On being a strict mom

On being a strict mom

Being a mom comes with its share of lessons, at times, on a daily basis. You don’t even need to go looking for the lesson. It just happens. Silently, effectively.

About a week ago, I remember an incident that brought this home. Gy came home from school, as usual and as soon as she walked in, she hugged me. Within seconds, she then did what she always does; walked around the house like a puppy, looking for someone: Her dad.

This never fails to amuse me. It’s like watching a movie on loop. I can predict with utmost certainty what she will do next. She first heads to the study, then the living room followed by the balcony. Finally, if he isn’t there, she turns to me and asks, ‘Where’s Appa?’ An answer in the negative or the conclusion that he is away at a meeting elicits a sorrowful expression and the drooping of the shoulders. Just like a puppy!

It’s obvious she’s very attached to her dad. Most daughters are, in my experience. But you know that niggling green monster that resides deep within? That insidious creature that rears its head and says ‘Well, talk about loyalty!’ I’ve fallen victim to that on more occasions than I believe possible.

So, one day, as I sat working on my laptop, Gy bounded over, sat next to me on the couch and said, ‘Amma, I want to tell you. . . oh, I didn’t know you were working.’ Looking up, I smiled and said, ‘I will be with you in 5 minutes.’ Her response  was, ‘Oh it’s okay. I’ll tell Appa. No problem.’

That did it. That snapped my reserve. It deliberately and quietly pushed that green monster out of the cave, on to the ledge and over the precipice well and truly into that cavern called self-pity. I sat there, smouldering in jealousy, as she chattered away with her dad in the next room.

Ordinarily, I’d have let it go. But this time, curiosity and a bit of defensiveness won over and I did something I rarely do. A while later, I playfully punched her on the arm and said, ‘You like Appa more than you like me, don’t you?’

Her initial response was defensive, where she clung to me, saying, ‘No Amma! I love you both the same.’ A bit of gentle probing and she then admitted, ‘Well, there is one thing about you.’

Now curious, I asked, ‘What’s that?’

‘You’re rather strict with me.’ As soon as she said it, she then blinked rapidly, saying, ‘Don’t feel bad, Amma.’

At that statement, I felt a bit like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. Me? Strict? But, I never yell at her or at least, I haven’t in the last 2 years. I don’t hit her or even lose my cool with her. What was she talking about?

Subdued, I went away to reflect on what she’d said. Was I strict? I waited till I was calm and the answer came to me. Yes, I was, but not in the way you think.

I don’t reprimand her, but I do lay down the law.

I never yell at her, but I am firm when it comes to chores and duties.

I don’t get angry with her, but I am clear about boundaries and discipline.

And I don’t give time-outs, but I do ask her to reflect on her behaviour when she acts out or defies me.

I also know what you’re thinking. I’m supposed to be the Doting Mom. It says so in the name of the blog. What’s with the ‘strict’ label?

All of this made me understand that to an 11-year-old on the cusp of exploration, it would appear that I am ‘strict’, when in fact, I am attempting to be just firm. It’s a fine line, really. How do you tread that balance between stern discipline and gentle reprimand? Does that mean I am pushing her away from me, instead of bringing her closer?

Having thought it over, I went back to her and quietly wrapped my arms around her, drawing her to me. In simple terms, I explained that yes, I may seem strict, but I do it to help her grow. I am firm because as a parent, I understand that her need to test the waters must go hand in hand with learning the ropes of being a child. And I know that’s a bit of a reach, considering I’m still stumbling my way through this parenting journey.

But, I assured her, I was immeasurably glad about one thing: her ability to tell me, to my face, what she felt. So perhaps, I could tone down the strictness and temper it with a bit more love. Reprimand, be firm and exercise that parenting right – all with a healthy dose of love. I’ve understood the message. Now it remains to be seen if I actually follow it through.

See, what I’ve realised is, at the core, we cannot really completely transform ourselves. I may have stopped yelling, but the fiery,angry, flare-up-in-a-trice woman has not really disappeared. She just found a way to hide it better and work on alternative methods to engage with her daughter.

Knowing that, somehow, is easier to acknowledge today than it would have been 4 years ago. It also taught me a very important lesson: to move from control to connection, in my role as a parent.

Are you a strict mom? I learnt that I am. And I am completely okay with it too.

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*Featured images courtesy: Discipline & Discipline via Shutterstock

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Linking up with Tweens, teens & BeyondMother of Teenagers

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19 thoughts on “On being a strict mom

  1. This is one thing I do not feel guilty about at all. The children do say I am a strict mom and I think that’s okay. I’m worse than you – I end up yelling at them somedays and I take away privileges on others, I have to. But, on other days I go crazy with them, we have our goofy moments and we sing and dance, have pillow fights and long hugs and we talk, lots. We have lots and lots of moments to set off the not so good ones. One thing that might ease your monster is that the husbands can go easier on the children only because we do the rule setting. Someone has to, isn’t it? And I think in the end children understand and appreciate that. We had/have a strict mom, as strict as they come, but I am very close to her. So rest assured Gy will love you and will value your judgement always.
    Obsessivemom recently posted All Four Stars – A Book ReviewMy Profile

  2. Sigh!!!! I wish I had a mom like you Shy! Your daughter is simply lucky to have such an understanding parent in you. Connection and not control – beautifully put and thats truly what parenting should be about!! Loved it 🙂

  3. Some time back my elder teenaged son told me, Mom you are like a friend, but Achan (father) is strict. I told him, I am friendly, but I am not your friend. I will always be the parent and I will point out and guide you if you are wrong. Achan is strict as he wants you to be a better person. If he was laidback, would you have taken yourself more seriously?
    It is a fine line and we are still learning.

