Strict Parents Raise Better Kids- What They Do Differently Than Other Parents
I am a sucker for reality TV shows and I will watch any of them at least once. If there was a job for reality critic, I'd be the woman. I am the biggest critic of these shows because I was a Psychology major and can spot flaws in any tactic, process, or social experiment. Having done research in psychology, it amazes me how strict the ethical standards are within the field of psychology compared to run-of-the-mill reality shows (basically unethical social experiments). Nevertheless, these shows are popular in our culture and can give insight into the humans and social psychology.
One reality show caught my eye years ago, "World's Strictest Parents", which aired on Country Music TV (CMTV). I watched several episodes- basically they take two random, troubled teens out of their own home and put them in the homes of "strict" parents to live there for a week. At the end of the week, the teens seem to be completely different and go back to their own parents changed, more appreciative, and losing many of their bad habits (smoking, aggression, laziness, etc).
A Minor Note
I've recently added to this hub a note especially for the minors that comment here. Reality is, being monitored by your parents including random cell phone checks, room checks, etc. is not an "invasion of privacy". You are still a minor and your business is your parents' business. They are legally liable for you and your actions and if they are responsible then it is their duty.
The common complaint from minors is this does not seem "fair" or "reality". Adults are monitored at work, including calls, emails, etc. This is reality. Your parents should be preparing you for this. The government also monitors the public in many cases and on many types of devices. It's not "cruel" or unnecessary.
A Strict Disclaimer
"Strict" parents are not louder or yell more than the average parent, they are not authoritarian or abusive, or strict military styles parenting. While some may easily confuse the label "strict", I have a strict definition that I use to describe it below:
Characteristics of a Strict Parent
1. Family First- Behind every troubled teen is a broken family. It's true some kids become extra responsible within a broken or abusive family, but far more become troubled themselves. Many are single parents, but just as many are families that may be together, but distant in every other way. Yes, families can be together...but not. Teens raised by strict parents do not go out with their friends during dinner time or during family activities. Having dinner together is expected, family game night/family time, worship time for the religious, household chores (benefiting other activities that include all family members is a must, and an expectation. Kids need a sense of belonging and to feel important so would you rather them get that from their friends/peers or from their parents/family?
Family first starts at an early age and can even be established in a broken home. It's a non-negotiable expectation...and a routine. You must realize our kids get a free ride from parents and expecting them to put family priorities before social engagements is not unrealistic. Single parents can still set up together time and rituals to spend quality time sans guilt and often need even more help around the house.
2. No Abuse or Yelling- Strict parents rarely yell or lose their temper, they don't have to. All parents yell, but some do it far more often and it does more damage than is necessary. As a parent you may notice the more you yell, the more you have to. If you don't want your child to yell or hit you (or others), you can't do it to them. Yelling is demanding rather than commanding respect and usually is at a time when the parent is impatient. Teaching things (including manners, cleaning up) takes time. Strict parents show respect for their children, modeling desired behaviors. They talk to them and expect the same treatment in return.
Teens tend to shut out adults yelling at them, but one way strict parents get through is partaking in an activity with them that the teen specifically enjoys (playing baseball or horseback riding for example). Showing interest in the teen gets their attention better than a yelling match. When you have them in their element, they tend to open up. After the activity, the child is more open to hear what you have to say if you need to talk to them about something in particular.
Even better- tie in their favorite activity to a point you are trying to get across to them or set up a meeting with someone they admire or has a job that they want someday and have that person explain to them what it takes to make their dream come true. For example, In the reality show, a strict mom used a horseback riding analogy to tell the teen that horses don't always do as their told, aren't easy to control, and it would be easier to just quit and get off the horse; same as how her mom was probably feeling toward her sometimes.
3. It's ALL Your Business- Most teens nowadays have a life away from home and just as much privacy and seclusion at home too. Knowing their business is not necessarily being in their business. You should know what they're doing, but doesn't mean you must control what their every move is. These are fine lines, but a distinct separation. Snooping or random room and cell phone checks is a parent's right. Privacy is like currency- to be earned.
My mom was a single parent who worked two jobs and there were no cell phones at the time, but she always knew my business- she randomly called home and I better be there to pick up the phone or she would come home from work immediately...and she would. I never smoked, took drugs and waited until after my teen years to have sex- all the same expectations I have for my children so you better believe I will know their business. Too many parents wait too long and are afraid to know about their kids' business by that time. Teens are young adults, BUT their brain is still not mature enough to make clear decisions about eveything...so yes, they do need as much guidance as they do freedom.
