Ah, the well-known child-parent relationship. This battle of wits can be a true emotional maelstrom. It is funny how conflict is ignited by the same desire – both parties want what’s best for the child, however, it is the differing perspectives that sets the argument in motion. A child feels like it has been deprived of its free will, the parents feel like their kid will end up in trouble and lead a life filled with regrets- thus there is no true victor in these battles.
Now, allow me to closely examine some of the common arguments that occur between both parties, and show how they are perceived by kids, as well as their parents. I’ll start with the problems kids face as toddlers and proceed to those that occur when they reach the stage of adolescence. Everyone who grew up with strict parents will be able to relate to these things.
“You can’t have your own dog – it is too much responsibility”
I always wanted to have a pet dog when I was a kid, and it seemed to me like a lot of our neighbours had the time of their life playing with their dogs outside. However, the answer I got was always the same: “No, you are not responsible enough to have a dog!” To me, this was nonsense. First of all, I loved to go outside, dogs love to go outside – why not do both of us a favor, since we’d both benefit from such an arrangement? And just what do you mean by not responsible enough? What are the prior responsibilities one must tackle in order to be qualified for the dog owner title? I’ll walk it, I’ll feed it, I’ll play with it, and most importantly, I’ll be out of your skin. You can have more free time for yourself. It is both irrational and spiteful not to buy me a dog.
A parent, on the other hand, probably perceives the request like this, thinking: I can barely keep up with you, now I’ll have a dog to clean up after as well. We live in a small apartment, fresh air is fairly scarce at times, and the last thing I need is to be inhaling flying dog fur. Also, you won’t find the dog amusing after three months, so yes, it will be my responsibility to take care of it.
Well, when it comes to strictness, I think parents win this round – after all, at this stage kids don’t take a lot of things into consideration.
“You can’t go out and play with your friends – you need to study”
This is what I mostly heard during elementary school. I couldn’t help but wonder how come other parents allowed their kids to play. I mean, who studies immediately after they have finished their school day? How I am supposed to organize my day then? Play at school and study at home? Eventually my birthday will come along, and who will come, huh? Nobody will know me very well, since I am just that kid who never goes outside to play.
You are giving me a bad reputation. They will call me a nerd, and the worst thing about it is that I don’t even like to study. To top it all off, I will stay home and daydream all day about how much fun I could be having, if only they’d let me to go out and play. Ultimately I end up not studying at all. In other words, nobody wins here.
My parents, on the other hand, must have been thinking something like this: “Why would someone let their kids play immediately after school?” Their homework will pile up. Besides, who are these kids? We don’t even know them. Are they a good influence or not? Well, it seems that they have a somewhat devil-may-care attitude towards school. Most importantly, is there any sort of supervision while the kids are outside running and playing? What if someone kidnaps them? If he goes outside now, comes back all famished, he’ll eat and fall asleep. In other words, he won’t study at all.
Honestly, I think this is too strict, even though they have the best intentions. Other parents are responsible as well – kids usually play in yards where at least one of the parents can see them from the balcony. At this stage, kids are rarely unsupervised – there is always someone responsible for monitoring what they are doing. Nowadays, it is a bit different, kids have social network accounts and cell phones, so they manage to socialize in different ways once school is over.
“You scored low on your last test – you’re grounded”
This is the one I hated the most as a child. I was a bit messy and unorganized, so bad grades came to me naturally. To make things worse, I rarely took the time to study, and as mentioned, I was daydreaming about what it would be like to be outside playing. Also, when something like this starts to happen, parents become suspicious and feel the need to become even stricter, so even when you just tell them a funny story or something similar, they turn into a lecturer.
When they ask you how school was, it is immediately implied that they want to know everything new you need to go over, which only means more responsibilities.
In these moments, the whole child-parent relationship became a territory where I needed to tread lightly. I felt like sharing minor details about my day that did not involve anything productive would only get me in trouble.
As a result, my parents noticed how I became more shady than usual, like I was hiding something, and they felt compelled to get to the bottom of the problem. They must have been thinking: “If we start to act now, everything is going to be fine and he will grow up to be a responsible individual. We’ll need to tighten the grip some more, but he’ll thank us in the future.” I suppose some congratulations were in order, since I just managed to lose the little freedom I had and they turned my home into a 24/7 surveillance prison. Every interaction turned into a mental game of chess, every action I was about to take seemed like it could get me in trouble.
Even if I started to walk around with a book and pretended to study, it could suddenly raise a multitude of questions – “What are you studying? Why now? Did something happen? Is there another bad grade you are not telling us about?” Needless to say, I only alarmed my parents further when my scores did not improve, in spite of the fact that I was “studying” the whole day. It would not have surprise me if they considered the possibility that I was slow, and that they needed to transfer me to a different school.
