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Strict Parents Make Sneaky Kids

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"[Your daughter] already doesn't trust you because you stole her memories. And that, I recall, was because you were trying to protect her. Maybe if you hadn't protected her so much, she would know more about what is dangerous, and what isn't, and be a little less secretive — and less reckless!"
Isabelle to Jocelyn, City of Lost Souls

Most parents will do anything to protect their kids. Naturally, this means setting some restrictions. Sometimes however, they can become too over-protective, albeit well-intentioned, to the point of giving them almost no freedom. In these scenarios, the child might obey their parent's every rule. Other times, they just become better at hiding things from their parents. This can go to even higher extremes in fiction, where a child may very well have a secret other life Demon Slaying or as a magical warrior, though their secrets could also be much more mundane. In any case, the child is keeping secrets from their over-protective parent.

Is often Truth in Television. Compare to Preacher's Kid. May result from My Beloved Smother, Fantasy-Forbidding Father, Knight Templar Parent, or Safety Worst. If the parent eventually discovers their child's secrets, it may result in Anti-Smother Love Talk or Calling the Old Man Out. For a tamer variant, you've got Dating What Daddy Hates.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Ms Marvel of course has to do this as a Superhero, since Kamala's parents are very strict in all aspects of her life. However, when Kamala finally tells her mother about her secret identity, she revealed that she already knew and was pleased that her daughter's darkest secret was sneaking out to help others.
    Muneeba: If the worst thing you do is sneak out to help suffering people, then I thank God for having raised a righteous child.

    Fan Works 
  • Much of why the plot of The Outside happens, though, it's not Ryuuko's parents but, her agoraphobic overprotective older sister, Satsuki, who forbids the former from going outside, so, to experience what she calls the "Outside", she has to sneak because Satsuki would have told her "No." if she asked (and she did when Ryuuko tried).
  • Scarlet Lady: As in canon, both Gabriel Agreste and Tomoe Tsurugi are strict and controlling towards their kids. As a result, Adrien and Kagami come up with various ways to sneak past them so they can hang out with their friends, even having a competition with each other over it.
    Kagami: Oh nooo~! Looks like the fencing team strategy meeting isn't here. Seems like I've given my mother the wrong information~
    Adrien: Ha! I snuck out behind Père's back! He thinks I'm back in my room playing piano!
    Kagami: Dammit! You've bested me again, Agreste!

    Films — Animated 
  • Coco: Miguel's family is very intimate and loving, but music is strictly banned. This causes him to hide his secret passion for music from all of them.
  • In The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning, King Triton bans music from the kingdom after it indirectly causes his wife's death. As a result, Ariel goes behind his back and starts attending a secret music club. He doesn't handle it well, which leads to Ariel Calling the Old Man Out.
  • Implied in Tangled. Rapunzel actively hides Pascal from Mother Gothel, likely for fear that if discovered he would be taken away from her.
  • Turning Red: Part of Mei's growth throughout the film has her skirting around her normally strict schedule and expectations placed by her mother Ming. Even before the panda pushed her to be more daring, she attempts to hide away her romantic drawings of Devon and it is implied that everything she says to her is at least subconsciously edited to please her or fit her expectations. After getting the panda, Mei lies about her afterschool whereabouts, her diminishing school performance, and sneaking off to Tyler's party.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Dead Poets Society, Neil Perry's father talks to Dean Nolan and Neil is no longer the assistant editor for the school annual. Later on, Neil forges a letter that makes it look like his dad and Dean Nolan gave permission to participate in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at nearby Henley Hall. After Neil's father finds out, he orders him to quit the play, but Neil finds a way to perform in the play, believing his dad is taking a business trip to Chicago, only for his dad to arrive at Henley Hall and drag him home to enlist him in military school. Feeling as though he has no other escape, Neil is Driven to Suicide.
  • In Eskimo Day, the well-meaning but overbearing parents cause Neil and Pippa to hide their doings that would worry them.
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Madison's mother Emma tries to limit Madison's security violations at Monarch, and she's even outright emotionally manipulative to the girl in a horrible way. Madison in turn is skilled enough to steal the ORCA, sneak out through a ventilation shaft, and walk a few miles on foot without being detected by her mother or by the murderous mercenaries her mother has been working with until she's far away.
    • Godzilla vs. Kong: Madison is now living with her father Mark, who cuts her out of Monarch's investigation into Godzilla's attacks entirely, wanting her to stay at home and in school. How does Madison respond? By getting a fellow high schooler to steal his brother's truck so she can sneak out of home in it and break into Apex Cybernetics' old factory herself. Bonus points in the novelization, where Mark tried to have Madison's aunt keep her under watch to stop her from disobeying him, but Madison timed her jailbreak between her father's departure and her aunt's arrival.