4. Raising a Capable Adult- My husband's first daughter lived with us full-time when she was 8- she didn't know many of the basics for taking care of herself. This is an example of enabling your child, creating unnecessary challenges. Too much freedom can make a child helpless or hyper responsible. Neither are healthy.
Teens on the reality show were between 16 and 18 and didn't know how to do dishes, shovel dirt, or make themselves a meal! Not only does this create a lazy child or teen, but it contributes to low self-esteem and eventually an adult who can't appreciate accomplishing a task or don't even try. Low self-esteem is a snowball effect and leads to promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse. Not only should your teen be able to accomplish the small tasks, but they should also know how to weather the rough times and be resourceful as well.
5. House Rules- Every strict family on the TV show had "house rules" and there was no negotiating them. House rules start when your baby is born because they are standards the parents live by too. A short, distinct list of rules gives a child boundaries, such as No yelling, No smoking, No certain kind of clothing, No hitting, No swearing, No Lying,etc. You can always make rules specific for your family. If you break them, you own up to it. Set the example.
6. Love- Strict parents are not void of love. In fact they are heavy on showing their appreciation and feelings and giving random hugs and pats on the back. On the TV show the strict parents gave the troubled teens regular hugs, and the teens often stated they hadn't hugged their own parents in a long time. I once read that kids realize how many negative words are being spoken to them versus positive- it adds up after a day or throughout the years. They need to hear more positive. Do's instead of don'ts, for instance.
Does it seem sometimes that we hear double for doing something wrong and hear nothing when we do something right? Parents forget to show love and compliments for their children doing something right. We get in an argument, nag, yelling momentum and never get out of the habit. In several studies it shows the most unhappy parents give the least compliments and positive feedback to their children while happier parents tend to have happier children. Also, what we know in the field of psychology is that labels (and even kids can come up with their own labels from their environment) have a profound effect on how they view themselves and act. If they're made to feel bad, they will do bad.
7. Charity Work- Doing something for nothing teaches kids to appreciate what they have and create their own feelings of an intangible reward. It teaches them there are other people in the world besides themselves. By nature, teens are self-centered and as parents if we don't curb that trait they become selfish adults.
8. Keeping Busy- This doesn't mean racing from the track meet to dance class and pottery class to a point of exhaustion.Doing chores and things that will benefit the family, especially lighten mom's load help keep a child busy. Responsibilities for pets, yard work, cleaning the house, etc. These duties help the family as a unit and are not self driven or self-rewarded like taking many classes that only benefit the child. A balance of the two is optimal- something the child wants to do and something for the family.
9. Consequences- may be the most important factor. For every action, there is a consequence. Bad actions deserve bad consequences like cleaning out the garbage can or poop patrol in the yard. Good actions deserve good consequences like picking the movie, ice cream, going swimming.
The biggest mistake parents make is threatening a consequence and not following through or not matching the punishment to the crime. Grounding a kid for 2 weeks is worthless- it's way too long for even my attention span at age 35. Also grounding is too general a term- what exactly does it mean? Simple psychology states punishment is not as effective as reward, but if you use punishment then make it immediate and/or creative so it will be more memorable.
Being creative can pay off. The other night my daughter wouldn't pick up her blocks so I said she could go to sleep with them then. I put her blocks in her bed and it was no longer than a minute before she realized they weren't very comfortable in her bed so she quickly put them away.
10. Keep Talking- Not nagging, but talking. Explain to your children WHY they should behave a certain way and why there are rules. Don't waste your breath on telling them "How many times do I have to tell you..." or " you never...". Instead tell them if they act a certain way in the real world, they could be fired, evicted, or divorced. Don't nag them to include your issues and vent on them, but give them useful advice and pertain it to their life. Use analogies and stories that pertain to them. Lessons in story form are remembered easier. You never know when something you've said will impact them greatly.
Strict versus cool
Sometimes parents think being strict means their child won't like them. You have to forget this notion. Your child may be in junior high but you are not so don't play by those rules. When you begin to implement rules and standards that haven't been in place, they will clearly act like they don't like you.
Sometimes, in single parents families, the one parent vents and takes their day out on their child. A good routine is a cooling down time. Maybe the parent can find a nice park to park their car at and sip on some ice tea or water or listen to calming music on the drive home from work.
Whatever, the scenario, you must remember you are preparing them for the real world. this doesn't mean yelling at them cause the real world, in your experience is tough. It means giving them coping skills and yelling is not a coping skill- you'd get fired on the job for that. Always keep the end goal (raising health happy productive adults) in mind.
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