Why I Don’t Watch What My Kids are Doing Online

Readers hrznndyyat
— This surprising story of parental reversal comes to us from Jody Allard, a single mom of seven in Seattle. 

Why Stalking Your Kids Isn’t Okay, by Jody Allard

Earlier tonight, one of my teenage sons came home from his first date. He plopped down on the couch, kicked off his shoes, and told me pretty much everything. Not in graphic detail, thank God. But enough to know that he’d had his first kiss.

As we talked, we briefly discussed consent (in this case, his!), condoms, and his very firm belief that he isn’t ready to have sex yet. After I shared a few condom tips I swear no one ever tells you until it’s too late, he wandered off in search of food.

Later, my teenage daughter came in to tell me that her childhood BFF has started hanging out with kids who smoke pot. The girl’s recent birthday party was a beach bonfire complete with weed. Even while proclaiming how stupid drugs are, and how sad it is her friends from middle school are doing drugs at age 14, my daughter paused to wonder why her BFF hadn’t invited her. Exclusion hurts.

Later still, all three of my teens came together to discuss a mutual friend’s living situation — they were concerned it might be unsafe.

After I finally managed to get everyone out of my bedroom, I replayed all of the evening’s events. Sex, drugs, interpersonal relationships…  But, I don’t think that I have ever been as proud of my kids as I was tonight.

Goodbye, Sticker Charts

I’m no expert at this parenting thing. I originally followed my own mother’s approach simply because it was familiar and, I assumed, correct. But as my kids grew older — and I grew up — that approach evolved.

Originally, I had many rules, rewards, sticker charts, and punishments. My kids behaved pretty well, and I thought that I was an awesome parent. Then they hit their pre-teen years and started telling me all of the crazy things that they had been doing while I thought they were following the rules! Climbing out of windows and walking along the roof to get from their room to their sibling’s room (just to get out of a time out!) was the one that really blew my mind. If my kids could swing that without me or my hyper-vigilant ex-husband noticing, it became clear that the idea of controlling my kids’ behavior flat out didn’t work.

No More Limits

Since I’m not a fan of wasting my time, I tried something new. I ditched all of the rules, other than a few very basic ones that were written out and agreed to during a family meeting. I lifted all limits on screens. I got them smartphones. I made no effort to monitor their online behavior. I removed myself as a person of power and instead tried to create a new role of engaged leadership. I stopped lecturing so much and started listening more. And I kept talking to them about everything, from something I saw on Twitter to why I was touched by an article in the news. If I was concerned about their behavior, I talked to them about it, rather than creating a rule.

It’s been two years now since I dramatically changed my parenting approach. Along the way, I found my own boundaries for what I was willing to accept from my kids, and I began to make that clear. There might not be many rules in our house, but I don’t allow myself to be treated poorly, either. Thankfully, a sense of humor goes a long way toward easing tensions all around.

Facebook Friends Suggest Stalking

Recently, I’ve seen a surge in articles and social media posts about the need to monitor teens’ behavior, especially online. A friend posted about the topic and her friends suggested everything from having all of her kids’ emails forwarded to her, to viewing all of their friend’s friend’s friend’s accounts on social media to see what kind of kids her kids they hang out with. One mom reads her teens’ texts every night. Another has software that monitors and tracks all internet usage.

When I encounter behavior like that among parents, I wonder why stalking your child is ever considered acceptable behavior. Stalking an adult is a crime. I don’t understand why doing the same to a child has come to be considered good parenting.

A Great Way to Win Your Child’s Distrust

I also have to ask myself what the goal is. Is it to protect kids from danger? Is it to make sure they never make a mistake? In any case, it seems designed to build resentment, distrust and hostility. Imagine how you would react if your significant other demanded you hand over copies of everything you did on your phone every day!

Kids have privacy and autonomy, too. By the time they reach the teen years, it’s time for them to start making decisions, stretching those wings, and…making mistakes. Doing the same stupid stuff teens have been doing for decades. All in the name of being a flawed, imperfect human who learns and grows.

Erring on the Side of Trust

My kids have generally been given as much freedom as I felt they could handle. In the past, I erred on the side of caution. Now, I err on the side of trust. Not because I expect them never to mess up, but because I want them to have the freedom to do just that while they are still safely cared for here at home.

Sometimes, I shake my head at the crazy things my kids do. But by being trusted to make their own choices, they have learned to trust themselves and their own judgment. Even at 16, for example, my oldest son doesn’t want to learn how to drive. Instead, he takes the bus and has chosen to wait to drive until he feels ready.

I know that my kids won’t always be on the “right” side of every situation, like they happened to be tonight. Eventually, they may choose to have sex or try pot. And, considering that 99% of the adults that I know have done both, I think that they will be just fine.