  • Little Willie Connolly in J.R. Lowell's occult thriller Daughter Of Darkness is a Deliberately Cute Child Prodigy who obeys all her parents' rules, carefully maintaining her "facade of docility" so that there's no need to supervise her. Her privacy is extremely important, as is her doll collection, which everyone assumes is connected with her anthropological studies. They're partly right.
  • In Making Money, Moist von Lipwig recalls that his childhood meals often included offal, which was "exactly the sort of food that one should serve to kids if one wanted them to grow up skilled in the arts of bare-faced lying, sleight of hand, and camouflage."
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: In the first book, a rich Indian man tries to strictly control his daughter's life, and when the daughter starts sneaking away, he suspects she's seeing a secret boyfriend. He hires the detective Precious Ramotswe to find out who this boyfriend is. Mma Ramotswe finds there isn't any boyfriend: the daughter is just sneaking away to make her dad think she's seeing someone, as an act of rebellion. So Mma Ramotswe reports what she found to the dad, and urges him to just give his daughter some more autonomy, and he agrees. And at the very end, Mma Ramotswe discovers the daughter played her like a fiddle, and actually does have a secret boyfriend.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Discussed in Dharma & Greg, when they find themselves taking care of a friend's teenage daughter. Greg and Dharma argue about keeping her away from her boyfriend. When Dharma claims that they'll find a way to get together anyway, Greg agrees, but insists that it's their job as guardians to lay down the rules, and force kids to sneak around in order to date.
    Dharma: Greg, that's ridiculous.
    Greg: No, it's darwinian. The smartest ones get to breed.
  • Lane Kim on Gilmore Girls has a whole secret life her extremely religious Education Mama knows nothing about. Over the years, Lane evolved an impressively complex system of hiding places, alibis, alliances and various schemes to allow her to talk to boys, listen to secular music, and wear modern clothes without her mother's knowledge.
  • In The Nanny, Maxwell is adamant in not letting Maggie, his teenage daughter, date, thinking boys will just mistreat her. However, he ends up loosening up on this thanks to Fran's influence, who thinks that dating is a part of growing up.
    Fran: If you don't let them [boys] in thought the front door, then they'll just sneak out the back window.
  • In the first season of Stranger Things, Mike and Nancy's mother bans them from going out after daylight hours when Will disappears. Mike gets around this by sneaking out in the middle of the night to look for Will with Dustin and Lucas. Nancy lies and tells her mother she's going to a school rally for Will, actually going to a party with Barb.
  • Smallville: In the episode "Harvest", Lois revealed to Clark that she had learned lockpicking skills in her youth so she could sneak out whenever her father had grounded her. In her own words, "This Army brat's picked more locks than Houdini."
  • Eric and Laurie (and later Hyde) from That '70s Show chafe at Red's rules and enforcement, and often attempt to sneak around him. Results vary.

  • Romeo and Juliet: Lord and Lady Capulet are both completely uncompromising with their daughter, trying to force Juliet to marry Paris whether she likes it or not. This provides further motivation for her abrupt elopement with Romeo, and ultimately leads to her death, after which they finally see the error in their ways.

