DO you ever wonder if you’re a little too strict with your child? When taken to the extreme, being too strict can lead to negative long-term effects for your child.
It’s best to find that middle ground between a strict and relaxed approach.
Sophie Baron, Founder of parenting platform Mamamade said: “I’ve learned so much about children and babies and how their brains develop, and I’m constantly learning.
“It’s definitely helped me connect to my own children, and to take a lot of the anxiety out of whether or not I’m doing the right thing.”
Here are eight signs, according to Sophie, that indicate you may need to loosen up your parenting style:
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It feels like you’re constantly nagging
Parenting expert Sophie explained that if you feel like you’re constantly nagging or punishing your child, you may be acting too strict.
She said: “You may be disciplining for things that don’t necessarily need it.
“Sure, some behaviours or actions are undesirable (spilled food on clothing or carpet, for example) but aren’t necessarily a reason to discipline or get worked up.
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“Stop the cycle by finding the good – challenge yourself not to tell your child off for 1 whole day, focusing instead on positive reinforcement.”
You’re expecting perfection
"This can put unnecessary stress on your child, and tell them they aren’t acceptable as they are", explained parenting expert Sophie.
She encouraged parents to listen to their children and accept that they are their own person – as this will help their own confidence in turn.
The parenting expert added that a child that moves slowly to put shoes on in the morning isn’t doing it to be irritating.
She explained: “They aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong – ask yourself what you can do differently to support their uniqueness, because it may be a question of changing routine more than anything else.”
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You don’t trust your child to make choices on their own
If you don’t trust your child to make some choices on their own, this could be a huge sign that you’re being too strict with them.
The parenting expert explained that children should be empowered to look after themselves and be independent as they can trust in their own voice and forge healthy relationships.
But if you find yourself choosing what your child wears and how they do their hair, or forcing them to eat, for example, you may be overstepping.
Sophie said: “Boundaries are good – they help children feel secure. That might look like ‘when we leave the house, we brush our teeth.
“Controlling would sound more like ‘’when we go out of the house, we must wear a ponytail’ – ask yourself how important it is for you to be ‘right’.”
You make it sound like your love is conditional
You may find yourself shaming or attacking your child (‘what’s wrong with you!’), which can seriously affect their self-esteem.
Sophie explained that it’s important to set boundaries, without making it about them.
For example, she revealed that a healthy thing for a parent to say instead is, “I always love you, but I expect you to do X, Y and Z”.
She said this focuses on their behaviour and actions, rather than on who they are.
Sophie added: “Children shouldn’t feel like they need to do or say something in particular in order to gain our love and affection.”
Your child lies
If you catch your child lying or hiding things from you, it could be because you’re being too strict.
Sophie said: “Some lying, particularly in young children, is completely normal – but if your child is completely hesitant to open up, they may be fearing tough punishment.
“Being clear about what behaviour is acceptable and why or why not – setting clear boundaries – can help children feel secure.
“Reminding them that it is the behaviour you don’t accept – and not them – can help them feel safer about sharing things about their day.”
You don’t often laugh
Children are a joy – if you let yourself enjoy them – but often strict parents are so focused on whether or not their kids are doing the ‘right thing,’ that they forget to enjoy them, said Sophie.
The parenting expert explained that laughing and making jokes with your little ones indicates to them that you enjoy their company, and you like being with them just as they are – plus it’s good for your own wellbeing as well!
She said: If you’re struggling with this, try putting on some fun music and getting silly yourself. Your child will join in, or at least enjoy the spectacle of seeing their parents let loose.”
You find yourself saying ‘No’ more than ‘Yes’
If you find yourself saying ‘no’ more than ‘yes’, ask yourself why you’re being so rigid, questioned Sophie.
Allowing yourself to say ‘yes’ to some things – particularly things that won’t create harm for your child – can build trust between you and help improve your child’s self esteem.
She added: “Ask yourself if you’re saying ‘no’ just to exert your own power and control – and then say ‘yes’ if you can.”
You reward outcomes over efforts
If you reward outcomes over effort, this can create a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – and can raise children that are risk averse and afraid of failing, added Sophie.
This can create children who are often stressed and anxious and could hint at a sign you’re parenting too strict.
Sophie said: “Praise your child for the effort they’ve put into something, regardless of the outcome.
“This helps develop resilience and collaboration – both skills that will serve them well in life.”
The parenting expert said she wanted to remind parents that being a parent is hard work, and it can often feel like we’re being given conflicting advice, for example, to hold your boundaries, but not to set too many limits.
But how can we help ourselves and our children when we’ve gone overboard on limits?
Sophie explained it’s important to be mindful of your values as a family – you may even want to write them down.
She said: “Then you can be sure that the limits and rules you impose on your children are in line with those values.
“If they’re not, they may not need such strict enforcement or could just be arbitrary.
“Often when we as parents are strict or feel our children aren’t adhering to our expectations, we’re triggered by or accessing something else – a memory of how we ourselves have been raised, or even something as mundane as being hungry and tired.
“Ask yourself if you’re responding to something else – or why you feel being strict in this instance is the right thing to do.
“Being radically mindful of the choices we make when communicating is often enough to decide whether or not we’re being ‘too strict’ – there’s no right or wrong, only what feels right to you and your children.”
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