Growing up with strict parents and how I earned their trust
The freedom and trust I enjoy from my parents today did not come easy!
I’m sure many of us grew up with strict parents or have heard tales of helicopter parents who would always want to know what their children are doing at every moment of the day.
Personally, there were a handful of childhood experiences I had missed out on due to the way I was brought up.
But that’s not to say I had a bad childhood. I love my parents and they took excellent care of me, provided me with everything I ever needed.
However, growing up, there were definitely times I felt a tinge of resentment towards them because I felt left out of things my friends were doing due to their consistent resounding “no”.
Since young, I was brought up to fear the consequences of my actions. So much so that I had unknowingly learned the sound of their footsteps and door hinges. My parents would limit my phone usage, ban me from going out after school and bar me from hanging out with friends outside of school. I was never allowed to go to birthday parties, sleepovers or visit friends’ houses.
This led me to compare myself to my sister, who is two years older and had much more freedom to do what she wanted. Even though I knew she was more mature and responsible than I was at that point, I had felt it unfair.
My parents’ strictness grew even more apparent when, unlike my friends who were allowed to go to birthday parties or chalets, I was forbidden to do so. That started my rebellious phase.
I began doing all the things I wasn’t allowed to do under the guise of remedial classes or extra-curricular activities. I had made up lies on the spot to build up alibis whenever they questioned me. My lies eventually placed me in an endless cycle of distrust with them.
They kept an even closer eye on me, accompanied by tighter rules and an even earlier curfew. I had to surrender my phone before bed every night, and they would always take my words with a pinch of salt.
But, things started to change after Secondary Four.
After my N-Levels, I was invited to Halloween Horror Nights with my friends. I was fully prepared for my parents to say no, since the event was held late at night.
However, to my surprise, they both agreed.
I didn’t think much about it then, but looking back now, it was probably because I had made extensive plans on how I was going to get home after the trains stopped running, and made clear who I was going with.
Gradually, they started to ease up. As I got older, they’d let me go out more, attending birthday parties, casual lunches and dinners with friends. This is as long as I gave them the estimated time I would return home.
Soon after, we fell into a systematic rhythm. I would tell them where I was going at least three days in advance and what time I would be home. If I needed more time outside than I had initially planned, I would inform them through text. One of the most important steps was to stick by the timings we had agreed to in order to build trust and mutual respect for each other’s space.
The realisation that I had finally earned their trust hit me when I was recently invited to a sleepover by two of my closest friends. While my sister and I had built up trust with my parents, sleepovers were still something that we dare not ask our parents about.
I was initially certain that my parents would disagree with the request. Determined to have me attend, my friends made a presentation slideshow to introduce themselves and detail the list of activities.
When I first presented the slideshow to my mother the next day, she was still rather hesitant to let me stay over. She ultimately left the final decision to my father.
That night, my father simply laughed at the amount of baby photos that my friends had used of me and said I could go. Perhaps it was a mix of how detailed the itinerary was and the unique slide designs that convinced them.
My parents and I never really talked about what I could start doing as I got older. Instead, I experimented. Testing the waters, I slowly started asking to go out more. I was cautious with my requests and remained respectful throughout. Eventually, I got the freedom that I wanted growing up.
Now that I’m older, I’ve started to put things into perspective and look at the bigger picture.
While I had missed out on a handful of experiences growing up, I now know that what my parents did was to protect me and help me develop a sense of discipline. It came from a place of love and care that most parents have for their children.
They were always involved in what I was interested in, how I fared in new environments and in school. They accepted that I’m not good at everything that my sister is good at, and that I had my own strengths to be nurtured.
While they were strict, they helped shape who I am. They never expected me to academically excel at every subject, or get into renowned schools or have multiple accomplishments. They had only hoped that their youngest daughter grew up to be kind, and live a comfortable life.
Growing up with strict parents is likely a universal “painful” experience. However, trust that there will come a time when negotiation and discussions on such topics can take place.
While not being allowed to do something can be frustrating, having a little bit of patience, transparency and honesty can go a long way in earning trust.