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I'm 16 years old, in my jr year of high school, yet still my parents are treating me like I'm 12. My metal health has suffered a ton and at this point I really don't know what to do. This website is basically the only chance I have, so I've decided to ask you all, how do I deal with strict parents?

My parents have a ton of unreasonable guidelines for my age, those being;

My phone is (extremely) restricted, I only have a few games and not even basic internet access (I can't do so much as a google search),no social media at all, and I can only text/call a few select people, it all shuts off at 11 pm, weekends or not. I have a school issued Chromebook where I can access this site, but obviously this computer has safe search on and most things are also restricted, it's a bit better than my phone, not by much.

My parents also have to control how I dress and how I look. They don't let me wear some jewelry I've spent my own money on, won't let me wear any makeup to school, etc. If I dress up at all to hang out with friends, I have to hear about it all day until I take everything off, my Mom will even say things like "you look terrible" or "I don't want to see you like that, take it off." I feel like they're always judging me for my style choices if I dress how I like (or as close to it as I can get with them), so I usually just don't try at all and I hate it.

They're really controlling around who I hang out with or what I do. I have to have a full hour long discussion just to be allowed to go to the mall with my friend. It always feel like a fight to go anywhere or do anything. And even then, they always have my location, and constantly ask me what I'm doing, and they'll always want me home way earlier than any of my friends have to go home (usually around 6/7).

They also put a ton of pressure on me around school. Their expectation is A's, and anything below that I get lectured for. Right now I have 2 classes with B's, and I've been hearing about them for weeks. My Mom is telling me I must need a tutor since I have a B in Data Science, which is a hard class. I'm trying and doing pretty well, but apparently it's not enough. If I ever got a C or maybe even a B-, I'd be in trouble.

They've really invaded my privacy and this is the worst part. I don't feel like they respect me at all. I know my Mom looks through my room when I'm not home. They have access to my email and check it, and they'll randomly look through my phone. They went as far one time to look through personal chats of mine with my friend and boyfriend right in front of me, which was terrible. They really ruined my trust with them and made me feel super uncomfortable. They didn't need to read what I had said privately to someone, then judge me for it. Ever since this happened our relationship hasn't been the same.

Even worse, my brother, who is only 14, has mostly unrestricted internet and they never look through his private things at all. They treat us completely differently, and he has all the privacy in the world. They give him space to just do his thing, then put all these restrictions on me.

I'm depressed. I feel like I don't have room to just be a normal teenager and experience what that's like. I feel disrespected, and I feel like I can't talk to my parents about this because whenever I try to have a "sit down discussion" with them, they just get mad and shut me down immediately. My mental state has been horrible lately and I just don't know what to do. Has anyone been in a similar situation? Do you have any advice? How should I try to approach a conversation with them, how do I cope, etc?

(Just to be clear, I love my parents and I know they love me. I just feel like they've put me through things they shouldn't have and I'm not being treated right. I don't hate them and I'm not "ungrateful," I just want space and less restriction on my life.)

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  • Hi and welcome to parenting.stackexchange.com! This question might be related to what you're asking about: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/33077/…
    – d33tah
    Feb 6 at 15:33
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    I see some things in your question that might be related to how different cultures look at raising children. Can you tell us what the cultural background of you and your parents is? Feb 6 at 16:35
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    Depending on where you live, you may be able to participate in counseling or therapy at school, or outside school. Also, sometimes in a protracted conflict, sometimes it helps to let go of the tug-of-war rope -- in this case, maybe tutoring in Data Science would turn out to be fun? / I guess in therapy you might be invited to figure out what your parents' motivation for their behavior is. Do you think they might be concerned about protecting you from some of the perils of modern life, for example? / What are your top three issues? If it were me, humiliation in front of friends would be BAD. Feb 6 at 20:35
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau I live in the US, my Dad did grow up in a very Christian household. My Mom dosent talk much about her childhood so I'm not sure about her. The thing that confuses me is how my Dad clearly didn't like growing up in a strict house, so why would he do that to me?
    – Kayster
    Feb 7 at 1:33
  • @aparente001 1. I feel like I have no privacy and they know way to much about my private life 2. I can't just use social media like a normal teenager and it's hard to hear about other people being able to (also I cant simply look something up if I need to) 3. I'm a night owl and everything shutting off at 11 really sucks... Generally I don't trust school couselors because I've heard way too many stories of them not keeping things confidential
    – Kayster
    Feb 7 at 1:36

2 Answers 2

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Try to see your parent's point of view, and meet them in the middle.

While there is stuff that is clearly overstepping, I think that there might be areas where your parents' concerns are reasonable. Furthermore, the stuff that your parents have done seems to be the result of a lack of trust (and by demonstrating their lack of trust on you, they have damaged your ability to trust them), so I think that demonstrating your trustworthiness might be a good place to start.