A few weeks ago, I de-friended my kids on Facebook. I realized that, with my kids as my friends, I just wasn’t free to post openly. They were horrified by my decision, and gasped, almost in unison, “But, how will we know what’s going on in your LIFE?!”

It’s simple, I told them. You can ask. – J.A.


A mom on Facebook recommended friending your kids' friends' friends.

A mom on Facebook recommended friending your kids’ friends’ friends.

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88 Responses to Why I Don’t Watch What My Kids are Doing Online

  1. Ben August 27, 2014 at 4:18 am #

    This mom has the right idea. Stalking people is a crime regardless wwho it is you are following

  2. Donald August 27, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    I wrote a page on my blog to answer this same question. Too much control backfires. Think of your control over them is like money. You have a limited amount of control and you have a limited amount of money. If you overspend and run out of money/control over them, you don’t have any left. This can be very serious when a very serious problem comes along. You feel helpless because you no longer have any control over them and can’t assist them with this life changing decision that they’re facing.

    On top of this, your attempts at overly controlling them actually pushed them into some of the bad behavior.


  3. E August 27, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    I agree with much of what she has said.

    The challenge is when a child has behaviors that *are* of legitimate concern. At that point parents (and kids) do have to adapt and it can be difficult to navigate those waters.

  4. hancock August 27, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    I don’t think I would have gone as far as giving them smart phones. I’m a definitely not the kind who just hands over the internet to the kids and says “do what you want”; but otherwise, I would probably do petty much the same. They are becoming adults and should be given some space.

  5. Thea August 27, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    I’m thankful that I grew up in the age before cell phones and widespread internet. We had dial up and always groaned when the phone would ring while on the net. I don’t think my parents would’ve stalked me because I’d grown up telling them everything that was going on in my life anyway. I talked about my friends and their issues. I talked about when people made fun of me (for being short) and how it made me feel. We talked about the boys I liked who didn’t like me back. If your kids talk to you, you don’t need to stalk them.

  6. Silver Fang August 27, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    In other words, she’s treating her teenagers like actual human beings with hearts and brains of their own.

  7. BL August 27, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    @Silver Fang
    “In other words, she’s treating her teenagers like actual human beings with hearts and brains of their own.”

    Wait! That can’t possibly be legal!

  8. PDB August 27, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Too bad our government doesn’t want to treat us this way.

  9. Mark Davis August 27, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    “In the past, I erred on the side of caution. Now, I err on the side of trust.” That is a great quote that captures the essence of Free-Range.

    Our kids will do dumb-ass things whether we like it or not. And they will learn from their mistakes and grow, just like we all did when we were their age.

  10. Tamara August 27, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    Oh, this mom is awesome – hear that, J.A., you are awesome. It is hard to go against the mainstream, isn’t it.

    I agree with this philosophy so much. It is the approach I am taking with my kids and I am pleased to see that it is working so well for this family, I will be happy if things go as well for us.

    I wonder how well this approach would work regarding food – after all, no one tells you as a grown up what to eat, and we try so hard to control what and even when our kids eat. Free range eating plan? Complete with good modelling from the parents of course…..

  11. Jody August 27, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Tamara, that’s something I’ve been grappling with. I wrote this piece but a few of my kids have food sensitivities, like me. The approach I’ve taken is to enforce the sensitivities with the younger kids but allow them to make their own choices as they get older. The caveat is that if a certain food is known to make you ill, I won’t buy it for you. This means most of their babysitting money goes to junk food but they also have learned to cook at home (they each cook one dinner per week) and know the principles of healthy eating, and I model it as well. I figure it’ll sort itself out in adulthood.

    Oh and if you eat crap and give yourself a migraine or puke, you still have to do chores! We have a self-inflicted misery clause 😉

  12. AlanaM August 27, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    I’m trying to find a happy medium. I have two sons 15 and 12 and an adult daughter. Our daughter made some really bad decisions with technology as a teenager so I am wary. But my philosophy mainly is: until you give us a reason to not trust you, then we trust you.

    Our 15 yo has a laptop he bought with his own money and internet access in his room if his grades are really good. I only checked his cellphone once and he has no limit on screen time. I am fb friends with him but no one his age uses fb anymore! My 12 yo has a few more rules but so far so good.

  13. IrIrina August 27, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    At last someone who thinks stalking teens is wrong too. A parent isn’t a prison warder!

    I’m not even on facebook myself, mostly because of privacy concerns and because I don’t want people from the past to catch up with me and embarrass me, but partly because that’s my daughters’ territory.

