Being strict is easy when it applies to other people’s kids.
We hear a kid whining in the toy aisle and the mom caves, handing him the toy. You listen to the neighbors complain about their daughter’s defiance of their rules. The nightly news shows the faces of teens who committed a crime and now have a record. “Well, their parents should have been more strict! Strict parents wouldn’t have allowed that. You have to teach and control your children!”
Instinctively, we all know that being a strict parent should result in a child who is successful and well-adjusted. In practice, though, it is much more difficult. Being a strict or “mean” parent is not only difficult, but it often goes against our natural instincts to love, protect, and soothe our child. Good parents want their children to be happy, but to be a great parent one has to recognize that sometimes long-term happiness means short -erm unhappiness.
The Danger in Being “Cool”
As a father, I can tell you there are few things greater than the look your child gives you when you do something “cool” or come to their aid.
As your children grow older they see you less as Superman and more as their warden, so those moments are few and far between. It’s easy to grow addicted to these opportunities, and to pursue them. Some parents try to learn hip lingo and plug into cool, new music. Some parents give their children everything they want, including total freedom. Some parents sweep in to save their children time after time, disregarding rules and consequences.
There are some obvious issues with being a “cool” parent. A child with no rules or boundaries fails to learn to respect authority in school, jobs, and society in general. Children who get everything they want never learn patience or frugality. A child who has never failed or faced real consequences is robbed of the ability to handle strong emotions and the resilience that comes from failure.
There are even some indications that parents who harmlessly try to be “cool” and “hip” with their kids may be losing respect and teaching their children that it’s important to know and care what other people are doing – that fitting in is important. Being cool isn’t actually helping.
No, it’s better to be real…
Three Key Ways to Be a Strict Parent
There are actually way more long-term and even immediate benefits to being a strict parent, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be difficult to know WHEN and WHERE to be strict.
Another challenge parents face is that they’ve been too lenient in the past, so a sudden shift to stricter measures is scary for everyone involved.
There are three main areas where strict parenting is not only vital, but also fairly straightforward. Start here:
- Chores – Starting your strict parenting with chores is a perfect first step. Not only are these black-and-white scenarios, they also make YOUR life easier.
Chores teach your kidsadult skills as well as responsibility. Start by laying down the law in your own home. Give your teens a list of chores that are their responsibility. Be sure that it isn’t just THEIR space that they will be responsible for.
Then you must be strict! Hold them accountable by having them complete their chores before they enjoy freedom or other privileges. Expect some push back at first, but stay calm. This is when you do get to be a cool parent and let them know their attitude and loss of privileges is THEIR problem, not yours.
- Technology – Tech addiction is real, and teens benefit from parents who are strict about their technology use. You don’t need to monitor their every move, or keep them away from every single screen. But you DO need to hold the reins. Decide what is acceptable and unacceptable use of these tools in your home, be clear with your kids, then stand your ground.
- Consequences – The most advanced level of being a properly strict parent is dealing with consequences.
It is critical that as a strict parent you allow your children to experience the consequences of their choices. If your son comes home late, if your daughter is late for school, if they use inappropriate language — they should experience manageable and relatable consequences for their choices.
They don’t have to be drastic and devastating. They can be as simple as replacing their own cellphone if they break the one they have. However, it’s very important that you avoid sweeping in to save them (unless the consequence threatens their safety).
If she forgets her lunch AGAIN, she’ll have to eat when she gets home. If he’s late to school because he overslept, don’t call and excuse it. Children will learn to be respectful and responsible, but only if you allow them to learn. It’s especially effective if you usebehavior modification to combine negative reinforcement consequences (taking something away as punishment) with positive reinforcement consequences (rewarding them for doing something right).
It’s not fun. It’s not popular. And it’s definitely not cool. But it is absolutely vital that we have more strict parents… and fewer “cool” ones.