For instance, in regards to you being a "night owl", the science on the subject shows that teenagers need more sleep, not less, so putting time restrictions on your stuff makes sense. If anything, 11pm is being overly generous, especially if you need to get up at 5 or 6 to go yo school. Trust me from experience, disrupting your sleep habits with the abuse of technology can have serious long-term consequences. So, simply demonstrate maturity by going to bed at a reasonable time and getting eight or more hours of sleep - it won't just help your relationship with your parents, it'll help your body and your brain, too.

For fashion, it seems entirely possible that your view on fashion and your parents' views on it have highly diverged. From the comments you say your mother is making, it sounds like you need to consider what the message your clothes are sending is. The science says that teenagers start to develop the ability to consider other people's points of view during their teenagers years, but it's still a skill you need to work on. In particular, consider whether that is (what your mother considers to be) inappropriate sexualization, social signals that indicate you belonging to the lower class (including Kim Kardashian-style lower-class nouveau riche aping of the upper class), anti-authoritarian signals that might indicate non-conformity to their socio-economic class's social norms, or some combination of one or all of the above. If you're sending out negative signals and your brother isn't, that could be one factor in why they treat you differently- your brother has shown that he can be trusted, while you haven't. If your clothes are sending out negative social signals, then you can discuss with your parents about getting more freedom in exchange for mitigating those signals.

For your grades, I think you're old enough to give serious thought to what you want to do after you finish high school. Do you plan to go to university, and if so, where, and studying what? Do you want to go to a trade school to learn a trade? Electricians and plumbers can make a lot of money, even if blue-collar work is often considered "working class". Do you want to start a business? If so, in what field, and what is your business plan? Once you've considered these questions, and worked out what your goal is, you can work out what sorts of grades you need to accomplish it - and present that plan to your parents to get their buy-in on it. For instance, if you decide you want to become a hairdresser, and hairdressing school just requires you to attain a high school diploma, then you can show this to your parents in order to try to convince them not to pressure you too much about your grades.

If they're spying on your communications with boys, it's likely because they don't trust you to do the "right thing" with them. So, I'd say to take charge, and demonstrate a commitment to that. Ask them to book you a visit to the doctor so that you can get a contraceptive implant; there's multiple different types of them, so you can talk to the doctor about the pros and cons of the different types so that you can pick the one that suits your needs the best. That way, even if you do decide to be irresponsible in the moment, you won't need to worry about getting pregnant. Depending on where you live, you might or might not need your parents' consent for one, but unless you have an independent income stream from an after-school job, you'll probably need their help to pay for one. In any case, however, demonstrating that you're willing to think ahead and consider the consequences of your actions will hopefully demonstrate the sort of maturity that will improve their ability to trust you.

By demonstrating maturity and considering their point of view, you can build up trust, and hopefully begin to repair your relationship with your parents - and in so doing, help to abate their negative behaviours that stemmed from that lack of trust.

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  • Thank you for the advice. As far as a lack of trust goes, I'm sure you're right that that's the problem, I just don't understand why they don't trust me. My parents won't let me so much as wear a basic eyeliner to school, I dont think I'm over the top, although maybe they see it differently than me. I definetly agree I need more sleep, I've been trying, but when it feels forced by my parents it just makes everything harder, if that makes sense. I might try to talk to them about school like you suggested, it may help me out.
    – Kayster
    Feb 7 at 8:58
  • I get why they may be weary about boys, but they've read through chats with regual girl friends too, and either way, I personally think reading a private chat is way too far, it made me feel super uncomfortable. My boyfriend lives multiple states away from me so they shouldn't be worried about pregnancy.
    – Kayster
    Feb 7 at 8:59
  • @Kayster "I've been trying, but when it feels forced by my parents it just makes everything harder, if that makes sense" that makes total sense, we've all felt like that. I think coercing your parents into making a mutual agreement is best, both sides need to give a bit. Ultimately parents are often driven by fear, fear of messing up, fear of something happening to you, fear of drugs, fear of social media (eating disorders, depression, bullying.... remember we didn't grow up with it, we only do boomer stuff on facebook of all places ;). I suspect fear is their motivation, more than control. Mar 8 at 18:57
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I am going to answer as a super strict parent - or at least a stricter than I want to be parent of a 14 year old. Hopefully that can give you some insight into some of what your parents are coming from and how you can achieve some of what you want.

