Why? Because I said so (!?)

A familiar scene that plays out almost daily in many families:

Child (7 years old): “Why can’t I, daddy?”

Father: “Because I said so!”

Child: “That’s not an answer!”

The first signs of early adolescence? Perhaps. Maybe children are getting mouthier these days? Could be. A lack of respect for parental authority? Certainly a point of discussion. But there is no two ways about it, the little devil is actually right. “Because I said so” is not a good answer to the question of “why.” “Why?” you ask.

When we explain why we do or don't do something in a particular way we are actually contributing to better results. Studies show that when people are given an explanation for why something is done in a certain way, they are better able to remember how it should be done.


It has been proven that surgeons perform better when they given explanations about why certain techniques are used during their training. In fact, their performance level increased even more if the “why not” was also explained for particular alternative techniques. So if trainee doctors are able to see what can happen if an incorrect or inferior technique is used, this helps them remember better and apply the correct technique.

Anyone who has ever seen a demonstration by local firefighters knows very well how to extinguish a fire in a deep fryer. No, not with water!! Why? Well, as demonstrated during the presentation, if you throw a bucket of water on the burning oil, you create an inferno that leaps several feet into the air. I still vividly remember the heat on my face created by this huge column of fire. And the image of that fire is also still burned into my retinas. They then demonstrated the correct way to extinguish the fire: by laying a damp kitchen towel over the top of the deep fryer. I will now never forget how it should and should not be done.

So why is it always best to explain the reason for using a particular measure or method?

No, not because I said so! Because it helps people learn better.


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