Strict Parenting, and two fine resources

Rick Mattson Uncategorized 8 Comments

“Strict,” of course, is a relative term. Strict parenting could range from being simply conservative and attentive to highly rigid, even oppressive.

Following are some benefits and dangers, in my opinion, of strict Christian parenting.

First the good news:
•    Parents establish a moral/spiritual foundation in the home.
•    They instill a sense of confidence and well-grounded identity in their children.
•    They mix discipline with tenderness and grace.

Results in kids’ lives. . .
•    They learn to respect authority, traditional values.
•    They’re able to stand for truth, knowing right and wrong.
•    They grow up to be hard workers, dependable friends, and are able to succeed in life.

But strict parents should watch out for these extremes:
•    Failing to give appropriate freedom as kids grow older.
•    Too much “telling,” not enough give and take.
•    Anger at liberal society spilling over into parenting.
•    Anti-intellectual, “blind faith” approach to spirituality.
•    Insecurity over parental authority causing arbitrary decisions, lack of clear rationale for words/actions.

Results in kids’ lives. . .
•    Feeling stifled, smothered. Can’t wait to “get out from under.”
•    Adopting performance-based spirituality to please parents, God.
•    Viewing God as disciplinarian, parole-officer.
•    Going off to college and losing their faith—that is, their parents’ faith.

These ideas are a slice from my church seminar,  “Preparing your kids for college.”

Two fine resources on the topic: The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School, by Tim Clydesdale;  and Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, by Christian Smith. I highly recommend both.

Your comments are again welcome. Next time I’ll focus on permissive parenting. And then I have some stories to tell.

Comments 8

  1. In addition to the intellectual/moral aspect of permissive/strict parenting, it's worth considering the relational implications of one's parenting styles. For example, one challenge in strict parenting that I have seen is that it tends to isolate kids from non-Christians, anyone perceived as being a 'bad influence'. One 'positive' aspect is that stricter parenting styles tends to deal with the reality of sin-and how our sin affects others- in concrete ways- our daughter goes to what many people would consider a 'permissive' preschool- and at one point we had some disagreements about how a situation was being handled,and I remember remarking, with surprise, 'Oh- wow- my understanding of sin really does matter here.'

  2. My parents were probably about as far from 'strict' as you can get. We were latchkey kids from an early age and learned to be self-reliant early on. I was also not raised in a Christian family so I can't speak to that. However I do believe that consistency is essential in healthy relationships. And, of course, love. Otherwise you end up with little Pharisees who strain at gnats but swallow camels.

  3. The four stages of faith make sense to me. Students stuck in stage 2 (rules) are not usually able to integrate faith and learning, and often reside at the fringes of InterVarsity groups.

    Personally, I seem to connect better with stage 3 students who are mired in doubt and rebellion, and are re-thinking their entire worldview.

    In stage 4, students have come to personally “own” their faith in Christ, but with an epistemic humility often absent in stage 2. This is refreshing.

    The essay on “Stage 4 Faith” at by Dave Schmelzer is a worthy read. Another of the site’s thinker’s, Brian Housman, is an acquaintance of mine.

  4. Rick, congratulations on launching your new blog. It looks like you are off to a good start. You have done a lot of research and have given much personal thought to this subject of preparing kids for college, not to mention your own experience in preparing your own kids for college.

    These are very helpful thoughts on the dangers of being too strict. We always felt it was important to teach our kids how to think, not just what to think. We are not doing them any favors by indoctrinating them without clear and honest rationale that will stand up in the university setting.

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