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Are we too strict on our kids?

Let me start off by saying that the “we” in question, is society as a whole. Are we as a society too strict on our kids?


It is of my hotmess opinion that we are. I feel there are too many rules, with too high of expectations for our kids.

Now before you go assuming, let me clear the air by saying I am not a parent who lets her kids run wild (although wild, they are). I have rules and guidelines that are age appropriate, but I am parent with the understanding that my kids are just that, kids.

They are supposed to run around, make noise, and act like fools. That is there job. They are supposed to explore and make mistakes, that’s how they learn.

They are NOT supposed to sit still and be quiet, or stand in a grocery line perfectly still, or even use proper manners all of the time. I’ll be honest, I do not expect my kids to say “yes ma’am” whenever I ask them a question or tell them to do something. They don’t get a slap on the wrist if they are to excited to eat their ice cream that they forget to say thank you. They get a friendly reminder on how it is important to be thankful for the things we get.

I know too many people who are expecting their kids to be seen and not heard. To be “proper” young children, to be clean and neat, and to not make messes.

Let me tell you something though, these expectations that society places on us to impose on our kids, are completely bogus. We cannot expect these things from a person who is developmentally supposed to be immature.

Yes, I said it, kids are supposed to be immature. They aren’t supposed to have it together. We are the adults and half the time we don’t even have it together. We make messes, we are not always clean, we certainly are not always polite.

How can we have such high expectations for our underdeveloped children, when our “mature” minds are still lacking in many of these areas?

Better yet, why do we want our kids to skip over there kid years and jump right into adulthood?

I sure as hell want my kids to stay kids for as long as they possibly can. The amount of time we spend as children, is miniscule compared to the rest of our lives when we are adults. So, why would we expect our babies to grow up any sooner than they have to?

Now I’m sure this is sounding like some hippy parenting advice to many of you, let me assure yo that is not the intention. The purpose is to help some of you realize that kids are supposed to be kids. 

Think about it. How many times a day to you tell your children “NO”? 

Many of us tell our children “No” for mundane reasons that have nothing to do with them, and everything to do with us. 

Reasons we say “No”

  • We say no to slime because it’s a mess.
  • We say no to going outside because its muddy/too cold/too hot etc.
  • We say no running around because it’s too loud.
  • We say no to things we don’t want to clean up or make.
  • We say no to things because we want it quiet.

Basically, we have just told them that them being a child is a nuisance to us, and we would much rather they be miniature adults and find something that is quiet and non-messy to do. By saying “no” and having these strict rules in place, we’ve taken away their creativity, their imagination, and their exploration. All crucial ways that children develop and learn. 

If that isn’t clear enough, then take a look at our expectations for our children.

Typical expectations we have for our kids

  • We expect them to remain still/calm when out in public or even at home.
  • We expect them to listen and understand us the first time we tell/ask them to do something.
  • We expect their manners to be impeccable. 
  • We expect them to do things right the first time.
  • We expect them to control their emotions and not cause a scene.
  • We expect them to not have an opinion on matters, and to simply sit quietly.

I could go on, but I think you got the picture. Now look at those expectations and tell me, do you do ALL of these ALL of the time? Are you calm and still when you are in a traffic jam or a long line at Wal-Mart? Are you constantly using your manners for every occasion? Are you constantly listening to what others are saying the first time they tell you? Are you able to control your emotions and never have an outburst?

Chances are you aren’t able to do these things all of the time. Then why are we expecting our children, who are developmentally immature, to master all of these expectations, all of the time?

Isn’t that the same as setting them up for failure?

That is exactly what it is. Our high expectations and our strict rules that we have in place are setting our kids up for failure.

We are taking away their opportunity to make mistakes. Mistakes are a crucial part of life; it’s how we all learn and grow as individuals.

I’m not saying we should give our kids a free-for-all, with no rules and no expectations. I’m saying we need to give them a chance. We need to set rules or guidelines, as I like to call them, that are achievable. We need to give them the tools they need to help them when faced with an unpleasant situation.

Simply saying no, or stop that, or go to your room, is not good enough. That’s not teaching them anything.

Let them run around, make mistakes, make messes and be loud. Tell them yes to the things you usually said no to out of inconvenience to yourself.  

Mostly, let them be kids! That’s what they are. Let them be the beautiful mess that they are and watch how they learn and grow!


  • Melanie

    This was really enlightening for me. I DO have high expectations for my kids….and I think I need to be a little more understanding of their small maturity and flaws. I love the reminder that I am messy and late and mess up, so why should I expect perfection from them. Thank you, I really appreciated reading this!

  • Stephanie

    I feel like I fall somewhere in between. There are times I tell my boys no because of the mess, but that’s also often when they ask to do something like painting half an hour before bedtime. My oldest doesn’t get home from school until almost 4, then we have to make dinner, finish homework, etc. before their bedtime at 7. So, we aren’t left with a lot of time during the week. We save the crazy messy loud stuff for the weekend!

  • Judy

    I loved this. There was so much truth in it. I feel we definitely forget at times that our kids are kids and will act that way. We have no tolerance for somethings but try to work on letting them be their age and not getting angry at them for acting like kids.

  • Kate Loves Travel

    I think it’s a fine line… we’ve always had boundaries on things we thought were important. But, I agree, kids should be allowed to be kids – too many rules stifles their blossoming personalities!

  • Margaret Westhoff

    This is perfect! As a mother of two toddlers, I know I say “no” a lot more than I should. Right now, my living room is a mess with toys all over the floor, and I’m letting my 2-year old play with Play-Doh, something I typically don’t let her do, because it’s so messy. This is a great reminder that kids are a “beautiful mess” and that is perfectly fine!

