Even if you donâ€™t spend much time around kids now, youâ€™ve been a kid yourself at some point â€” which means you probably know that â€œbecause I said soâ€ is one of those phrases where nobody really wins. If youâ€™re the kid on the receiving end, itâ€™s somewhere between annoying and maddening, depending on what youâ€™re being told to do. And for the adult doing the saying so, itâ€™s only a temporary fix at best.
As Michelle Woo recently noted in Lifehacker, following the rule simply for the sake of following the rule doesnâ€™t offer much appeal. Without context, you may get compliance, but you wonâ€™t be doing much to contribute to the kidâ€™s broader understanding of what is and isnâ€™t okay behavior. Itâ€™s like that old saying about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish: Tell a kid to do what you say, full stop, and they might listen in that instance; explain the reasoning behind your request, and theyâ€™ll be able to fit it into their broader sense of right and wrong, storing the information away to apply to another situation later on.
And thatâ€™s especially true, Woo argued, if your reasoning brings other people into the equation, a piece of advice she picked up while reading Wharton management professor Adam Grantâ€™s 2016 book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. â€œHighlight consequences for others directs attention to the distress of the person who may be harmed by an individualâ€™s behavior, fueling empathy for her,â€ Grant wrote. â€œIt also helps children understand the role that their own actions played in causing the harm, resulting in guilt.â€
It also helps stop kids from shrugging off the potential ramifications of whatever bad thing theyâ€™re trying to do. â€œWhen people are told that certain behaviors come with personal consequences,â€ Woo wrote, Â â€œthey rationalize. For kids, that might look something like thisâ€:
Parent: â€œStop climbing up the slide. Youâ€™ll get kicked in the face when a kid comes down.â€
What the child is thinking: â€œWell, Iâ€™ve done this 27 times before and emerged unscathed, so yeah, I feel pretty confident about my current course of action.â€
But when consequences for others are included (â€œStop climbing up the slide. You not letting a friend slide down, and sheâ€™s sadâ€), the magical empathy/guilt combo kicks in.