The “Because I Said So” Method of Parenting, And How It Supposedly Saves Lives

load of crapMaybe it is just my obstinate nature, but I have always been one to reject traditional wisdoms, especially Christians ones, should they fail the common sense litmus test. Some may take some time to flesh out, but usually, I can zero in on a weak spot if one exists. My mother was not gifted with that talent, and her embracing of some truly illogical things throughout my childhood used to make my head hurt. It was just one of many reasons I felt pretty sure I’d been switched at birth.

My mother was a unique blend of sophistication, beauty, and naiveté, and this was never so evident than when Oral Roberts tearily extorted money from millions of viewers by announcing God was holding his life for ransom to the tune of $8 million dollars.  I was flat-out offended by the whole disgusting display of snot and tears, unable to reconcile all that I knew about God’s nature with this pathetic spectacle of blackmail, greed, and frankly, blasphemy. I can find reasons to be merciful in just about any situation except when people use God to make themselves a buck. That is just plain repulsive to me, and always has been.

I felt like Jesus was used in a shameful way, painted out to be an opportunistic weakling who

These hands mean something completely different to me.

These hands mean something completely different to me.

depended on us to take care of His people, unable to provide for them Himself. I verbally declared my hopes that the man not receive a damn penny, both loudly and often. I desperately hoped he’d be called to the carpet and actually have to drop dead because of a failed budgetary deadline. To me, since God does not work that way, it would be flat-out hilarious watching this man come up with God’s technical loopholes for sparing his life, since opportunistic leeches rarely have the stones needed to commit suicide. But alas, I was sorely disappointed.

I had no idea so many people would buy into this load of garbage, but my mother being one of them was just too much for me to process. I argued, explained, and even bordered on mocking my mother and her lack of understanding this God she was serving. My words fell on deaf ears.

Oral Roberts not only conned his way into $8 million, but when all the money was finally counted up, he’d collected a cool extra million dollars. I still want to vomit when I think about it.

My mom shorted our already stretched household budgets and mailed a nice chunk of money to the momOral Roberts Ministry amid some pretty stringent arguments from me. I was a teenager by the time this was going on, and had survived some of my mother’s other Christian-based disaster decisions. Despite what I believed were clear, irrefutable arguments about such things, my mother seemed unable to see the long-term consequences of some of these actions. Instead, she accepted without question interpretations or opinions of people she respected or admired. I, on the other hand, rarely respected and admired the same people, and as time would show, I was considerably better at judging the outcomes of some of this stupid stuff, even as a child.

quote-bizarrebehaviorOne of these illogical but massively popular suggestions that just drove me over the edge was the Christian-hyped parenting tip that instructed parents to teach their children blind obedience. I don’t know how widespread this theory was, but it raged through our church like a wildfire in deep summer. A pamphlet…pamphlet!! not even a whole book!!!…. was distributed around explaining the parenting procedure and how it was the formula Christian parents needed for raising godly children. It advocated strictly disciplining children for any form of misbehavior, consistently, and without explanations. I called it the “Because I Said So” method of parenting, and it seemed ridiculous to me from the very beginning.

Now that I am a 45 year-old mother with three grown children, I have a new appreciation for what a insanityreal pain in the ass I must have been to my mother. The “Because I Said So” method went over with me like a fart in church. I already didn’t trust the people raising me, and this sudden excuse to communicate even less to me about all the spankings I seemed to be earning those days seemed to fit just a little too comfortably in my mother’s arsenal of insanity. My mother’s brain did not work at all like mine did, and she found my willingness to point out fatal flaws in a lot of her logic annoying. She won almost all of our disagreements by simply announcing her victory and dismissing me from the conversation. I always left feeling cheated. She clearly had no debating skills whatsoever.

adam sandlerWhen my mother announced her intention of becoming a better parent by ensuring the godliness of our souls with this blind obedience tactic, I had questions and concerns, to say the least. She and the stepfather insisted that by blindly obeying their voices, our lives would be saved, not just spiritually but also physically. Like when she told me that she showed me how much she loved me by spanking me, I sensed I wasn’t going to enjoy this protection measure any more than her new love gestures.

Here is their argument as it was explained to me:

“If a child is playing on a busy street, and a bus is about to hit him, a parent doesn’t have time to explain why they need obey their parent’s voice. When a parent yells for the kid to jump out-of-the-way of the bus, there isn’t time to explain. Blind obedience will save that child’s life.”

I was twelve when this new hellish discipline tactic was introduced to me, and to say I was appalled with the logic is a giant understatement. I had some thoughts.

  1.  If a twelve year-old is still playing in a busy street at that late age, let the bus hit them. It’s Nature’s survival of the fittest gone industrial.
  2. I think the tone of the screaming parent plays a much larger part in any immediate response by the Hit-By-The-Bus-Illusion-Funny-Illusionsmoronic kid playing in a busy street than any of the words do. It’s just a hunch.
  3. Can blind obedience actually work against someone in these sorts of scenarios? What if the parent is distracted and the dumb ass waits for the command that never comes, and gets hit by a stray bus?

My acerbic wit was neither welcomed nor appreciated, and I found myself living out the rest of my disturbing childhood doing things because my mother told me so. In my case, it was especially hard to understand my mother’s reasoning anyways, so her refusal to explain her decisions to me often left me assuming the worst about her motivations. Our already dysfunctional relationship was damaged even further by her acceptance that some words on a pamphlet...a  pamphlet no less!!…. were words straight from God’s mouth.

In order to develop a trust between my children and myself, I refused to embrace this way of parenting. I didn’t discuss with them every decision, but when the opportunity was there, I would try to explain to my kids my motives, even the selfish ones,  and my reasons for denying them something they wanted, or saying no to things they wanted to do.  Happily, not a single one of them ever got hit by a bus.

good adviceIt took a little time and maturity before I could clearly see my mother wasn’t well. She would be hysterically happy for a few days, then become depressed and sleep for what seemed like weeks. She seemed fragile emotionally, given to fits of crazy laughter that made me uncomfortable, or quiet weeping that made me feel even more uncomfortable. She’d been raised with an entirely different set of priorities and values, none of which fit comfortably into Christianity, and she spend her lifetime trying to tear up unstable foundations and lay down Godly ones. I think she genuinely loved her children, but because she did not trust her own instincts, she felt obligated to embrace someone else’s opinions about child-rearing instead. I can see how life must have been so much harder for her than it has been for me, and I try to go a little easier on her these days.

I think it wise to examine any advice given to you about anything important in your life, especially bad adviceparenting, and do it thoroughly.  On the surface, almost anything looks benign and maybe even helpful and righteous. But take a minute to really examine all aspects of these kinds of suggestions.

In the “Because I Said So” method, the flaws just leaped out to me, but a great number of people I knew fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. God does not advocate we accept anything we hear from anyone without thoroughly examining it against His Word. Blind obedience is absolutely not a good thing to train in to a child, nor does the Bible ever suggest that it is.

Be wise as serpents, and do not let your kids play in busy streets.

~ Bird

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7 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on A Feast For the Vain and commented:
    A thoughtful post on the actual effects of trying to instill blind obedience in children.

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  2. I agree completely with you. When I work with children I always try to explain my reasons if I have a chance. This is much more likely to get me direct obedience (after I set a foundation of it up) as the children know I’ll have a good reason for it.

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  3. Blind obedience produces more rebels anyway.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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  4. Way to be an independent thinker, Catherine!

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  5. I liked the paragraph “It took a little time and maturity ….” I liked learning a little more about your mother through your eyes. I like the ecard displayed in the post, too.

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