The world can be a scary place sometimes, and when you're a parent, the endless worrying about your family can keep you up at night (like, all night). Just putting my kids on the school bus can cause heart palpitations when I think about what could happen while they're out of my sight. From school shootings to child predators to online bullies, there is no shortage of potential ways kids can get hurt, or worse. That is why I will not apologize to my children, or society at large, for being the strictest mum in town. Sure, my kiddos complain about my long list of rules, but that doesn't faze me. I know being overprotective for as long as possible is necessary to keep them safe. And I feel confident that being a strict mum benefits my children more than it restricts them.
When it comes to rules, here are four that I am not flexible on when it comes to raising my three kids, ages 9, 7, and 4:
1. No phones forever.
OK, not really forever. But my fourth grader claims she is one of the only kids in her class who doesn't have her own phone. That's fine. I don't care if her classmates think she's uncool for not having something I didn't get until I was in college. I don't plan to wait that long to give her a phone, but I don't see why she needs one right now. If I can keep her away from social media, and potential online bullying or child predators for longer, then I'm doing it. The only reason she would need a phone is to contact me in an emergency, and there are other ways for her to do that, like via a smart watch.
2. No playdates at kids' houses if I don't know the parents.
I've had other mums say it's OK for me to pick their kids up from school for a playdate . . . when I've never even met them. Won't happen with my children. I don't allow a parent to pick up my child, and I do not drop them off at someone else's house, unless I know the parents very, very well. So, if I ask you to fill out a survey before having my kid over about whether you smoke, have guns in the house, or casually drop the F-bomb, don't be surprised. I'm kidding . . . kind of. The truth is, I would rather have my kids play with fewer other children than drop them off at an unfamiliar house and regret it later if something happens that I'm not comfortable with. Before you write me off as a nut, consider that early on in my motherhood career, I found out about an unfortunate incident involving my daughter being pressured to pull her pants down at a new friend's house. Let's just say I'm not apologizing for being overly cautious from now on.
3. No sleepovers.
I like to know that my kids are under my roof safe and sound when I go to sleep. Unless the sleepover was at someone's house whom I really knew well, and trusted implicitly, the answer is "no" when my girls are asked to sleep over. Luckily, this hasn't come up too much yet, and maybe by the time it does, I will feel more comfortable with the idea. Maybe. But if I don't, there is no reason to say "yes" to a sleepover and then worry all night. There will be plenty of time for that when my girls go off to college.
4. No staying up late.
My girls know that in our house, bedtime is bedtime, with few exceptions. Why? Because I firmly believe that kids need their sleep, and there's really no reason for them to stay up late, get overtired, feel groggy and cranky, and make bad decisions the next day. Ultimately, they require a reliable framework in which to grow up, not tons of freedom to make up their own schedules. The only time I allow a later bedtime is when we are on vacation. Other than that, even on the weekends, going to bed at a reasonable hour is part of life when I'm your mum.
These aren't the only rules I live by as a strict mum; just a sampling. My overall philosophy when it comes to parenting is that rules allow children to thrive because they know what to expect from their parents. Rules also give us parents some peace of mind in a scary, sometimes out-of-control environment. And believe it or not, inside the structure I've created for my family, we have a lot of fun and laugh constantly. We are a loving, close unit that keeps a busy schedule of activities and social engagements. I encourage my girls to try new things, and be good friends and people overall. Just not in random people's houses, or after 8:30 p.m.
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