  4. Gosh! I sometimes feel I am a confused mom..There are days I am all strict and there are those when I go overboard letting them indulge. I guess thats my weakness, never able to maintain a middle path. well but still trying to. Its all about setting ground rules and being firm with it..

  5. I am with Tulika on this one. I don’t feel guilty at all. I wear it as a badge of pride. I am very loving with the kids. We have so much fun, but I am also very firm with rules and discipline. As someone who is around them more often, if I don’t then who will. Yet, I follow the democratic method of parenting. They can always dispute things or rules and can come to me with their opinion knowing fully well that they will be heard but the final decision will be mine.

    That way both G and I are strict but in different spheres of parenting so that they will have one parent to crib to. 😉 I remember growing up it was dad who was way stricter but now I appreciate so much about his parenting. I believe all kids will have that perspective about their parents when they grow up and so will Gy. Both you and V are doing a great job with her.
    Rachna Parmar recently posted Diwali FestivitiesMy Profile

  6. I was the strict aunt – my nephew said so himself – until some time ago, when I decided I needed to mellow a bit. So, I am fun, but I also set down rules that his mom won’t. He does treat me like a friend, but during the serious moments, he knows he has to obey…and he does. I am glad I get to work on myself because of the little guy!

  7. This is an insightful post which urges me to think deeply about the concept of control vs connection. This has to do a lot with awareness. Once the awareness level goes down (which happens due to several reasons on our own account), the need to control supersedes the connection part. I don’t know what kind of a mother have I become. May be the inconsistent types. When my patience levels are high, I enforce the rules, handle disagreements wisely. But, when the patience runs low (which seems like the more prevalent norm), I give up on the rules altogether since I do not have the energies to deal with the tantrums and the nays. Not a wise thing to do especially since I have the responsibility to parent single-handedly, I know.

  8. I do not think being a strict Parent takes your Kids away. Its all about creating a balance. My Mother was both strict and loving at the same time and I respect that. Now I am bit strict because I cannot compromise on their upbringing part. I take the responsibility of teaching him the difference between right and wrong and do not want him to lag behind. But I spend quality time with him, cuddle him and makes him feel loved. He needs me more than his Father even if I yell at him sometimes. We are the ones who need to make them understand this.

  9. I don’t really know if I’m strict. I think I might be sometimes. But then other times, I feel I’m way too lax with the little one.
    OF course, he throws a hissy fit when the former happens.
    Oh well, a little discipline never hurt anyone. Or at least that’s what I keep saying.
    Sid recently posted You, Me and UsMy Profile

  10. I used to tell that my Appa was strict with me and Amma was the friend. I used to stick with Amma all the time. Now, nothing much has changed with them, but my perspective has! I love both of them for who they are and I wish I am half them and half ourselves as parents!

  11. You are doing something wonderful in raising a daughter who can talk to you that honestly and openly.

    I’m sorry it stung–I know my feelings would be hurt. But thanks for turning it into a lovely post and sharing. You are definitely not alone. #tweensteensbeyond

  12. I also have never gone for the easy route and have always been firm with very clear boundaries. It never gets the popular vote but boy does it reap its rewards. My daughter has always been a daddy’s girl until recently and I am now having a bit of time in the ‘fave’ camp. As all things, that will change again but I shall enjoy it while it lasts. Thanks for joining #tweensteensbeyond with such a great post Shailaja

  13. I’m a strict Mum, far more so than my husband ever was, but now the boys are all adults it is me they come to rather than their dad when they have worries they think will upset their dad #tweenteensbeyond

  14. What a beautifully insightful post Shailaja, and you have summed it up so well. A connection is so much more powerful than control – in fact it is the most powerful form of control. If we can truly connect with our kids then we have won the battle. And I am more strict than my husband too! Thanks so much for joining us at #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. Unfortunately I think it is the preserve of mothers to be the disciplinarian whilst the fathers get all the good and fun bits. It is exactly the same in our house and I know a large part of that is down to me being the one who is around all the time. I know my daughter loves us equally but I am definitely perceived as the strict one and if she wants something she knows I may be cautious about, she will always raise it with her father first. I am quite strict but I do try to get my teens to understand why I have made a certain decision. Great post Shailaja. Food for thought as always. Thanks for sharing it with us. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Jo – Mother of Teenagers recently posted Three Steps To University Open Day SuccessMy Profile

    1. You’re so right! It DOES seem to be the preserve of the mother. Dads are for fun and games. Well, most of the time anyway. I am also someone who errs on the side of caution. Always. Sigh, here’s hoping I don’t screw things up too badly!

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