I went downstairs to surprise my daughters after arriving home earlier than planned. As I got close to the door where they share a room, I heard the words “are you going to tell Mommy?” My ears instantly perked up, and I unashamedly continued to listen.
While their little secret turned out to be nothing of importance, that’s not always the case. I am a teen mental health therapist and let me tell you, I have heard the heartbreak that results from parents not protecting their children. That protection is enabled by being aware of your kid’s behaviors and decisions. Here are ways you should spy on your kids.
Looking through their text and social media.
Regardless of who bought the phone, if that child, under the age of 18, still lives in your house you are legally and morally responsible for the choices they make. From cyber bullying to sexting, we have to monitor the content our kids are exposed to. Being aware helps us intervene when necessary. For example, I had one family learn after the fact that their daughter was being pressured by her boyfriend and his friends to send inappropriate pictures of herself, which then spread around the school. When the school found out, the daughter and boyfriend were suspended, and a police detective was assigned their case to pursue child pornography charges. The parents who were completely oblivious and trusted their daughter were exposed to the numerous poor choices when confronted with the school’s suspension and detective’s interviews.
We need to allow our kids choices that strengthen responsibility, this is part of our equipping them for adulthood. However, that does not mean we allow ourselves to be hands-off and oblivious to their choices. We need to allow our kids to make choices that fail, so they can learn; with failure comes the opportunity for education. But without awareness of their failings, we are blind to this opportunity, and more importantly, unable to prevent potential life long consequences.
We need to allow our kids to make choices that fail, so they can learn; with failure comes the opportunity for education.
Listening to their conversations with siblings and peers
Our kids act differently with their friends and siblings than they do around us. Listening in during carpooling, cooking dinner, getting ready in the morning, and shopping, are a few examples of opportunities to pay attention to the types of conversations your child is having with others. You can learn about who is in a relationship with who now, who is having sex or doing drugs, all from just listening!
Asking other parents, teachers, and coaches
Checking in with other adults who see your child and see them interact with their peers, could give you another angle to learn more about your child’s behavior outside the home. Other adults, like teachers, coaches, and youth leaders, could also be a great resource for discovering latest trends and information that could assist in your own parenting. Use this time to assess if there are other adults who are good influences in your child’s life.
Our kids will soon be out in this world on their own. Walking with them, even from the outside of a bedroom door, ensures they will be equipped to be a healthy adult!
How much privacy should we give our children?
Paige Clingenpeel is a licensed teen therapist and has worked on TV, radio, and web-based media. Her passion is creating health, hope, and humor for youth and their families.