Strict Parents: How Strict Is Too Strict and Is It Ever a Good Thing?
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“What? They go to bed at 7? Holy %#&$, y’all are strict parents!” ? One thing is for sure… the vast majority of parenting criticism I have received has come from the lips of my own family members. Long live the black sheep.
What Strict Parents Description Fits You?
Conventionally defined strict parents are considered harsh and oppressive. They establish and severely enforce rules that may or not be reasonable.
A more accurate description of some strict parents is those who painstakingly consider how to raise their children with best parenting practices, including carefully considered rules and regulations, then fervently adhere to them with consistency and follow-through.
For the sake of clarity, this is the technical definition of the word strict: demanding that rules concerning behavior are obeyed and observed.
This definition compels me to ask, “Am I a bad parent if I require that my rule concerning not getting into the kitchen knives be obeyed and observed.”
Is Strict Parenting Biblical?
Three parenting principles are made crystal clear in scripture.
First, we should expect nothing out of our children that we don’t first put in. Training is necessary and commanded.
Second, healthy discipline is done out of love.
Third, without relationship, the first two are done in vain.
Jesus’ brought a message of grace, and he never condoned sin. When the woman caught in adultery was confronted by her accusers in the presence of Christ, he told her two things.
1. Neither do I condemn you.
2. Go and sin no more.
Strictly adhering to set rules and discipline is part of a healthy authoritative parenting approach. So is providing immeasurable forgiveness and grace.
Are Strict Parents Ever a Good Thing
Follow-through and consistency are vital for healthy parenting and non-negotiable elements of best parenting practices. I consider myself a pretty rigid person. But my kids would tell you differently.
Recently we were out and about when someone commented, “Ooo, you have two daughters! Is one mean and one sweet?”
To which I replied, “Nope! Both are sweet as honey, and I’m immensely fortunate to be their mommy.”
I won’t respond to questions like that with anything less than emphatic assurance and affirmation for my children. I am rigid about the way I respond to other people and refuse to cater or succumb to people’s attempts to drag parenting, motherhood, or my children through the mud.
Maintaining a strict stance on the rules, standards, and decisions you’ve made for your children is a good thing, provided those rules, standards, and decisions were the result of prayer, thoughtful consideration, and biblically led, then delivered with godly grace.
4 Signs You May be Too Strict
1. You have a lot of rules.
A child’s cognition can keep track of only a handful of things. Their minds and bodies are busy developing the ability to maintain a lot of information. They don’t yet possess the skill.
If you have a lot of rules, you can likely condense them into one rule that focuses more on the heart or attitude than individual acts.
2. You find yourself saying no a lot.
If you encourage your children to know how to get a yes and then teach them how to set themselves up for success, you’ll find no is used less often.
Though necessary at times, No, is often overused without just cause by overly strict parents.
3. Your child’s life is disproportionate.
It’s acceptable and necessary to guide your child’s friendship choices. However, if you are going to require your child to maintain healthy, equally-yoked friendships, you must take responsibility for helping them seek out those people.
Pursue families with similar values.
Provide space in the schedule for nurturing life-giving friendships.
4. You have no joy.
Training your child with consistency and follow-through yields behaviors that allow a child to play, operate, and grow with security, confidence, and boldness.
Which creates great joy for a parent.
If you don’t experience joy at your child’s accomplishments, you may always be looking for the next thing. “That’s great, but what else you got” kind of thinking.
3 Signs You May Not Be Strict Enough
1. You find yourself angry, frustrated and yelling.
Parents not strictly enforcing healthy rules and standards with consistency and follow-through are most likely to get stuck in patterns of poor parenting.
2. Your child is growing disconnected from the family.
Excessive screen time, time away from home, extracurricular activities, sports, and so on will drive a wedge between a child and her parents and siblings. Likewise, a shortage of family-focused time cultivates a familial void.
3. You are embarrassed by your child’s behavior.
Dread of taking your child in public, on playdates, or to church for fear of their behavior is unhealthy. You and your child are both missing out on precious moments in life that you can’t get back.
4. You sense entitlement in your child.
Entitlement is the notion that “I am therefore I should have.” Unfortunately, it’s rampant in today’s society, among children and adults alike.
3 Ways Overly Strict Parenting Can Backfire
1. Children raised by overly strict parents will often resort to lying to get a yes.
2. Heavy-handed, harsh-talking, cold parents often raise heavy-handed, harsh-talking, cold children. (Aka bullies)
3. The reasons for the rules you set to protect your children are not adequately understand and therefore seen as control instead of instruction and protection.
Control rules beg to be broken. Protection rules beg gratitude.
The result could be the polar opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.
Benefits of Strict Parents (the healthy kind)
Strict parents can provide their children with a predictable environment, though not always.
Growing up, I had a friend that lived a short walk up the road. We spent a lot of time together, playing outside late into the long summer nights.
I remember her dad being very strict.
We’d fret and toil over asking permission for a sleepover. Finally, getting up enough nerve to ask, she’d timidly whisper the words, “Papa, can I spend the night with Shelley?” (Their cultural commonality was to use the term Papa instead of Dad.)
Then we’d wait.
And we never quite knew what we were going to get.
Sometimes he’d get mad and lecture her on the audacity of asking.
But, every once in a blue moon… he’d smile and say yes. Those precious few times were worth the trepidation of each encounter.
Looking back, I believe her dad was overly strict and never predictable.
Our home, on the other hand, pushes the opposite side of the strict parents scale.
Our children know the answer to sleepovers will always be no.
They know the answer to books, fishing, and snuggles will always be some sort of yes.
They know what the standards, expectations, and boundaries are.
And when our strict parental standards form a predictable and stable environment where the kids know what they’re going to get from mom and dad day after day, the benefit is great.
Finally, healthy, strict parenting imparts essential values.
When we don’t sacrifice loving connection while strictly require behavioral obedience in public and talk to our kids about why we do that for their safety from predators, joy, and reward opportunities, they internalize the reality that we deeply value them and that our values are to steward our children well.