2 years old, I want her to know that the mandates I give her serve a purpose. I know her brain is not yet capable of high-level critical thinking, but I want to start fostering that now. In the future when it’s time for her to start making decisions with some import, I don’t want her first thought to be, “I should or shouldn’t do this because Mommy said so.” I want her to think for
herself about why something would be good or bad for her.
Being a parent is hard- really hard- and I’m the first to admit to sometimes (okay, many times) choosing the path of least resistance. “Because I said so.” is one of those easy ways out. I challenge us all to work on giving better answers to our kids. Of course, it will be good for them, and we’ll get a bit better at being good humans in the process.