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How Strict is too Strict?

Most people would say parents in general are strict. We're parents, we're supposed to be, right?

Oh no, this isn't your normal level of strict. I believe the word strict was created for Caribbean parents. It's like they are all in the Olympics with Strict being a category and they are going for gold. Let's see who can come up with the most restrictive rules and guidelines. Who can put the most fear in their children's lives? And of course this strict meter is different for the girls vs the boys.

At about 5 feet and 3 inches my mom was the person I feared most growing up. From about 5th grade, we were about the same height. I must say as an adult now I wonder all the time, what was it? Of course we got spankings when we were out of line but nothing that should of created that much fear. By middle school we were no longer being spanked, but yet that fear remained. It's like you knew not to try her or test your luck. Then you have the lectures. The ones that are worse than the spankings. The ones that make you feel like the world is ending. You had one shot, the team was depending on you and Boom you dropped the ball. I would sit there and think to myself, just please spank me already.

My mom and I were close growing up. I would say it was more of a proximity close and not an emotional close. Whenever you saw her, you saw me. She kept me by her side at all times. Of course I loved her deeply, but I remember I was always mad at her as well. She always needed me to do something. I never had time to watch TV, to play or even hang out and play with my cousins during the summer. It's always so weird to be around them now as adults and hear them all talking about childhood memories together and realizing I have no recollection of the memory because I was either in the kitchen, or laundry mat or grocery store doing things that most kids weren't doing. I don't even think they realize how different and difficult my childhood was compared to theirs. Some of their happiest moments together were contributing factors to my most painful.

My misunderstanding in the lessons being taught didn't allow me to see the value my mom was instilling in me as a child. I look at my daughter now and by her age of 9 I was already preparing full meals, marinating meat from full carcass and cutting them down, descaling and cleaning fish, doing laundry, cleaning the house and so on. The only thing I didn't know how to do right was cook rice. And let me tell you, I still get anxious when cooking rice today. When I'm really nervous about it, I just have my husband cook it. We laugh every time I call him to the kitchen to cook the rice.

He's always like how do you know how to make all these gourmet meals and afraid to cook rice. See cooking rice wrong in my moms kitchen would get you spanked. Overcooked or "pat" rice as we called it, got me the most spankings growing up. Even though I know I'm not going to be spanked now, I just avoid it.

But back to the strict guidelines. As a parent now myself, I find myself at the crossroads of trying to determine how strict is too strict? Between our parents I think they both get the gold medal in strictness and discipline. How do we pass on the same values and lessons that have contributed to our successes as adults without the trauma and pain? How do you set strict boundaries while still creating a healthy and safe environment for free and open communication? Or does the level of strictness even really determine the success of a child? How do you have multiple kids living under the same rules and guidelines and some achieve success and some don't?

Me myself I've embarked on the path of putting the focus on happiness and not success. What makes my child happy? How can I make an experience valuable and memorable? Exposing her to as many cultures, places and career paths in the world and allowing her to create her own destiny has become more important. Are there rules in our house, of course? And I've found that sharing with her that I'm disappointed about something has a far greater impact on achieving changed behavior.

I've started teaching her how to cook and instead of it being a duty to cook for the entire family like it was for me, I've allowed her to select which component she wants to do. By empowering her to choose, I've found that she usually sticks around and helps with as much as she can. It's become a fun thing to do with mommy. We talk about things, if it's a Haitian dish she asks me questions about my mother and I making it. And if she doesn't want to help, that's ok as well. The important valuable lesson my mother was trying to teach me about is still being passed on but in a more nurturing way. And one you don't typically learn about in our culture is also introduced, CHOICE.

Will this way be right at the end? I don't know. But I think one of the things I've struggled with most growing up was truly being happy and having to learn what true happiness looks and feels like and knowing how to create it for myself. My daughter will make mistakes and fail in many things in life just like I have, as is the nature of life. But through it all I want her to know she always has a safe environment to communicate and work through those challenges as well as know how to get back to creating her happy place.

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