Making your 5-year-old put away her shoes is fine. Making her keep them lined up in the closet at all times? You might be too strict. You want to be firm with your child, but you don’t want to be unreasonable either, which is what strict parents often are. When taken to the extreme, being too strict can lead to negative long-term effects for your child, including the encouragement of certain harmful behaviors like smoking. Placing unrealistic demands on your child sets your child up for failure and frustrates you, so it’s best to find that sweet spot between a controlling and relaxed approach.
Here are 18 signs that indicate you may need to loosen up your parenting style:
- You Never Let Your 9-Year-Old Pick Out Her Own Clothes
“If a parent is treating a child younger than they are, younger than they act or out of sync with the child’s history of behavior and trustworthiness, then the parent is likely being too strict,” says Carrie Krawiec, a licensed family therapist.
- You Give Forever Punishments
“Children need to have a set limit on discipline for it to be effective,” says Dr. Stacy Haynes, a licensed clinical professional counselor and CEO of Little Hands Family Services.
- You Give Orders With No Feedback
You set the rules. No one may discuss the rules. No one may suggest a different rule or explain why that rule might not work. “Parents who do not allow dialogue and conversation are too strict,” adds Dr. Haynes.
- It’s Your Way or the Highway
You may set the rules, but that doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t have options. “Parents who do not allow choice in any decision are being too strict,” says Dr. Haynes.
- The Consequences Are Too Big
“Being grounded the whole summer for missing one curfew is probably too strict,” notes Krawiec.
- The Consequence Is Not Linked to the Behavior
If your child broke a window, a spanking is not necessarily effective. A better consequence would be to have him pay for the window with his allowance.
- There’s an Absence of Fun at Home
Strict parents typically discipline all the time, never praising or laughing with their child.
- You Never Let Your Child Go Anywhere With Other Children
Fear of missing out can drive anxiety in children. Blocking kids from activities with their peers can add to these worries and delay social development.
- You Don’t Set Realistic Expectations
Setting limits is fine, but they should be in line with the age and behavior of your child.
- Your Child Always Wants to Play at a Friend’s House — Not at Home
With all the rules and maybe even criticism at your house, no one has any fun.
- Your Child Is Afraid to Show Her School Report Card
If you punish your child for a lower grade that what you’d like to see, your child might hide the grade from you. It’s better to be supportive to work through the problem and find a solution.
- Your Child Threatens to Run Away
Children who feel they are constantly criticized might fantasize about living elsewhere. When children do run away, they often do so as a way to resist parental authority.
- You Never Engage in Healthy Self-Disclosure With Your Child
“Parents often feel like they cannot share a part of their past for fear their children will ‘use it against them,'” says Krawiec.
- You Make Your Child Play the Same Sport You Did
It’s good to encourage your child to be active, but he needs to like the sport or hobby to want to continue with it.
- You’re a Constant Nag
You want to strive for a good relationship with your child, not one in which you constantly nag or remind. If that’s all you do, you might be setting too many rules or be too involved in her daily life.
- Your Child Withdraws From You
Strict parents may set up an environment where kids don’t feel comfortable coming to them about problems they might be having.
- Your Child Has No Downtime
If you schedule every minute of your child’s day with chores and activities, you are probably too strict. Children need some time to themselves to pursue their own passions.
- You’re Cold to Your Child
It’s important to be loving with your child. Strictness often leads to toughness. Discipline works better when you’re warm with your child. “If you create a culture of acceptance and respect, your children will feel closer to you,” Krawiec says.