During my childhood and teenage years, there were quite a few observations I made when comparing myself to my peers:
(1) They often lived in neighborhoods with stately names and entry signs,
(2) they didn’t seem to know what their parents did for a living, and
(3) they had strict parents.
While the first two of these items may have made me feel disadvantaged, I look back now and see how the third (and probably all of them) made me better off.
It’s common among our parents’ generation to think that if you’re strict, your kids will be less likely to rebel. But from the point-of-view of the child, I think being strict achieves the exact opposite.
For every seemingly strict rule that my peers had to adhere to—such as not being able to stay at home alone, or having a 9 p.m. weekend curfew as a teen—I watched as they did more to disobey their parents.
Now, my parents had rules.
They expected that their children be respectful, for my siblings and I to do our best in school, and for us to be all-around good kids. When we weren’t (naturally) all-around good kids, we were disciplined, grounded, lectured, and whatnot—things for which I am now grateful.
But there were many situations where my parents weren’t strict that made me act like more of an adult. I felt as if they trusted me, and I was more concerned with not letting them down or causing them to revoke that trust than to be rebellious.
My parents didn’t check my grades. I don’t even think they had a login to view them. Granted, my grades were always pretty good, but, they knew that if I were ever concerned about a poor grade, I would come to them and ask for help.
They also didn’t track my phone, try to locate where I was with it, or see who I was texting.
Many of my peers’ parents had access to their children’s messages or monitored their browser history. Of all the times I got in trouble as a kid, I think my phone was only taken away twice, and that’s because my parents knew I would be just fine and capable of contacting people without it.
So, the wildest thing I did on the internet when my parents weren’t watching? Downloaded a shit ton of songs on LimeWire.
I never had a bedtime.
It was going to be my fault if I was tired the next day when I had to get up for school. So I learned to go to sleep and wake up at decent times. I drove to school and sports practices by myself as soon as I earned my license. (They were thrilled when they no longer needed to drive my siblings and me around.)
When it came to drinking, a sip here and there when my parents were around was okay with them—and legal in Ohio. Let me clarify; my parents were not ones who allowed a bunch of underage kids to party, drink, and sleepover in their basement. But they educated me about alcohol and its effects so that I could make smart decisions when met with it.
In college, there was a time where I didn’t. I expected for them to yell at me, but they instead gave me reasoning, support, and forgiveness.
I never made that mistake again.
Before you assume that my parents were irresponsible or lazy, know that they are often commended for their parenting and for having raised four hard-working, respectable kids. And they broke their backs to give my siblings everything we had.
I think they understood the concept of letting their children live, grow and make mistakes. And that made us more inclined to do whatever we could to not disappoint them.
Or, perhaps my parents knew that we could probably never pull off anything worse than they did as kids.