  • Elaine

    My grandparents raised me with the “be seen and not heard” mentality. I don’t feel like it damaged me in any way, and I certainly did still make mistakes, but I can see how that particular parenting philosophy isn’t for everyone. It has to be a little bit of give and take.

  • Kyra

    I agree with you. My daughter is only 5 months old but I don’t plan on being too strict on her when she gets older. Growing up one of my best friends had parents who were very very strict and it even seemed inappropriate. Seeing how my friend reacted as a child to her parents’ discipline always stayed in my mind and made me realize that I didn’t want to be that kind of parent when I had kids.

  • Nicole Gilbert

    What a great reminder. I know that there are many times that my expectations are no where near what they should be for my kid’s behavior. That being said, I think it’s also important to remember that kids will also rise to expectations. Obviously not on everything, they need to run and play and yell. But manners can and should be taught and corrections should be made, as long as it’s age appropriate.

  • Christine

    Great post! I’m always trying to pay attention to how strict or loose i’m being with my kids. It’s hard to balance! I think you’re right though that although they need structure, they still have to be kids!

  • Mary | This Indulgent Life

    Yes! And let me say it again, Yes! It amazes me how many rules there are for kids, even when they’re outside! Not only is it oppressive and a risk to their development for the kids, but it creates unnecessary power struggles for us as adults.

    A couple months ago my toddler climbed up on the chair and got to his dad’s glass of water. Instead of taking it away and picking him up I continued to let him explore while I sat watching from the side, in case it became too dangerous and I needed to step in. He then dumped all the water on the table and spread it around with his hand, watching as it fell through to the floor. After a bit when I thought the chair was getting too slippery I exclaimed how fun water was and asked if he would help me clean up because I was scared he might slip and fall. We walked together to get a towel and then he helped dry the chair and floor using his truck lol!

    If I had said no I would be limiting his natural inclination to experiment and I would have missed the opportunity to model not only that we clean up after ourselves and how, but that that can be fun too.

  • Tonya Morris

    I’m pregnant with my first so this really enlightened me on different parenting styles! I know I will try not to be too strict!

  • Latte Lindsay

    I’m in the middle of reading Toddler Taming by Dr Chris Green (again) and he says that we are too strict on our kids and expect adult behavior from them. I think we all forget that they are little humans that need to learn and grow and that means licking stuff and getting dirty 😀

  • Joanna

    I don’t think that wanting our children to become good and kind adults automatically means that we have to impose harsh rules and say no a lot. I think that explaining why they can’t do this or that is more efficient than just saying “no” and be strict.

  • Kristen Frolich

    This is a constant struggle with me. Some days I have all the patience in the world while other days I just can’t stand having to repeat things a million times. I have two boys that are 4 and 2. I think even the best parents in the world sometimes lose it at times.

  • Mom Life Optimized

    This is so good!! Kids need to know their manners and there is a time and place for certain behaviors, but when it comes down to it let kids be kids. Let them make mistakes and learn from those without feeling ashamed or guilted. I love this post!

  • Candace

    Wow this is real talk here. I don’t have kids of my own but I can tell that this is so true, at least from my experience as a kid. Parents tend to expect that the children behave just like adults, it doesn’t work that way. They are kids, we need to let them be. There’s going to be a point in their lives where they are going to be adults and we will have a silent, empty home, so let’s appreciate all the noise and the mess hahah


  • Rosey

    I love to play with slime. My son makes it all of the time. Not sure if I’d have been so keen years ago with my older kids, because you know, I didn’t want the mess. 😉 Glad we loosen up as we learn what’s really important.

  • Lyosha

    I think it is the biggest issue of parents: sometimes they expect kids to be convenient. it can not be so but still. Balancing your desires and expectations with worst case scenario is art.

  • Dani

    Dont say no to slime! hehe There is a time and place for certain behaviours and respect is something that (my) children need to learn… other than that, let then learn who they are, what they like, love and loathe and encourage them to communicate!

  • Eloise

    Heck yah! We want our kids to behave like adults and forget to put their well-being first before ours (like letting them play with messy things because WE don’t want to clean up) I agree with you! And I know we used to be able to use our imaginations without being labeled or judged (like play cops and robbers/ cowboys and Indians/etc… AND with play guns! Now it’s a HUGE deal if they pretend those topics (but you did, and your parents did, and their parents I’m sure played pretend gun fights… and they turned out just fine).
    Schools give way more homework or more difficult work at a younger age than when we were young… this applies so much pressure to our young ones and lowers the amount of time to be KIDS and PLAY!
    OK, I’m ranting and raving here… this is getting too long, but this is a touchy subject…
    LET KIDS BE KIDS! (so they don’t go nuts/insane when they’re older and snap!)

    • Kayla Dyer

      I am right there with you on the homework issue. I am an early childhood/special education major, and I can tell you there will be more hands on work in my classroom.

  • Waren Jean Go

    This is a really good read for all mothers and for single ladies like me who want to have a child in the future. Thanks for this insight.

  • Enriqueta E Lemoine

    I subscribe ALL your NO. I’m the mom of 2 teen boys and I also say no to tattoos or piercings. No permanent changes in theirs bodies until they are under my jurisdiction. Once they leave and support themselves, they are free to do whatever.

  • Bindu Thomas

    Indeed a great post for all parents. I agree with your points. We parents have many unwanted expectations from our kids. We all just need to let them be kids.

  • Heather

    Although not much shakes me up anymore, I feel my parenting style has really been consistent with my two daughters. They are six years apart in age so it took awhile to get back into the swing of having a baby. But now that our youngest is three, I definitely see myself parenting the same way I did with her older sister who I think is an amazing kid!

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