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My parents are...protective. For context, I was 18 before I was allowed to go to someone else's house without their parents being home, and 12 when I was allowed in the back yard alone.

Unfortunately instead of trying to negotiate boundaries, I responded to this by hiding a lot of what I did from them. I would tell them that a friend's parents were home when they weren't, or, once I got to college, not mention that I'd gone out on a weekend instead of staying in my dorm and studying.

This turned into a pattern of not telling them anything, since I was never sure what would be acceptable. I'm 20 now and would like to break this pattern if I can, but I'm not sure how.

Should I come clean (which is likely to get even more restrictions put on me,) try to negotiate the rules and avoid discussing my prior misdeeds, or continue as I have been until I graduate from college and can live on my own?

To answer some questions: I live in [pretty safe suburb] of [major U.S. city] and am the eldest daughter of a Southeast Asian family. I am currently living with them because it's convenient for my internship this summer (not the best idea I've ever had) but I go back to college in the fall. They are paying for part of my schooling, but I have enough saved up to take over that obligation for my next, which is also my last, year of college.

A complicating factor is that they live about 15 minutes from my school and have shown themselves willing and able to just drop by with little to no notice. I've had some success telling them that "If you don't tell me you're coming at least 12 hours beforehand, I can't promise I'll be available," but this holds less water when it's Saturday morning. I mean, it's perfectly reasonable for them to show up like that, but it makes hiding things from them much more difficult.

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    With regard to your current situation: What kind of influence do your parents have? Especially if you are away at college. And without wanting to be nosy, perhaps your cultural background might influence the answers. Welcome to the site! – Stephie Jul 23 '15 at 7:47
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    When they're putting restrictions in place, what does the motivation seem to be: safety (not safe to be left alone!), propriety (not appropriate to be dating!), time-wasting (you could be studying instead of relaxing!), or a general combination of those? – Acire Jul 23 '15 at 12:13
  • Safety, mostly. I hear a lot of "the world isn't safe, we don't trust it." – User Jul 23 '15 at 12:36
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If you can't risk the chance you will have more restrictions, you just continue as you have been until graduate and live on your own.

But if you want to break the pattern, of course you will risk have more restrictions (though it's hard to happen because you don't tell them about your prior misdeeds so your parents don't know you are hiding things from them, with them you're still a "good" child) - start telling the truth with your parents like "this weekend I will go out with some friends to play something ...". If your parents don't agree, convince them you have grown enough and can decide what is best for you or at least know what is the right thing to do and what not (though it may take a lot of times, and it may not succeed in the first or second attempt).

If, after a lot of times and attempts, your parents still don't change their mind, keep what you are doing now. It may make you feel bad (being a liar) but you have lived with it through years, so few more years is not a big deal, right? And if they agree, do it some more times to let them get used to this before negotiating with them about the boundaries (remove some, make some have easier conditions...).

Note: You think your parents don't know about you hiding things from them, but maybe they know (not all, just some case) and they let you do it without let you know they knew it. They may be just waiting for you tell them the truth or negotiate with them.

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Well, you're an adult now, seems time to act like one and confront your parents. That's assuming it's possible to have a reasonable discussion with them on some subjects without too much of a negative impact...or be ready to deal with those negative impacts.

IMHO, the main advantages to you "coming clean" would be :

  • That's an indicator of how mature you are: you're not acting like a child anymore by asking permissions or lying. You make your own choices. Being more mature calls for more trust from them towards you.

  • That's also an indicator of courage: you could have been going like that for years probably without them knowing anything but you decided, depite the risks, to be honnest to them.

  • That will anyway be better than them discovering the truth by themselves. When you feel cheated, it's hard to trust the other aftewards...

  • You "open the door" for your youger siblings. They might suffer even more than you from this strict education and/or go even more against it, which could lead to extreme situations.

  • You will be less stressed: constant lying is really stressfull as you always have to be carefull about what you say, find good excuses and so on... and you live with the perpetual fear of being discovered, probably making any activity less enjoyable.

  • You will be able to receive advises: even if you manage to have a more open discussion with your parents, that won't solve their fears so they will provide a whole lot of advises anyway. Believe it or not, some of it will probably be very wise (while others will probably be lead by paranoïa, but still). that would be a pitty not to get it and beneficiate from their experience. That may also "open the door" for your younger siblings that may have the same issues and suffer from it.

As a parent (but not concerned yet by this kind of things as my girl is only 2.5), I hope I will stay open enough for my girl to be honnest with me most of the time. I know there will be things she can't/shouldn't do and that will most probably lead to her lying at some point, but I don't want for it to be systematic and I believe very strict rules just call for that "automatic lying" behaviour. You seem to be a perfect example of this (no judging, we all went through this to some extent).

Note also that sometimes parents may be aware of you lying and don't address it. For example I've been smoking since I'm 18 but when I was still living with my parents I was "hiding" it. I realized afterwards they must have known (or be really stupid/naive, which they aren't), but probably they didn't tell me cause having to hide it forced me to somehow "limit" my smoking, and that way they also never had to formally "accept/tolerate" the fact I was smoking. I'm still a bit reluctant to smoke in front of them although they know for long now and I'm 36...

That was my 2 cents, hope this helps.

EDIT:

I realize enumerate only good things that might happen could look like a rather opiniated advice. That's not my intent. The whole thing could aswell turn really bad. There's just so many things from bad to worse that could occur depending on how reasonable parents are that I wouldn't take a chance on listing it. I also think OP probably already has a good idea of what could go wrong and how far it could go, knowing his parents' limits better than anyone here. However, this is just an expression of how I would like to raise my kid in the future. I know (and honestly, hope... There are things you just don't want to know) she will lie to me about some things, I just hope we'll be able to raise her with just enough mutual trust for her to share the most important ones.

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    You bring up a good point r.e. siblings. I have a younger sister who is slipping into the same patterns I am, and I would like to model good interaction with my parents for her. However, I fear that coming clean will cause them to restrict her as well as me, since I'm the "good one" of the two of us. – User Jul 23 '15 at 16:48
  • Well I don't know your parents as you do, but I think one of the most important thing in parenting is understanding you can't control everything forever. You'll soon be living on your own, they won't have the same kind of (apparent) control on you anyway, they will now have to accept it anyway. coming clean would be a good way to confront them with the choice between a relation based on trust and advises or one based on lies and fear. Of course they will disapprove some of your choices or be affraid for you, but knowing about it will at least give them the oportunity to provide advises... – Laurent S. Jul 23 '15 at 18:03
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I would leave the past out of it. However, it would be fine to pick a couple of areas in which to set up some boundaries. This means taking a stance that something is your decision, that you will be handling with autonomy.

Be prepared for anxiety on their part.

When there is something that causes anxiety, it is helpful to prepare them ahead of time, so they can gradually get used to different ways of thinking about you.

It would be very helpful if you could have a semester at another institution, or a volunteer stint -- even for two weeks -- somewhere out of town.

You don't need a reason for wanting them to call before visiting. That seems like it might be a good starting place.

Please don't feel guilty.

I am a mother of a 20-year-old. Children need to grow up and parents experience anxiety. It's just something parents of young people your age need to learn to manage.

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    This is a nice answer in my opinion.I would add that lying is of course not a virtue but the world is a complicated place and there's no virtue in hurting people etc. So be gentle with them and take it step by step. Managing your parents as you all get older is part of how it is and they are the only parents you've got (and operatic confrontations where everything is solved amicably in one fell swoop very rarely happen). Plus, semester abroad or away is a great idea! – ctokelly Jul 25 '15 at 7:41

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