How many times have you heard “as long as you’re under my roof, you live by my rules”? While saying this cliche may instantly cause friction, the truth is that every family has a right to create its own set of boundaries. Such as picking up after yourself, cleaning up your messes, or putting away all devices after 8 pm, just to name a few. When done right, they become a valuable part of family dynamics and bring less stress, conflict, and yelling to everyday life.
Unfortunately, strict parents are notorious for going overboard with high expectations and unreasonable discipline techniques. And Redditor SDBeerGuy, Brian, knows this from personal experience. Last year, the teen shared his story on the ‘Malicious Compliance’ subreddit after he found himself on the receiving end of an over-the-top rule right after he got his driver’s license.
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“You are not allowed to drive anywhere we do not give explicit permission for you to drive,” Brian’s parents told him. But instead of politely following their request, the user took the opportunity to spark some drama by proving just how pointless the new rule is. Continue scrolling to read how the whole ordeal unfolded, as well as our interview with adolescent psychologist Cameron (Dr. Cam) Caswell, Ph.D., and be sure to weigh in on the situation in the comments.
A 16-year-old teen shared how his parents came up with a rule that forbids him to drive anywhere without their permission
Image credits: Hareez Hussaini (not the actual photo)
So he set out to prove how unreasonable their request was by pulling an act of malicious compliance
Image credits: Dom J (not the actual photo)
Image credits: SDBeerGuy
Household rules can be a sensitive topic as everyone has different beliefs on what works best for their family. So it’s no surprise that Brian’s story caused quite a stir in the community, making Redditors rush to the comments section to share their reactions. As the replies show, many revealed their surprise about how wholesomely the story ended and applauded Brian’s dad for the way he handled the whole ordeal. After all, mutual respect, trust, and clear expectations are some of the most important parts of positive family relationships.
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However, this situation could have been easily avoided if the family members had set realistic expectations for each other. To learn more about boundary-setting and the fine line between healthy rules that are worth implementing and those that only spark tension in the family dynamics, we reached out to Cameron Caswell, Ph.D., a “teen translator”, family success coach, and author of the book called Power Phrases for Parents: Teen Edition.
According to her, adolescence is the period when kids learn and improve their problem-solving and decision-making skills. “This means they aren’t good at it yet. The only way to get good is to practice and that often means making some bad choices along the way.”
Dr. Cam asked you to think of it as learning to ride a bike. “We may topple over and swerve into things before we’re able to race around the block. To protect us, we’re told to stick to the sidewalk or wear a helmet. We still may get some bumps and bruises, but we avoid serious injury. Healthy boundaries do the same thing. They give our kids plenty of room to learn, even fail, while keeping them safe from danger,” she explained.
However, the psychologist pointed out that some parents get pretty good at imagining all the dangers that may befall their kids. Then they can go overboard and start implementing strict rules out of fear. “Although it may ease your worry in the moment, when boundaries are too restrictive, we prevent our teens from developing the critical skills they need to make good choices on their own. Besides, if our teens don’t understand the purpose of our rules/boundaries, rather than learning from them, they learn how to get around them,” she added.
Moreover, some parents, like Brian’s, come up with unbending rules even when their children stay out of trouble and do well in school. “I heard someone say the other day that their child expected to get recognition when they did a chore or got a good grade. Their response to them was, ‘You don’t get a prize when you do what you’re supposed to do. It doesn’t work that way.’ Why not?”, Dr. Cam asked.
She works with many parents who are quick to dole out punishments as soon as their child does something wrong. “The irony is, we get more of what we focus on. Wouldn’t it make sense then to focus more on what they do right? If you want your teen to take out the garbage more, thank them when they take it out rather than yell at them when they don’t,” she explained. But sadly, doing the “right” thing is often more difficult than doing the “wrong” thing. “The kids I talk to that make that effort, yet still only get in trouble when they do something wrong, tell me, ‘Why bother. They only see the bad stuff anyway.’”
When parents meet their kids with strict and irrational rules, it can feel frustrating for them to know that adults simply don’t take them seriously enough. Moreover, adolescence is the bridge from childhood to adulthood, so it’s only natural for teens to look for independence and seek out their personalities. Something that inevitably makes them want to push back and fight for their beliefs.
Dr. Cam explained that when parents perceive their kids’ behavior as rebellious and disrespectful, it’s often teenagers’ best attempt to self-advocate and be heard. “When we get mad at that and shut them down, we send the message that what they think and feel doesn’t matter. I get it, teen attitudes can really get under our skin. But when we lose our patience, our anger only heightens their emotions, and things quickly escalate,” she told us.
“Expecting our kids to stay calm, respectful, and reasonable when they’re upset even though we don’t is just silly. If we want our interactions with our teens to be calm, we need to model what it looks like to stay calm even when we’re upset. If we want our conversations to be more respectful and reasonable, we need to model how to communicate in a more respectful, reasonable manner even when we disagree. It’s difficult even for us adults, and we’ve had more opportunities to practice it than our teens have,” Dr. Cam concluded.
After reading the story, Redditors rushed to the comment section to share their reactions