All of this culminated in the scenario where I was not allowed to study on my own and without supervision, until the end of the second year of high school.
“You can’t go to that party – there will be alcohol”
Well, of course there will be alcohol, I never saw you throw a party or social gathering without alcohol. If this is a social convention, shouldn’t I develop at least some sort of resistance and explore my limits while I am still young and allowed to make mistakes? How will I know to drink responsibly as an adult if I have never experienced irresponsible drinking as a teenager?
To make things worse, I did not even like the taste of beer, vodka, tequila and the other stuff we had at the parties. I just had a glass in my hand and mingled. I took a sip every now and then due to peer pressure, and that’s it. Personally, I think this was a very responsible approach to drinking, but it somehow remained unrewarded. I guess I can’t exactly blame them; after all, I had betrayed their trust in the past and tried to weasel my way out of trouble. So, this was in a way a ‘reap what you sow’ situation.
Truth be told, they had a reason to doubt my level of responsibility, but then again, I did not have many occasions to prove that I was a responsible kid. I was denied the chance to be a dog owner, remember, so how was I to prove that I was responsible if I didn’t even have an adequate opportunity to do so? Then again, from their point of view, this was a period when behavioral grounds had to be established – if they were to allow a puberty-stricken boy to have the time of his life, the consequences on my life choices in the future could have been nothing short of severe.
“You can’t take the car- you’ll crash and die”
By: Ryan McGuire
Hold on for just a second. You wanted me to take driving classes and the driving exam. You said I needed to know how to drive, yet now I am not allowed? And just what do you mean by crash and die? There was a whole commission of people judging and assessing my driving skills, and even though they did not know me, they ascertained that I was well equipped to drive on my own. Just what do you take me for? Some Mad Max road warrior, who can’t wait to unleash havoc upon our home town? Besides, I know that a car is an expensive commodity- it is not in my interest to crash it. What makes you think my intentions are sinister?
On the other hand, there are a lot of car accidents on the road, and this number is constantly on the rise, so I understand why they were unwilling to give a car to a newbie. Another reason was that they probably knew that the mere act of passing a driver’s test likely would have made me overconfident, resulting in me showing off.
Even though I cannot fully condemn their decision, I think these trust issues should be addressed. Just allow your child do something, and pray for the best: it is an adult thing to do. If you are constantly guided by news reports and statistics, you’ll get paranoid.
“You’re smoking – well, we need to have a talk”
A very serious talk. From my parent’s point-of-view, they must have been thinking: I am on a mission to convince you to give up this habit, and I will do it for as long as I live. After all, I have made a mistake of becoming a smoker, and I must not allow my child to follow in the same footsteps. Of course, abandoning this habit and leading by example is too much trouble, so I will resort to lectures.
Also, the information that you are a smoker shocked me, so I need to light up a cigarette, in order to calm down.
It is kind of hard to tell whether this is good parenting or a mere power display. Again, there is no way I can win the argument, therefore I must return to my elementary school behavior and start to hide and act all dodgy. You know how I find these lectures tedious, yet every time I try to support my side with a well-argued statement, the well-known “I am the parent here” card gets played.
Clearly, smoking is a terrible habit not only for you, but for everyone around you, and if possible, everyone should strive to avoid this addiction, since its roots can grow deep. Parents usually blame themselves when something like this happens, and they would feel even worse if they did nothing about it. Cigarettes do not taste good at all; we start to smoke both to challenge authority and establish our own identities in response to peer pressure- or because we think it will make us look cool and allow us to mimic our role models. Nowadays, this habit has shifted to a new trend of vaping, but the reasons behind it remain the same.
“You can’t visit that place – I heard they offer drugs to young people there”
By: Ryan McGuire
Here we go again. Every time this would happen, I would think: okay, how did you get that information? This is the first time I am hearing this. Is this a common fact? Everybody knows about this place, yet no one can do anything about it? If it’s not a common fact, should I be alarmed about the fact that my parents know secret places where drugs are served to customers? Besides, aren’t you obliged as a good civilian to anonymously give this information to the police? Perhaps the police are on it as well, and they have an arrangement with the dealers? Well, I had no idea that we were living in Gotham City, only this one has no masked vigilante known as Batman to watch over it.
Just what am I supposed to tell my friends now. They already think that you are control freaks, and apparently our relationship has not evolved since elementary school. All I hear is: “No/you can’t/not a chance.” To make things worse, you have the audacity to ask me: “Are you ashamed of your parents? Why are you avoiding us? Is everything alright? You are acting anti-social.”