  14. Nicole August 27, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    When I was a teen, my parents trusted me to make many of my own decisions and to mess up. They had finally perfected parenting by the time they got to the fourth teenager, because they imposed a lot of rules on my oldest sister! I didn’t tell my parents everything that went on in my life, but they knew enough and I didn’t try half of the things my friends did. In fact, it never occurred to me. When I found out a few friends had gotten drunk one weekend just to see what it was like, I asked them why they even wanted to know. I was a good kid because I felt my parents’ trust and didn’t want to betray that trust. My best friend had a ton of rules at home and her parents monitored everything she did. Needless to say, she and her sisters rebelled a lot, and I ended up covering for her to keep her out of trouble – except I complained about it to my parents every time. Fast forward twenty years. Now we’re both parents of teens. She is a helicopter parent who walks her boys to the bus stop (in high school) and won’t allow her 17-year-old to get his drivers license because she doesn’t trust his decision making skills. And I’ve been letting my 13-year-old stay home alone, walk around town and with friends, and arrange her own transportation when I can’t drive her for a few years now. My big rule is that she has to use her smartphone to keep me in the loop so I know when to expect her home and not worry. Our relationship is one of trust and sometimes too much information. I completely agree with this mom’s parenting because it builds a trusting relationship with her kids that will last a lifetime.

  15. anonymous mom August 27, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I wonder how to balance allowing children freedom with technology while also encouraging the kind of play that is often advocated by free-range parents, like outdoor play. Because, honestly, if I lifted all screen time limits, my kids would choose to be on a screen ALL THE TIME. And, I get that, because the immediate, easy gratification of the internet and video games are extremely enticing.

    Granted, my kids are younger than the author’s kids. But, my 10 year old would truly play Minecraft for weeks on end if I allowed him unlimited access to the computer. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy riding his bike; it’s that it requires more effort than Minecraft, and we all usually take the path of least resistance if we’re able.

    So I’m wondering where the balance is, when being “free-range” about technology seems like it could lead to kids not going out and doing the things that many free-range parents celebrate.

  16. anonymous mom August 27, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    @Tamara, you might be interested in the work of Ellyn Satter:


  17. Tamara August 27, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    Jody – that sounds like a sound philosophy regarding the food. I was told what to eat when I was a kid – I remember even celery being taken away from me once because I was eating when I shouldn’t have been. I’ve struggled with weight all my life so it seems scary to give my kids this freedom, but when weighing (ha! weighing) the options, it seems the only realistic way to get them to eat a healthy diet. I buy only a few junky foods and hardly any of our cooking is from packaged foods so I am hoping this will make a difference.

  18. JP Merzetti August 27, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Yep. Trust and respect for privacy. Followed by good communication.
    That’s a fine combination.

    I liked that last quote: Life is not known from a screen. But face to face.
    All the rites of childhood evolution don’t need micro-management. Otherwise the growth of trust becomes superficial. Hedged.

    This whole tendency toward using technology to spy….just creeps me out.
    I grew up in a very strict household – yet had all the freedom in the world. I was expected to learn how to use that freedom in a positive way. Which is what I did, because it was far too valuable to lose.
    That became the model I used as a parent, myself. (except I backed off the strict a bit.)
    The results were as expected.

    Control and freedom don’t mix. Freedom is a huge motivator. Especially when earned.

  19. Tamara August 27, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Anonymous mom , thanks for the link! I checked it out quickly and must go back for a more in depth look!

    Regarding the minecraft, I so hear you. I have a nine and six year old. This summer we decided to begin unschooling. We decided to give them no restrictions on screen time and we have been living with mine craft 24/7 for the past few weeks. They spend a lot of time outside, but when they come In the house, it’s minecraft minecraft minecraft – YouTube videos of minecraft reviews if they are not actually playing it. My oldest especially tends to immerse herself in a subject until she is an expert so I am hoping this is what is happening here but I will let you know as we continue the experiment!

  20. acm August 27, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    I love this! would love to know the age at which it works — my 6-year-old is pretty poor at judging her own limits and making her own rules, but surely I could gradually wean her/our household toward the above model. It’s a constant point of thought. Thanks for the inspiring story!!

  21. required name August 27, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    I love this so much! I was starting to think I was the only one who trusted my teenager. She is 13 and other parents think we’re insane for letting her have a boyfriend. I taught 6th graders, and I can say with confidence that not allowing them to have a boyfriend/girlfriend isn’t going to prevent it, it will just ensure that your kid won’t tell you about it. I’d rather be in the loop than blissfully ignorant. Her boyfriend is a nice kid, I know where he lives, he does not go to her school or share her circle of friends, so I don’t have to worry that she’s sneaking over to his house when she’s spending the night with friends. They only see each other at our house or at outings with his parents. I haven’t orchestrated it this way, but I sure am happy with how things have turned out. If she gets a different boyfriend, fine. We’ll deal with the specifics if that happens. But I’ll know about it and I’ll be able to deal with it, she won’t be sneaking around behind my back because of some rule that I can’t enforce without locking her in the house.

