Communicating with Children is Not the Same as Lecturing Them

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Listen to your kids
When setting rules and boundaries for your children “because I said so” may be the biggest reason given for enforcing a rule. However, when children have a better, age-appropriate understanding of the rule, and the consequences, they are more likely to learn why obedience is important.

Confusion Without Facts

When you simply tell a child not to do something or lay down the house rules without communication, it can create a bit of confusion for the child. While the child may follow the rule, he or she may not understand the reasoning behind it, which can lead to testing in the form of rule breaking. When kids follow the rules without an understanding of them, their obedience is rooted in fear of breaking the rule rather than making a good choice based on their understanding of why a rule exists. Sharing the reasoning behind the rule in an age appropriate way (i.e. “Don’t hit, hitting hurts” for toddlers) can help children to understand why a rule or boundary is in place, which can foster cooperation in abiding by it.

Make it Understandable

Some children may not fully comprehend the basis of some rules. For instance some parents may insist that you can’t swim right after eating. Young children may not be able to understand the science of digestion, but they can understand things such as, “because it could make your stomach hurt.” With a bit of imagination, you can make nearly any subject understandable to a child.

Don’t Lecture

When it comes time to discuss rules with the children, make sure to create an open forum that fosters communication. This means that instead of lecturing the children on the dos and don’ts, you encourage the children to participate in the discussion about the rules. When children feel vested in developing the rules and the consequences, they are more likely to obey them.

Your Motivations Behind “No”

If you tend to fall back on, “because I said so” too often, you may want to look at your understanding of the rule. When a child asks, “Why can’t I have cookies for breakfast” you could answer, “because cookies don’t have the nutrition you need to start the day.” Of course you can alter that explanation any way you see fit, but the child will ask the same question until he receives an answer that is easy to understand and makes some kind of logical sense to him. You don’t have to delve deep into an encyclopedia in order to base your answers on facts, but you can provide an age appropriate response that will empower him to embrace following the rules.

While it can be tempting to simply expect obedience without an understanding as to why, simple, age-appropriate explanations can help children understand why following a rule is important. More importantly, when a child understands the reasons behind the boundaries, it builds a solid foundation for when he has to make a choice to follow the rule when you’re not watching.


With over 20 years of experience in the nanny world as an award-winning nanny, agency director, and parenting author, Michelle LaRowe is considered a leading industry expert. A mom herself, she loves to educate parents and nannies on the importance of quality in-home childcare. Find out more by visiting @eNannySource on Twitter. 



  1. This took me back to when my youngest was a child if I said “because I said so” she would say that isn’t a good enough answer and want to to know why I said so it was so frustrating at times but taught me more about how I should explain things to a child

    • I think we all have those “because I said so” moments. Especially when you don’t want to explain something that you think they are too young to understand.

  2. This was fantastic, Michelle, and I couldn’t agree more with you on explaining the reasons behind rules and inappropriate (or appropriate) behavior. Especially when they are young and just learning them as the parent’s entire life with them is in the stage of imprinting. It’s a magical window that many parents miss out on 🙂

    • I so agree with you Mike. I hate when I get so upset that I forget to explain. I always have to go back and do it so they understand what happened.

  3. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) says:

    I agree for the most part, that understanding the “no” and why it exists…sometime you DO have to rely on the “because I said so” thing., right? Because depending on the age, a child’s ability to reason simply hasn’t developed yet. If I wanted cookies for breakfast, I was told “no” and “because I said so” Because at age 3 or 4, I’m sure I wouldn’t have cared if my mom said it wasn’t nutritious enough. I likely would have said, who cares!!! LOL On the other hand, if I was told not to go near a hot burner on the stove because I would hurt myself, I would have understood that!

    • You’re very right Jacquie. The “because I said so” depends on the child’s age. I often use it if I know my son will not understand the real answer.

  4. Mahal Hudson says:

    I truly enjoyed reading this, although I’m not a Mom I can relate with transferable skills in the workplace…hey , why not right!?

  5. Oh Krystle, ‘because I said so’ is the age old approach to when you are busy and don’t want to take the time to communicate. I’ve been guilty of that so many times but as you pointed out, if they don’t understand the rule, then naturally they’re going to break it in some form. Children are clever at thinking around things – always to their advantage. Great post.

  6. So don’t say anything to your kids unless you know what to say if they respond with a why? In many ways kids are less blindly accepting than adults. They think about stuff and want to know there is a reason behind what you say. “Because I said so” is pretty lazy parenting.

    • Kids are very good at asking “why”. It’s good for them to understand the reasoning behind things as long as it’s appropriate and they actually understand what you are talking about.

  7. What a straight forward, helpful blog post. I recall reading Barbara Colorosa’s description of three kinds of parents: brick wall, jellyfish and backbone. My dad was the knee jerk “NO!” kind of guy and my mom’s attempts to counterbalance his excessive “brickishness” made her into the jellyfish I think she never really wanted to be. Despite all my own mistakes, education such as you provide helped me in parenting my own kids. So, please do keep up the great work!

  8. I do not have any children of my own, so I might not be the best to comment on your blog. I have had some supervisory roles, including being a sergeant in the military. I can tell you sometimes, I have had to deal adults who act like “children” and the above applies to them as well.

  9. Beth Niebuhr says:

    I”m glad that I don’t have to have those discussions anymore! I don’t think I said “Because I told you so” much if ever when my kids were growing up. Discussions about the rules, as you said, however, are much better than lectures!

    • Discussions are better than lectures but as a parent it can be hard not to lecture sometimes. You just get in a moment and go with it.

  10. Not having had children I can only relate from the perspective of once being one; some may argue that I am still one. I see that as a compliment most of the time. I completely agree with your assessment of rules and communicating at the appropriate time, the reasons behind them. I agree that fear is too often the foundation and am guessing that as a parent you would want your child to grow into a bigger child (like me) and be able to rationally think through rules, obligations, social norms, etiquette etc and base their reasons on pragmatism and feelings.

    • Haha. I can still act like a child sometimes too. However I can eventually rationally think though my issues whereas children need parental guidance.

  11. This is a nice post. It is nice, if we can convey our message to kids in an easy and understandable way. I feel that we have to come to their level while telling them something. Their level mean that we have to think and talk like them, so they will feel comfortable and listen to us. It is great advice that we must talk to them with open mind, no as ” I said so”

    Thank you for great post.

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