It is natural to be concerned about where your child goes out at night. It is also normal to get suspicious if there are sudden shifts in mood and behavior. However, you don’t have to assume the worst-case scenario. If your child is under too much pressure, it’s no wonder they do things behind your back, and are afraid to tell you. Teenagers can sneak out to attend parties, have a drink or two, while also struggling to try to maintain a level of trust that allows them to avoid future complications with parents.
This is why a conflict emerges: parents start to poke around to see what’s going on, and the kid confesses in the end. Even though they didn’t do something as serious as drugs, parents still feel betrayed, and since they are strict, they want to resume their control. White lies tend to create more trouble and stress than we think, but they somehow seem to be an obligatory part of this eternal struggle.
“You can’t stay outside past 10pm”
I know that after 10pm, reality as we know it begins to change. The world becomes a twisted hellscape, where creatures of the night, psychopaths, demons and the devil himself begin to roam free. Next thing you know, you’re waking up in a hole to the sound of a voice that tells you to put the lotion in the basket. Alternatively, you’ll end up disfigured and trapped in a circus cage, and once your parents come to the show, they won’t even recognize you. All of this is highly likely, so thank God, I am home on time. I mean seriously, staying up past 10pm? NOT EVEN ONCE!
I have to be in bed by 10pm. Well, thank you, mom and dad, I no longer feel like a kid. Now I feel like an old man in a nursing home. If I had any life to flash before my eyes, I am certain that it would. I especially cherish that moment of excitement when I drove 2 mph above the speed limit. Or that time when I decided to party hard and took an entire shot of tequila, after which the whole night just seemed like a blur.
I know that I am exaggerating the situation, and that parents are busy and cannot stay up all night just to see that their child gets home safe and sound. But come on, I really don’t think that we lived in a dangerous town, and why did they assume that I was the slowest runner in the group? I would certainly have been able to outrun a few people if someone had started chasing us. Is it because I lacked physical activity? Well of course I did. I never had a dog to run with, I couldn’t go outside and play with other kids, and I spent all my time pretending to study.
“You think money grows on trees? No I won’t buy that for you”
Every time I asked for something, I got the same answer. Is there really something so enticing about saying money doesn’t grow on trees?
Because I couldn’t help but wonder as an adolescent if they purposefully avoided buying me something, just so that the line could be used over and over again. Moreover, I was at an age when I had ambitions of my own, I wanted to earn my own money and not stay dependent forever, so it kind of bothered me that I needed to ask someone else to buy things for me.
To make things worse I usually asked for game consoles and gadgets, things I could use for years to come. This would have meant that they wouldn’t need to buy me any new gifts for at least two more years. Plus, with the consoles, I would have loved to stay at home, and be more than glad to come back before 10pm. Hence, back then, I just didn’t understand why my parents were acting so irrationally all of a sudden. I felt that what I was asking for was mutually beneficial.
Again, I am completely aware that no parent wants to spoil their child and wants to teach them how to handle money responsibly. I also agree that the things you want will be appreciated most if you earned them through hard work. But, come on! A tiny sliver of motivation would be nice, I would have never treated such a gift ungratefully. I knew then, as I know now, that money doesn’t grow on trees, so you would have had the full right to point to an item you just bought me if I asked for something else too soon.
“You know that we want what’s best for you”
By: Ryan McGuire
I have an iron stomach, but this line sometimes made me want to vomit. Yes, you wanted what was best for me, but how come I never felt that way? It can be a true challenge to sort out these emotions when you are feeling trapped, but you know you are also supposed to believe that it’s for your own good.
At the end of the day however, I know they care and I care about them. After all, family is there for you no matter what. We’re, in a way, stuck together, so we are allowed to complain. I was a far cry from a perfect child, they did not have ideal parenting skills either. But thanks to such an arrangement, we have a lot of funny memories from those periods.
I think there should be blogs where teenagers can write about their perception of an argument, and a part where parents can truly express how they feel about the whole situation. Moms could share their thoughts, and their daily issues, and the same goes for dads of course. It would be a good place for mediation- or an all-out war where parents would support each other against the horde of teenagers.
All things aside, I never deluded myself thinking that being a parent would be an easy job – it is filled with stress, fear, and it changes your mindset completely, since it brings a load of new responsibilities. Not to mention that it is a job which is never over – you’ll keep on parenting your child even when they becomes a full-grown man or woman. I can’t even imagine how it feels to hurt the person you love the most, just because you want to protect them and because you are convinced that it is for their own good.