Wish Your Parents Were More Strict On You Growing Up?

Father's Day by Colleen KongThe earliest memory I have of my father disciplining me was when I threw a hissy fit as a 4th grader. I went into his office and tore up all his meticulously typed work papers and went to bed crying because he didn’t allow me to do something. There was no computer to save your work then, just original copies that had to be painstakingly retyped if something was off.

Instead of waking me up for punishment, my father waited until the next morning when I had calmed down. I knew what I did was wrong and felt a tremendous sense of guilt and trepidation. He sat on my bedside and told me calmly, “Son, what you did was wrong last night. Those papers took hours for me to type. Don’t do that again.

My father was stern, but compassionate. Because he didn’t yell or hit me, I developed an enormous sense of appreciation for his guidance. I began seriously listening to all his advice, and being more compassionate as a person as I grew older. I am all about second and third chances.

WHAT MY FATHER TAUGHT ME

Besides teaching me compassion, my father also taught me how to be frugal and allowed me to discover new interests I wouldn’t have discovered without him.

Frugality / Money

It was my father who instilled in me the attribute of frugality. I always pushed for him to buy a nice car growing up, but he always refused. He once drove us around in a 1976 Datsun with no paint, and three missing hubcaps. I was a middle schooler then in 1989 and I literally ducked whenever I was driven to school because I was embarrassed to ride in such a 13 year old POS.

Thankfully the car was so beat up that when I took it out for a spin during a monsoon one evening as a 13 year old and lost the 4th hub cap, he had no idea!

Whenever we’d go out to eat, he’d always encourage us to order tasty lemon water instead of over priced drinks. Ever since I can remember, we’d always go to buffets to get the best bang for our buck. Alternatively, we’d go eat at a restaurant where he had found a coupon in the paper. The food was always good and I learned to always look for deals before spending any money.

Until this day, I still have a very difficult time ordering something other than lemon water. Even when I crave a deep-bodied Cab to go with my 28-day dry-aged prime rib, the most I’ll order is a glass and not a bottle. I feel too guilty paying a 100% mark-up for alcohol.

Being frugal is about finding value and avoiding waste. By learning to be frugal growing up, it wasn’t difficult saving 50%+ of my after tax income every year no matter how little or how much I made after the first year of work. My lifestyle inflation grew much slower than my fellow colleagues who bought fancy cars and huge houses. Without embracing frugality, I wouldn’t have been able to escape Corporate America at age 34.

My father gave me freedom.

Career

It was my father who introduced me to the stock market when I was 18 years old. He was looking over his monthly statements at the breakfast table when we began to have a discussion on how to read the latest stock prices in the paper. From there he introduced me to investing online through his Charles Schwab brokerage account.

As a senior in college I was so enthralled with investing online that I purposefully bunched my classes together so I could spend two days a week trading the stock market without interruption. I always wanted to be a “business man” growing up overseas. But it wasn’t until my father introduced me to the stock market where I knew I had to find a career in finance.

Most people want to go into investment banking when they talk about a career in finance. But I wanted to have nothing to do with creating pitch books for clients. I wanted to trade stocks and speak to clients who invested in stocks. Equities was the department of choice.

Thanks to my father, there was no need to meander through my 20s figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I had an inkling of what I wanted to do by the time I was 14, and knew full well what I really wanted to do by first semester of senior year.

Sports

Life would be incomplete if I didn’t have sports in my life.

My favorite activity was playing catch with dad after he came home from work. He used to play in college and he taught me how to sling a ball. I played third base as a kid, a scary position since I would often have to catch rocket blasts from the majority of right-handed batters. Even more intimidating was trying to ground hop the ball, which would sometimes bounce funny and hit my face. One day he told me to instead of passively wait for grounders to come to me, to aggressively run towards the ball. His advice helped me conquer my fears of getting hit. I still remember rushing towards a worm-burner, cutting off the shortstop, scooping up the ball in mid stride, and throwing out the runner at first base in front of a crowd. It was one of my proudest moments. Go after things and don’t let them just come to you.

Unfortunately I had to choose between tennis or baseball in high school because their seasons overlapped. I chose tennis instead, another sport my father taught me. We used to play every week at the one court at the American Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. I remember finally taking a set off him when I turned 13 years old, although he might still deny that fact! Tennis is a beautiful game that tests the mind. There’s nobody to bail you out, and the pressure is all on you to succeed.

Without sports, I wouldn’t have had as much discipline or endurance to work those long hours or take the constant pressure on Wall Street. Sports beats you down all the time, but it also teaches you resiliency, team work, and the need for a good work ethic.

INTENTION IS EVERYTHING

My father doesn’t mean to be overly critical. He just wants what’s best for me. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t read everything I write or give me tips for improvement. It’s hard to take criticism sometimes because I put a lot of effort into my work. I know there is constant room for improvement. I generally have this “I’ll show them” attitude, but sometimes criticism makes me not want to work hard at all so that I’m less emotionally invested.

