Family

Why Strict Parents Create Sneaky Kids

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unhappy children

If you grew up in a household with authoritarian parents, you probably already know the effects. But let me just say this: It's not great. 

If you're like me, your parents wouldn't let you dye your hair. They wouldn't let you use lipstick or anything other than mascara. Body glitter was out of the question, and that was kind of a big deal for 90s kids.

Your skirts had to hit your fingertips or even your knees, and no way were you wearing those skater clothes from the mall. And yes, they checked before you left the house. Every day. No concerts. No dates until 16. No riding in cars with boys.

No parties, even parties where you swore the parents were home and watching you for signs of imminent dancing or make-out sessions. School dances were the most you got, and no one went to school dances. 

I think most people would agree that it's not the best parenting style, even though it's very popular among parents who really want to do a good job raising their kids.

We all know what it means to have strict parents, but the authoritarian parenting style definition is a little bit different.

So here is the definition of authoritarian parenting style and its effects on kids in real life.

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Authoritarian parents are the strictest of all, taking on a more 'traditional' approach in which children are expected to be seen and not heard.

Originally developed by Diana Baumrind, a clinical psychologist from the University of California, Berkeley, the definitions are intended to create a basis for studying the outcomes of different levels of strictness in parenting.

For instance, by defining what makes a parent an authoritarian (versus permissive and authoritative, which are the other two types Baumrind established) Baumrind and future researchers would be able to look at large groups of family outcomes and observe general patterns and outcomes related to parenting. 

One study conducted by Baumrind concluded that "Authoritative upbringing, although sufficient, is not a necessary condition to produce competent children."

More often, authoritarian parents are considered too strict. In fact, an article published by Michigan State University explains, "This is the 'because I told you so' parent who is likely to degrade a child and ignore the child’s point of view."

So ... yes ... not a great feeling for a kid. 

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Growing up with strict parents sucked.

Except strict parents had the opposite effect that they intended. They cracked down on so many things that you got sick of it. You didn't take it seriously. What were they going to do, ground you? How was that different from your average Friday night? You'd watch DIY and pass out.

So sooner or later, you, like every other child of strict parents, decided it didn't matter if you listened or not. So you were going to be sneaky.

Strictly raised kids start small with their rebellions. Here's what that looked like for me and fellow 1990s kids raised by authoritarians.

They listen to modern rock stations on the radio at night. They buy a few CDs with their birthday money, or even ask for them for Christmas — their parents don't know any better. Then they can talk about music with kids at school and not seem like such a dork.

Nothing says loser more than, "My parents won't let me listen to that."

Next, you read some Pixar movie reviews and go with your gaggle of girlfriends to see "Diehard 33 ⅓". When your parents pick you up — right around curfew because you timed it perfectly — you recite the plot of the Pixar movie word-for-word, plot-point for plot-point. Your girlfriend, the one who wears knee socks and glasses, echoes your every word. She's as desperate to get out as you are.

Because for as desperately as your parents have clutched at you, you've wriggled to get loose. As hard as they've held you away from the things they think will corrupt, you've seen those things and thought, cool.

They didn't make you into a mini-adult. They didn't change you from the average teenager. They just locked you up. So you became sneaky.

When my mom thought I'd gone to see my boyfriend, we had actually smoked a ton of pot and went to a rock concert with his friends, where we did whip-its in the parking lot.

When I told my parents I was going to my friend Colleen's to hang out or do homework, we actually drove around to the back end of the mall and smoked.

One time, I said we were walking to the fair, and on the way back we got into a friend's car and "hotboxed" it.

There was a definite pattern of lying and smoking various substances going on. I came home inebriated from nearly every social event I attended and no one ever noticed. They can sniff your breath for alcohol, but they can't tell when you've been inhaling things. 

Most girls do this with beer, but weed was easier to get.

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I lied in all the stereotypical ways girls from authoritarian homes lie.

I snuck makeup to school and put it on in the bathroom, then took it off before the last bell. Everyone knew about it, but no one said a word. I wasn't the only girl doing it, either. I also wasn't the only girl rolling the waistband of her school skirt from a respectable, dorky knee-length to way, way, above finger-length.

I said I was going to the movies and ended up at parties where I made out with boys. We listened to all those CDs I wasn't allowed to listen to, or my parents didn't understand, and danced really, really, really close. 

Though, to be honest, I probably would have done all this stuff without strict parents.

My parents thought that their strictness would save me from all of it, but that's not the actual effect of the authoritarian parenting style. 

They didn't teach me morals, they taught me how to lie. They didn't save all that rebellion for college when they wouldn't have to cope with it. 

They placed too much emphasis on grades and random other rules, and not enough on the traits and skills that actually matter when raising kids. 

The biggest parenting mistake made by authoritarian parents is not realizing that their kids will rebel regardless of their parents' protectiveness. They just do it behind their parents' backs. They learn to lie and to sneak, sometimes out of their bedroom windows.

Teenagers will do just about anything to get drunk, smoke cigarettes, and make out in the company of other teenagers. They'll just pass out at a friend's house and spray themselves down with cheap perfume. And lie.

Because no one's sneakier than the child of strict parents.

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Elizabeth Broadbent is a writer and regular contributor to Scary Mommy. Her work has appeared on Today Show Parents, Babble, xoJane, Mamapedia, and Time Magazine Ideas.

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