Ever since I went to college, I made sure that I was doing everything that I could be proud of. I was not afraid of making mistakes, but I always ensured to learn from them, not to repeat them. I believe that that’s one of the major reasons why I became a successful counselor almost as soon as I got my license.
The thing was, I was nothing like that when I was a child. In truth, I used to be a hard-headed little girl who felt upset towards my parents for being stricter than everybody else’s parents. For instance, while the other kids were allowed to do sleepovers or play dates at the park independently, I could do neither of them. Some parents let their children sleep anytime they wanted on the weekend, but my mom and dad stuck to a strict rule of a 9 o’clock bedtime even on Saturdays and Sundays.
Whenever I asked my parents why they always acted like that, they said that it was for my own good. But it did not feel like it. My mom and dad were merely restricting me from doing fun things in my rebellious mind because they could. After all, they were the bosses in the house, and I was nothing but a freeloader. I assumed the worst of my parents in the past, and I still felt shame whenever I remembered the things I said about them, even if they were only in my head.
Fast Forward To Present
Now, with a child psychologist for a husband, I knew that strict parenting did not die in the 80s. If I was honest, people managed to develop other names for it, such as helicopter parenting or tiger parenting. Of course, more children acted like I did and resented their parents so much that they needed mental help.
Since my husband and I technically worked in tandem, he would send his young clients to me for counseling treatment. During the consultation process, it was common for the parents to want to be in the same room because they wanted to know what’s up with their kids. However, I knew from experience that letting them do that nearly ensured that the children would remain mum. As much as they hated their parents’ rules, they also wanted to avoid confronting them. Hence, to make both parties happy, I would do a one-on-one session with the child and then meet the parents afterward to let them know about my observations.
Counseling A Child From A Strict Household
Once the parents were out of earshot, the children found it a little more natural to talk about them. They would start with complaints about how their parents embarrass them for thinking that they needed a chaperone. Then, with a bit of nudging, they would begin to air out all their issues towards their moms and dads.
However, I often felt the need to clarify to those children that we were not there to spend one or two hours’ worth of sessions talking about how awful their parents were. I would deviate the topic to, “Why do you think your parents do all those things?”
The kids would cross their arms and reply, “I don’t know; you should ask them.” Eventually, they would start coming up with possible ideas why their parents are so strict. For example, “Well, we live in a scary neighborhood.” “They don’t want me to be friends with bad influences.” “They know I get cranky when I don’t get enough sleep.”
Then, I’d say, “If you think about it from your parents’ point of view, they cherished you since your birth to the extent that they would not let you out of their sight for at least a minute. And it’s also possible that they want to trust you but not the people you want to be with, which is common among all parents. So the moment they stop caring about what you do or who you are with, that’s when you need to worry because it most likely means that they no longer care for you.”
It takes a few sessions before the children could understand that their parents’ strictness was not a result of ego-tripping. Some moms and dads were merely more protective of their kids than others, which should be okay when they had a reason to do so. I also tell the children, “We need to listen to our parents because they have a lot of experience compared to us. Not everything may be fun, but they only think of the best thing for you in the long run.”
When the sessions end, I will get calls from the parents a few months later, thanking me because of how much their familial relationship improved. However, I would always counter that they should thank their children instead of opening their minds and understanding adults.