I remember conversation that I had with my friend when Smarty was about 2 years old. He said, Your daughter is a well-behaving child, but you are very strict with her. She just blinks wrong, and she is already in timeout. Ever since, we had the same reaction – people were complimenting good behavior of our daughter, but their eyebrows went up when they heard me and especially my husband using The Voice (readers of Dune Chronicles will know what I mean) when correcting our daughter’s behavior in public. I was also called a “Tiger Mom” by acquaintances when I shared my approach to teaching my child to read early.
Why Do Parents Hesitate Being Strict?
It seems that in US being strict is equated with authoritarian parenting – with the father who hits, with the mother who yells and puts down her kids. It is associated with “do as I say” approach in parent-child relationship. Modern parents are expected to be “different” – to be sensitive, to attend to the needs of their children, to “prevent” bad behaviors through ingenious hacks. We are expected to be “friends” with our children instead of what we are meant to be – people who raise them, who move them from total dependency on us to total responsibility for their own actions.
I am not saying that being a sensitive parent is bad. In fact, I consider myself and my husband to be sensitive parents fairly attuned to the needs of our daughter. But I’ve seen so many examples of outrageously bad behavior of children in real life with parents doing nothing to correct behavior of preschool age children who take things without permission, ignore other adults, or are clearly mean to other children. Then these children go to school where the behavior expectations are higher, and they start failing from day one, because they are not used to boundaries being set at home. In “best case scenario”, some kids react to this change of expectations by behaving well in school and rising to expectations, but becoming even more impossible at home where they are allowed to “be themselves”.
I Am a Strict Parent, and I Am Not Sorry
Yes, my husband and I are strict with our daughter. We have high expectation of her behavior, and we have rules of the house that we expect her to follow. There are consequences for breaking the rules. Of course, we read that natural consequences are best, but more often than not, we cannot use “natural consequences” for, say, not cleaning her room which is her normal chore, and we use “agreed upon” consequences – timeouts or privilege withdrawals. In our house, we don’t hit, but we do raise our voice occasionally. The key here is that we do all this not randomly, not because we are having a bad day or our daughter has a bad day. My husband and I talked about our approaches to discipline even before our daughter was born, and we keep talking and adjusting our behavior as she grows older and changes.
You see, to us discipline is a form of love. Setting the limits for our child shows her that we care about her. Changing the limits and rules as she grows shows her that we are more confident in her ability to think for herself, that we give her more freedom and expect her to take more responsibility. I read somewhere that strict parents create sneaky children. I think that this is a major misconception. Inconsistent and unfair parents create sneaky children. Our 8 year old is incredibly honest and tells us when she was not following the rules even when we were not present during her transgression. This tells me that she considers our rules fair and she values our trust more than any transient reward she could get from “sneaking”.