Giving constructive criticism without deflating someone’s motivation is a skill that few people are adept at deploying. We all need to constantly work on our communications skills. Learn to listen. Learn to empathize. Learn to understand how much the other person has tried before unleashing advice. Start off with a positive, discuss an area that needs work, and end with a final positive is the best way to go.

I’m absolutely thankful for my dad, and I would much rather prefer having strict parents growing up over parents that just didn’t seem to care.

How about you? Do you wish your parents were more strict on you growing up? 

Graphics by Kongaline.com

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    Ha! Our family second car was a 1970′s Datsun and I just wrote about it in my Father’s Day Tribute post too!

    My Dad was frugal, almost to the point of being miserly, but in hindsight, he was just frugal in the right places and strict about things too, including the Datsun!

    • says

      1970s Datsun owners of the world, UNITE! We had white overcloth protecting the fine seats too. Ours was silver, but that’s because there was no paint.

      I wish I had a picture of it. But, I couldn’t afford a camera.

      • rob says

        ha ha oh the memories my Dad owned an orange Datsun 510 for years, gutless, drove like a tank, and no heat in the winter, oh and a standard to boot. Oh yes I rememeer it well.

        thanks for the memories, he’s been gone for 2 years now and so many conversations I could have now!

  2. says

    Your dad taught you some great lessons! My parents were not the strictest, and I’m actually pretty grateful for that. They let me make mistakes, they never put large amounts of pressure on me, and for the most part, they always supported and trusted me. I never had a curfew or anything like that, but it was comforting to know they put so much faith in me. That’s not to say they didn’t discipline me when I acted out, but I think I turned out well and I wouldn’t change a thing.

  3. Matt says

    Sam, You must be my long lost cousin. I had a similar dad, with the calm and collected, yet respected demeanor. We certainly weren’t poor, but my dad sure was a tight-wad with money, and it stuck with me. Later, I realized, that is how he obtained his good financial standing. But at the time I didn’t understand why when our POS borrowed motorhome would break down on the side of a hot dusty highways, we’d sweat the night away attempting to ‘sleep,’ instead of getting a nice cool $20 (going rate back then) airconditioned motel room to relax in. I remember my dad introducing me to stocks and explaining it from the ground up. I still remember him introducing me to my first wall street journal. Sports were similar too. Always a good chunk of my life and his, shared. He preferred Schwab too because ‘they didn’t try to tell you what to do with your money.’ When I finally scrapped together my first couple thousand (the minimum required to open an account) at 22, I remember walking into their local office and the account rep was shocked to see someone that young. Similar to you, I’m in my 30′s and debating to pull the trigger on early retirement. I realize now, I have someone to thank for that. I’ve got a call to make this father’s day. Thanks Sam.

    • says

      Hi Cousin Matt,

      Nice to hear about your dad as well. Early retirement is a pretty intimidating step. Please look through my Retirement and Employment archives before you make a move. One post is, “The Dark Side To Early Retirement” which I still believe holds true.

      Also, consider writing out your thoughts or a guest post here so you can get all your angles covered.

      Good luck!

      Sam

  4. says

    That’s a great lesson about running towards something instead of always waiting for it to come to you. I used to duck when my dad drove me to school in his old beater car too haha. He still laughs about that today.

    Your dad sounds very calm and caring. My dad has mellowed out a lot over the years and taught me a lot of things growing up that have come in really handy over the years.

    Happy Father’s day to all the dads!

  5. Jimmy says

    My parents would not purchase anything unless they could pay cash. As children, my sister and I had all that was needed. Neither of them went to college. They were solid taxpaying citizens. Never did they depend on their children for financial support. They always encouraged saving all that you could. They’ve both now passed on. They did not leave any unpaid debts. They were great parents and grandparents to our children I miss them however, I understand it’s part of life’s cycle. At the time of their passing they had a net worth of over $1.3 million. All due to hard work and saving all they could.

    • Rob says

      Sounds like my Dad, raised 5 kids on one (good) income, Mum never worked outside of the home. On the other hand my Wife’s parents are the total opposite, always lurching from one financial crisis to another, we were quite worried there for a while that they would lose the house, mortgaged it to the hilt for some pink sheets. Even now in their 80′s they’re still carrying a mortgage. We’re all worried that if he dies she might be talked into some crazy investment scheme, when he dies she’ll have to sell the house to make ends meet.

  6. JayCeezy says

    FS, your Dad sounds wonderful, with a lot of accomplishment. He has a lot to be proud of, and it is nice to read this post expressing the mutual pride and respect you have for each other.

    • says

      Thanks JayCeezy. I feel very fortunate. I have asked my father many times for advice and feedback on how to write, what to write, what I’ve written, and what I should do.

      Sometimes you just need a push, and I’ve gotten that from my father on several occassions.

  7. says

    Absolutely not. Mine were too strict and it led to me moving out very young and damaging our relationship for a while.

