Katy Perry's Comments Prompt the Question: How Strict Is Too Strict?

Katy Perry is making headlines again for her comments in the June issue of Vanity Fair about her strict Christian upbringing.

In the article she says she didn’t have a childhood, adding that her mother would not read any other book to her besides the Bible, she wasn’t allowed to say “deviled eggs” or “Dirt Devil” and she wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music, so she relied on friends to sneak her CDs.

Perry did go on to become a Christian music artist, releasing a self-titled CD in 2001 at the age of 16 under the name Katy Hudson for Red Hill Records. But she later dropped the name and adopted Katy Perry and is now a secular pop sensation.

Putting her specific upbringing aside, her comments do raise the age-old question – when it comes to raising children, how strict is too strict?

“I can definitely feel for parents who feel like they are losing their kids to the surrounding culture,” said Rhett Smith, a licensed marriage and family therapist for HopeWorks Counseling in Plano, Texas, to The Christian Post. “That feeling as if your kid is slipping away provokes all kinds of anxiety.

“And I think it’s the parent’s anxiety that then gets them in trouble. Their anxiety causes them to sound the alarm and batten down all the hatches rather than creating opportunities for their kids to take on more freedom and responsibility. When we create these opportunities for our kids it can be a great time of process as we allow them to ask tough questions about their faith.”

Jamie Brandon, a licensed marital and family therapist for Christian Family Institute in Tulsa, Okla., emphasized the need to have an open line of communication with children and to ask what they think, “not just dictate what we think.”

“It’s important to … sincerely ask why they believe the way they believe about a topic and be prepared to offer a different opinion, not force it on them,” she told CP.

“When we try to control our kids, we often invite misbehavior. Christianity, like parenting, is about relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with your children, then they don’t value what you say. You can teach right from wrong, but ultimately they grow up and make their own decisions.”

As parents talk to their children about hair color, hair styles, clothing, music, movies, television programs, video games, websites and books, there isn’t a one size fits all answer in determining which ones are acceptable and which ones are not.

“Parents would like to know the formula so they could just apply the formula and their kid would turn out accordingly,” Smith said. “But we all know life doesn’t work that way.”

Instead, Smith said there needs to be a correlation between three things: a child’s age, the amount of freedom a parent gives and the amount of responsibility the parent requires.

“If I had to draw a picture of this it would look something like a funnel. As children get older and move closer and closer to adulthood – the top of the funnel – there should be a widening of the boundaries that allows kids to begin to take more and more responsibility for themselves.

“Essentially as parents we are trying to successfully raise our kids and then launch them out into adulthood. When parents clamp down on freedom and responsibility in a child it hinders the kid’s ability to move on into the next stage of life and think for themselves.”

He continued, “Part of the process of a kid taking responsibility for themselves not only involves things like chores, work, school, relationships, time management, etc., but also their ability to take ownership of their own faith. Too many parents don’t allow their kids to work through their own faith, and that’s why so many kids then get to college and are like ‘I’m on my own now ... I will believe whatever I want.’”

Smith is the former college pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles and he said he could see a stark difference between college students whose parents sheltered their kids and those who didn’t.

“Students who had been sheltered by their parents would show up on the campuses of UCLA and USC and their faith would sort of just come crumbling apart over a period of months,” he explained. “The reality that their parents painted for them, and in a sense tried to protect them from, was not what they were witnessing every day on their campuses.”

Of course, that is the last thing a Christian parent wants to see happen and it is an unintended consequence of holding on too tightly sometimes. As parents struggle through these issues, trying to teach their children about the Lord, Brandon acknowledged how difficult their job is.

“Parenting is hard,” she said. “Most are doing the very best they can with any given situation at the time.”

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