Parenting: What's too strict?

According to my children, my husband and I have the reputation of being the strictest parents in the Chicagoland area, but I'm thinking there are a few more of us out there.  I do have to admit we say no more than yes, and investigate activities/outings much more intensely than the average, but I'm of the opinion that I'd rather err on the side of caution, but is it too much?

I worry all the time and have an active imagination, so it's easy to think about all that could go wrong, instead of what is just a normal step in growing up.  It's not just worrying about their safety, but it's also worrying about raising grounded, easy-going kids.
I live in a fairly opulent area where the toys and freedoms are something I've never seen before.  It's very difficult to tell my seventh grader she can't have a new Target bought backpack this year because the old one works just fine as she sees kids coming to school with custom designed bags that can fit their i-pads.
I struggle even more with the freedom part of parenting.  How do you know when to let go, and when to rein them in?  I've seen kids with a lot of freedom do some ridiculously bad things, yet I've seen some kids with strict lifestyles sneak away and do equally questionable acts.  I feel like every time my 14 year old asks me to do something and I say no, our responses are always the same, "Why... don't you trust me?"......  "Umm, no."
That same child just started her Freshman year in high school and what should be an exciting time for her has turned into a bundle of stress for me.  Raising a toddler is physically hard.  Raising a teenager is mentally hard.  Her first Homecoming dance is right around the corner.  I just got a call from her date's mom going over the details - that was weird.  I still see her as the pony-tailed girl hopping on the bus that we followed to school that first day of Kindergarten.  I didn't want to let her go then, and I desperately don't want to let her go now.  Parenting is hard.
My husband still says she can't go unless the boy comes to our house to ask his permission.  I'm thinking that's a little extreme.  He's allowing her to go to an after party when the dance concludes with one exception.  He needs to go too.  When he let her know that's one of the conditions, she rolled her eyes and said, "Oh kill me now".  But she did have a slight grin on her face when she walked out of the room.  So in a way that she would never admit, I think she kind of likes it.
Here are just a few of the things we have said no to that other parents have allowed. You be the judge - harsh, or justified?


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  • I guess I'm pretty strict, too. Follow all but the group movie thing. My oldest (14) has gone to the movies in groups (well twice, once with girls included). The kid hasn't even really liked anyone before this year, let alone ever had a girlfriend. Turns out it gave him a chance to ask a girl to the homecoming dance. Hopefully that's the worst that will come out of it. I do threaten to send his little sisters to sit behind them all though. My famous line around here is: Don't make me sorry I'm letting you do this. It is SOOOO hard to let them grow up, and to trust them.

    And for the record, I don't think parents who spoil their kids are doing them any favors. If I were Bill Gates I wouldn't give my kids most all of what you have listed above. Cars at 16? You gotta be kidding me. Co-ed sleepovers. No way in hell. Drinking? Not a chance. I think it actually hurts them...makes them bratty and entitled.

    My kid's been busting his buns working to pay for those homecoming tickets and dinner. Much rather raise them realistically. :)

    I love when you write these posts on parenting.

  • In reply to jtithof:

    I'm not sure if it's the same where you live, but it's almost expected that kids will be getting a car at 16 here. It's nothing I could imagine. However, I would like the side benefit of not having to get up and drive her to swim practice every morning at 5:30...

    The co-ed sleepover is the thing that shocked me the most. Has it really been that long since I was in high school? That was never even on the table.

    Give us strength...

  • Kirby:

    You are NOT too are a parent who loves her children and wants the best for them. My parents had equivalent rules for me and my siblings, and I didn't like them all...but they did something very important for me. Those rules gave me a picture of the adult world and what it was going to be like when I grew up. Those rules taught me that some things may be fun now, but it is very easy for things to get out of hand. I have seen how lax attitudes in parents lead to all kinds of trouble (I myself saw firsthand how those kids whose parents 'let them run wild' have almost all grown up to be lazy or drug-addled, or antisocial, and cannot understand why the world is no providing for them. Those rules teach children discipline and acquaint them with the reality that the world takes work. If you want to have that kind of freedom in the real world, you have to work for it. You can stay up all night and do whatever you want...when you have moved out and are supporting yourself. Those rules tell your kids that you really care about them...that you want them to be solid, upstanding, responsible, happy adults. Please don't ever feel bad...I am so happy that my parents did the same.

  • In reply to TomC11:

    There are two things that are particularly difficult with sticking to your guns... 1. when other parents that you completely respect allow for behaviors that you would never (it makes you question your judgement) and 2. It takes WAY too long for your kids to appreciate the difficult decision you make and the angst you go through along the way!

    I hope you tell your parents how much you appreciated the difficult decisions they made! Thanks for the valuable feedback.

  • I have an adopted 2,4 & 7 yr old, and we're having to be ultra-strict to eradicate the problem behaviors that have evolved over the course of multiple foster homes with multiple parenting styles. My 4 y/o clearly had no boundaries or consequences, and my 7 y/o wants to be the boss. I worry about being too strict. The thing is, my 4 y/o constantly tests the rules and consistency of time outs and consequences, and is half the time relieved to see that we mean business. My 7 y/o gets sulky when we issue consequences for parenting without a license, but he's becoming a little boy, and acting more like a big brother and less like an overwhelmed caregiver.

    It's a cliche to say that children realize that rules mean we love them, but I discussed this with my son, and he even admitted it: that deep down, strict rules made them feel safer. I often wonder: how scarey is the world really to kids and teenagers who become confronted with situations for which they have no skills? And how often do they go along out of fear, or a lack of coping skills, than for the sake of "having fun."

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