    Parenting. It’s impossible to win either way, I know.

    • says

      I can totally see how having super strict parents would cause kids to rebel. I did, and I know many other kids did as well. It’s a natural response.

      What do you think would have happened to you if they were super chill and relax?

  8. Mike Hunt says

    Your Dad sounds wonderful. My Dad also had a Datsun, and we never went out to eat. The first time I did that was when I was 9 years old with some friends, at Friendly’s restaurant. I didn’t know anything about tipping or even how the restaurant experience was like.

    My Dad would carry water or drink from the water fountain rather than ever buying from the vending machine. “No. Can’t do it – it’s too expensive.” He’s finally let up now that he is in his 70′s and worth a few million dollars.

    -Mike

  9. Steve says

    You are very lucky to have the positive and supporting father that you have had. Embrace that. It’s a great thing. Strict with positive intent is very different from strict and downright abusive.

  10. G says

    My father was very strict and expected alot from us, warned us of the evil of unnecessary debt, credit cards and bad habits that can financially drain you – which advice made all of us very successful today. He was a role model in every way, he stepped in financially for my kids when my marriage failed and the father gave up all his rights. What a polar opposite!

    I remember him taking lunch to work only to save money, he has bought all his houses and cars cash. He never depended on anyone. He even has savings for my mother incase something happens to him, she is financially secured and need not depend on us. I have yet to meet anyone who can measure up to him. I am grateful for him in my life and hope to do the same with my kids.

  11. says

    There’s definitely a difference between being strict for the sake of control and being strict for the sake of helping your kids become better. The former will obviously never produce a rich and loving relationship like the one you have with your dad.

  12. says

    I don’t think my father (or mother) could have been more strict! If I disappointed my Dad, he would just look at me and i knew I messed up. Since my parents were older and lived through the Great Depression, I think certain things were just taken for granted. I spent a great deal of time working with my parents which instilled a disciplined work ethic early. I learned a great deal through this exposure to work world. I exposed my children to the stock market when they were 13 years old. I think it is very important to involve children in the daily lives of parents including going to work.

  13. David says

    My parents were great role models throughout my childhood and today remain my heroes. They are the perfect example that your dreams are achievable with enough drive and dedication. Both were depression kids. My father’s dream was to own his own business which he achieved and to my knowledge they never earned more than $15K per year. Still they managed to raise four children, providing a roof over our heads, food on the table, all our needs were provided for, AND they managed to save for a successful retirement of their own.

    When I was born my parents both dreamed that I would one day graduate from college so that I could be more successful in life than they had been. In order to provide for this my father started putting aside 50 cent pieces for my college fund whenever a customer would pay with them. Of course people eventually found out what he was doing and started paying with them all the time so they eventually had to put limits in place as to how much could go into my fund at the time.

    Growing up my parents always told me that I was going to college on 50 cent pieces, and so I did. I graduated from college, owed no money, and still had $100 to my name. This has been a prime example throughout my life of the power of saving money early and often.

    Upon graduation my parents gave me a gift of a new 50 cent piece to start my adult life. I still have this framed on my wall as an example of what can be built starting with even the smallest building blocks.

  14. says

    I often wonder how my life would have turned out if my parents had been different. I like to think they did the best they could with what they had. Being first generation immigrants, they had it pretty rough with learning the culture so I try to remember that before I judge them too harshly.

  15. mysticaltyger says

    Nice Father’s Day tribute, Sam. I think having your dad involved in your life, ideally in the form of a married, 2 parent family, makes a HUGE difference in what you achieve in life. I think the best thing kids can get is a married, reasonably harmonious (We’re not talking the Cleaver’s here, but reasonable), 2 parent family. That’s more important than money. People who come from single parent families just don’t do as well on average. I know that will make people mad, but it’s still true. Some will rush to point out exceptions to the rule, but they are still exceptions.

    • says

      Thanks. MT. It makes sense that a loving, two parent family might be better for kids. I guess we are all dealt different hands that must be played the best we can. There are definitely areas for improvement in my family. I’ve tried my best not to have my parents worry about me as much anymore after getting into lots of trouble as a teenager.

  16. says

    Great Post!
    Regarding strictness, I had the right balance….always given enough runway to either prove I can handle it or prove that I can’t. When proven I can’t, all hell broke loose (this is how you get wise at a young age and learn to CYA in all circumstances :) )

    In regards to everyone’s response about frugality and money…. I just did the complete opposite of what my parents did. Sometimes having to live and pay for other peoples mistakes and poor financial decision making causes one to swing to the other side of the spectrum!

  17. Virginia says

    I would say my parents were very strict and I think it has contributed to some depression in my life. I always felt like my grades weren’t good enough or I had to apologize for something. I have a much better relationship with them now that I am an adult. I realize they were probably trying there best and thought they were preparing me for life but I would have preferred if things were a little more laid back growing up.

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