Ep 276: “Because I Said So” Doesn’t Work for Teens

MichaelDevelopment3 Comments

Parenting Styles Explained


How many times when a parent is arguing with a teen has the parent either said – or wish they could say – “Do it because I said so!”. As a parent myself, I’ve had more than a few of those times. But it just doesn’t work – especially with teenagers. In this episode I explore the classic three parenting styles first described by Diana Baumrind in 1971. Then I share my reasons why “Because I Said So” won’t work especially in the teen years when teens typically have a low self esteem and a strong desire to believe they are right in the way they interpret the world.


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3 Comments on “Ep 276: “Because I Said So” Doesn’t Work for Teens”

  1. Thanks for responding Michael. Certainly the emotional reactions (on both sides of the issue) don’t make a lay-person’s research into the topic very easy. I found great value in the Scientific American article’s explanation of the difficulties researchers face in addressing the question. But I have trouble reconciling Ferguson’s statement that he cannot conclude that spanking is categorically bad and Gershoff advising that just not spanking is safest.

    To turn your last sentence around, is there anything that directly supports the statement that “parents should never spank their kids?” As far as I can tell, the best argument is that lots of studies support the idea that physical punishment is at negatively correlated (or perhaps even causative) with bad outcomes. We can extrapolate that less punishment than that observed in the studies is also bad, but that extrapolation presumes the conclusion that those bad outcomes continue at low levels.

    Let me give you an example of that extrapolation not being correct: radon. The common thinking is because we know that Radon causes lung cancer we should avoid exposure. Logical enough. But it turns out that low levels of Radon exposure might reduce risk of developing lung cancer by as much as 60 %. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080325122807.htm

    I’m not saying that the same effect is necessarily the case for physical punishment. I’m wondering if we know one way or the other.

    I’m not an advocate of spanking, and the benefits of a simple message (spanking = bad) probably outweigh the costs of advocating a nuanced position (lots of spanking is bad but we don’t know the effects at low levels, which might be good, bad, or indifferent). But does the science support the broad application of that message?

  2. It’s definitely difficult to do research on the issue of spanking, but there is still lots of it because so many people have strong feelings about this topic. You raise some good questions (that a “spank” is difficult to even define and that it’s hard to to study the effects of spanking over time). I think this article from Scientific American is the best summary I’ve seen so far on the topic. While the researchers admit to these limitations, there is little – if anything – to support the practice. What Science Says—and Doesn’t—about Spanking

  3. Regarding spanking, what evidence do we have on the effects of very low spanking amounts (however defined) on outcomes? I cannot imagine how one would study, say, the effect of one light spanking per year from ages 3 to 6 on long term development. How do we know this isn’t one of those things where lots is bad, but a little is ok (or even beneficial)?

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