Electronics: As nick mentioned, it is considered appropriate to restrict kid's electronics at night to promote healthy sleeping habits. In our house electronics are done by dinner time (5pm). I would rather that be something closer to 7pm but in our house that has caused some problems with evening routines not being complete. If you want more evening screen time I would suggest taking a look at what your parents expect you to do (chores, personal care like showers, wind down time), when you need to wake up for school, and how much sleep a night you get. If you can demonstrate that you can get 8-10 hours of sleep a night and meet responsibilities that can be an opening to earning extra screen time. They are trying to ensure you build healthy life long habits.

When it comes to monitoring screen time, a huge red flag for me is that the boyfriend is out of state. That could mean some lack of trust on your parent's part that he is really who he says he is, and that you could be being groomed for sex trafficking. You might spend some time understanding how some of the darker parts of the web work and understanding if you have been engaging in dangerous practices that put you at risk.

Ideally there would be open and honest discussions about who/what/when/where you are allowed to communicate online, but there seems to be a huge trust bridge broken here. As the person with less power, it is going to be on YOU to show them that you can stay within whatever bounds they have placed on the internet for you to gain trust to have the internet privacy you want.

One thing I tell my daughter regularly is that nothing is private on the internet. Doesn't matter if it is in a PM, that person can screenshot it and share it elsewhere. So while I understand that you feel entitled to privacy, you haven't earned that from your parent's point of view. So conduct yourself accordingly. When you turn 18 you get privacy, until then assume everything can be read.

Personal appearance Without knowing the details of what you are wearing, I generally am trying to teach my daughter that there is a time and place for certain outfits. I have a job where I am allowed to wear jeans - so a pretty relaxed dress code. But I still cannot show my midriff, wear super short skirts or shorts, or show my shoulders. I treat school as another semi-professional space that certain dress should be required. School is not the club, the mall, or a festival. While it is unfortunate that you feel so trapped in what you can wear, see if there are ways to layer so that you meet their expectations with the clothes you like. It is unfortunate that you are able to purchase items that you are not allowed to wear. Maybe look up some basic fashion advice to make sure that you are not breaking style rules in bad ways. I have had to tell my teen that camo and plaid in different color hues just doesn't look good together. I don't go so far as to tell her to change, but I do tell her it looks like she didn't have a light on when she got dressed.

Controlling extra activities: I feel like there must be some trust breaking things that have happened for your brother to have freedom but not you. One of those could be the out of state boyfriend - again a huge red flag for a parent of a teen. In our house we've had incidents of skipping class, 2 runaway attempts, and general dishonesty about what she is doing that make us be extra cautious about letting her out on her own. This can be a moment where you really look at whether you have been acting in a trustworthy way or if you have had a history of trying to get around your parent's boundaries. They could be very concerned that you are trying to meet this boyfriend in secret or trying to run to him. Something you will need to work on is demonstrating trust such as being home on time, being at a meeting place at the correct time, hanging out with friends at your house so that your parent's can meet them and trust them with you, etc.

School: This is another area that nick covered really well. Figure our your post secondary goals and approach your parent's with a plan to get you there. My personal line for my daughter is that "A's or B's are perfectly fine. C's with good reasons are perfectly fine. All good reasons start with turning everything in and doing your best effort." She has not had the greatest school career and had to overcome a large academic gap. Sounds like your parents may need to understand that a B in a difficult class is equivalent to an easy A class. They should be proud you are challenging yourself.

Depression: I know these things are hard, and being a teen today is harder than every with a pandemic and other current events going on. When you approach your parents I suggest being open but not accusatory. Using I statements help, an example formula is "I feel _______ when ________." So something like "Mom, dad. I feel stressed when I get lower grades because it feels like my best effort is not enough." Using factual statements help too. "I studied 10 hours for the test. I feel like I did my best, but that was still a B. I feel super stressed with all of the pressure to get an A."

Focus on one issue at a time and don't go all over the board. Divide and conquer. If the biggest issue right now is grade stress, back off on trying to earn more electronics. Actively listen to what they say in response. Repeat back what they say so they also feel heard. So if they respond back with "We saw that you were not getting enough sleep before the test," acknowledge what they said truthfully and work together to come up with an acceptable path forward.

Normal teenager: One final thing to point out is that there is no such thing as a "normal teenager." You may not be seeing the full life of the other kids in your classes. And you may not be a normal teenager. I have heard this complaint from my daughter and it does not go very far in negotiations. Mainly because she is not a normal teenager - she has a long history of trauma early in life, she had a huge academic gap, and has a pretty severe case of ADHD that went untreated until about 8th grade. She doesn't have the executive functioning skills and social skills to handle being "normal." And as mentioned we've as a family dealt with some pretty big trust breaking issues. If any of that is resonating with you, understand that relationships go both ways and you may need to demonstrate trustworthiness to get back the freedom you want. Or wait a couple of years and move out.

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