Thursday, December 8, 2011

Because I Said So

This past weekend, I taught my Sunday school class about the feast of the Immaculate Conception and reminded them that Mass would be celebrated three times so everyone would have a chance to attend. "This is called a holy day of obligation. The Church thinks this feast is SO important, they want everyone to come celebrate!"

I've been very mindful in class this year to avoid teaching from the "because I said so" (BISS) standpoint. Yes, faithful Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Yes, it can be a mortal sin to skip Mass without grave reason. But if I want to lead a child's heart to Jesus, handing out rules and regulations because the Church says so seems like a horrible way to do so.

The same logic applies in parenting. If I want Peter to make good choices when he is more independent, I need to avoid BISS as a first response. For example, when I tell him to climb off the table, I add, "It's not safe to sit on the table and it's not polite. Please get back on the chair." I guess the superficial reason he should get down is because I said so and I will physically remove him if he doesn't. But the real reason is why I said so.

He trusts us because he knows we love him.

I read good advice from a blogger (terribly sorry I've forgotten whom!) who reduced the times she told her children "no" by just skipping that word and continuing with the rest of the admonition. "No, put that back" becomes "Put that back, please." The message is the same, but the tone is much more conducive to a good relationship! I think the same practice can be used to avoid BISS. Hold the BISS, then give the actual reason. And if there isn't an actual reason, the rule needs to be revised!

I think there are times when BISS is acceptable. If you have given the real reason and your child continues to argue or complain, I think it is OK to say, "Because I said so and I am your mom. It's my job to take care of you and make choices that are good for you. I'm sorry you don't agree with me this time, but I'm doing what I have to so you will be safe/healthy/etc."

My parents occasionally used BISS and I accepted it because, even if I didn't like it, I knew they always wanted what was best for me. They treated me with respect and explained themselves as much as possible.

For the same reason, I accept what the Church teaches even if I don't agree. I think it's silly that holy days of obligation vary from one country to another, as if God cares about political boundaries. But I understand that they are in place to encourage our particular community of faith. I went to Mass to celebrate today's feast. And it wasn't just because the Church said so.


  1. I will admit that I often use the BISS response in school. Teaching middle school I find I need to be firm and if I get pulled into discussions then I will be pulled off track and never get the lesson done. Such is public school teaching. But frankly I think that some children have never had any adult tell them NO. Sadly some children just don't have an adult who cares enough to tell them no.

  2. Schools are definitely a whole different ball game! And I agree, saying no can be a sign of great love.