  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir's parents don't like the idea of him leaving home, to the point that they lied to him about the extent to which he was allowed to travel internationally by the law until one of his brothers set him straight. The first time Reynir went to another country, he left his home during the night. The second time, he claimed that he was simply going to visit another town. That happens to have a port.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph's parents were over-protective and strict with their "helpless little blind girl"...which resulted in her becoming the reigning champion of an underground earthbending arena behind their backs, and ultimately running away to teach Aang earthbending (she is blind, but her earthbending is so strong she can easily pass for being sighted if she isn't asked to read). It takes her saving her father and his employees from a cave-in and an iron mine for him to recognize her worth (note that this is after she invents metalbending and helps take down the Fire Nation).
    • The Legend of Korra: Inverted by Toph Beifong, who wanted her kids to have the freedom she never had. As a result, one of her daughters falls in with a criminal gang and the other becomes a By-the-Book Cop, Ironically, the first daughter manages to get a good life, but the second one greatly resents Toph and accuses her of Parental Abandonment. Even worse, Toph's grandchild becomes a villain still resentful of his mother, so it seems that for the entire maternal Beifong's lineage, the Freudian Excuse is a running theme.
  • Gabriel Agreste from Miraculous Ladybug is an incredibly strict and controlling parent who completely micromanages his son's life while having little part in it. He's completely oblivious to Adrien's secret life as a superhero fighting supervillains of Gabriel's own making, and also his frequent excursions as a civilian that involve him sneaking out of the house.
  • The Simpsons: Subverted — it is eventually revealed that Reverend Lovejoy is an utter Jerkass of a parent that refuses to acknowledge Jessica as a regular human being that seeks attention and love. As a result, when Jessica recites her long criminal record in an attempt to draw his attention, he just places his hands over his ears and sing church songs so he won't hear her as he runs out of the room.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Connie has strict parents who punish her harshly for rule-breaking, and as a result she kept her activities with the Crystal Gems a secret, including her sword-fighting lessons with Pearl. In the episode "Nightmare Hospital", Connie's mother finds her sword and is horrified. Connie confesses that she's been fighting monsters with Steven for the past year, finally telling her how much she hates her parents' over-protective and restrictive nature, shocking her mother. In the end, Connie agrees to stop keeping secrets from her parents and her mother agrees to loosen up on the rules, and they hug it out.
      Connie: Really, Mom, I know to do this!
      Dr. Maheswaran: No you don't!
      Steven: Yes she does! She's been training! She wasn't playing around with that sword, she was taking classes learning how to use it right! Even though she's always studying or practicing tennis or doing her homework, she still works really hard to be a good sword fighter.
      Dr. Maheswaren: No. No, no, no, no, no, no. I know my daughter. I know what she's doing every second of the day, all her activities, all her internets. I know she's definitely not some sword-fighting hooligan!
      Connie: You don't know me at all!
    • In season 5, we discover Pink Diamond had a similar relationship with her fellow Diamonds. Despite being much more assertive than Connie, Pink was still undermined by Yellow and Blue, considered to be her main parental figures. As a result, she is forced to keep her alter-ego as Rose Quartz and her visits to Earth, which is strictly forbidden by the Diamonds, a secret. When they refuse to let her give up her colony and end up taking control of the planet away from her because she won't complete it, Pink ends up secretly betraying them and faked her death with Pearl's help. Ultimately, the Diamonds are still unaware of Pink's true fate for thousands of years until the end of "Reunited".
  • Tangled: The Series: Cassandra is the adoptive daughter of the Captain of the guard and so she is a Military Brat. The standards Cassandra's father sets for her are higher then for everyone else and he prefers Cassandra works as a Lady-In-Waiting rather than let her join the Royal Guard. Cassandra wants to have adventures and sneaks princess Rapunzel out of the castle to see some strange rocks, kicking off the plot. The first season shows Cassandra helping Rapunzel getting into adventures, the King finds out and sends Cassandra to a convent. In the third season of the series, this backfires spectacularly: Cassandra discovers she is the daughter of Mother Gothel, who kidnapped princess Rapunzel when she was a child and committed Parental Abandonment to Cassandra; Cassandra becomes the last season Arc Villain and is considered the biggest threat the Kingdom has ever faced.