  22. Gina August 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Love this. Exactly how I have parented 5 very different kids since the beginning. The results: 5 confident, kind, compassionate, upstanding adults. Exactly how I am nannying my new little charge..thankfully, his mom agrees.

  23. EricS August 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    That is awesome J.A.! Imo, you are doing what many parents did back in the day. Perhaps with all the “you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’ll get arrested, etc…” has manipulated into thinking you’ve done differently than your parents.

    I too raise mine like I was raised. And TRUSTING, with little restrictions was a key part in my upbringing. Because we had few restrictions, we didn’t feel the need to rebel as much or as often as many teens. Because in our minds, we could do it anytime, so we didn’t feel we needed to do it all the time. We learned consequence of actions, and through those consequences, we learned quickly what things NOT to do. Same goes for mine.

    Sounds like you started them on a good base from a young age. Making it a little easier to trust them as they got older. A lot of parents shelter their kids, till the parents are ready to move forward. You clearly understand, it’s not about the parents’ feelings and well being, it’s about the children’s. Keep it up. Although your teens are teens, they sound like they have much respect and trust for you. Which goes a very long way in raising them to be responsible, confident, and adaptable young adults.

  24. kate123 August 27, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    Minecraft. We also grappled with this when my son was 10. He seemed to be addicted for a while. All at home time seemed to be sucked up by this game. But, he was much happier to be outside, if friends were around. We decided that as long as he wasn’t totally consumed, we would allow it. But he was expected to do chores and join us for family time occasionally.
    Also, if friends were over I expected them to head outside. There were a couple of boys that didn’t know what to do with themselves and would try to come in after 15 minutes. If the weather was decent, I acted like a mother from the 70’s and made them stay out.

    At one point, my son did tell me that he didn’t feel good after wasting an entire afternoon on the computer and needed to get out.

  25. Andy August 27, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    @anonymous mom If your kids would spend so much time playing outside that they would spend zero time learning for school, did no housework and did not shown up home, you would probably put limits on it too (be home soon enough to do all homework and study before sleeping).

    The same as with books and reading, we want them to read as much as possible. However, if they would spend zero time with anything else, maybe you would told them to stop reading and go outside/do homework/help with dishes.

    My point is that it is not necessary contradiction. Kids these days do not tend to play outside so much so issue is rare.

  26. Andy August 27, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Minecraft is great, I loved playing with it too. And depending on how you play it, it requires way more patience and is way harder then riding bike :). Some people can create awesome things with it.

    Out of curiosity, did any of you tried to play together with kids – as a family time thing? My kids are too small to find out whether it can work out or not.

  27. Mark August 27, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    People seem to need fear in their lives. In the 19th century, parents might sire six children, only to see one or two live to adulthood. Today, in so many ways, our lives are so much safer, yet we imagine all sorts of dangers in society, when, in fact, the dangers touted by the media are incredibly statistically rare.

    My wife and I tried to encourage our children’s independence in small steps along the way, as they were able. Hence, when they went off to college, we were able to easily let them go, without fear. (In contrast, I recently saw an ironic cartoon—-a freshman boy arriving at college, with suitcase, guitar, and computer in hand, eagerly leaving his parents, their rules, and their fears behind as they desperately called out to him from the family car, “Be afraid to try anything new!”)

  28. BL August 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    @anonymous mom
    “It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy riding his bike; it’s that it requires more effort than Minecraft, and we all usually take the path of least resistance if we’re able.”

    Is that were true, he’d just watch TV or videos, which take less effort than Minecraft.

    Maybe the reason kids are more likely to play Minecraft than play outside is that outside comes with so many restrictions – play quietly, don’t get out of my sight, don’t run or jump or climb trees or make a lot of noise, blah blah blah.

  29. Jill August 27, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    I have a One year old son. We put up a baby gate, he figured out how to open it. We put sliding locks on the cupboard doors, he learned how to unlock them. We pushed the armchair in front of the desk, he figured out how to climb up onto the chair to get at the desk.

    Point is…if a ONE YEAR OLD can figure out how to get around all of the roadblocks designed to keep him safe, imagine how crafty a teenager can be when you try to put roadblocks in front of them?

    This mom has it spot on and I’m going to keep this post handy for when my one year old becomes a teen!

  30. kris August 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    Loved this. This is so me but I sometimes have trouble explaining my ways to those who over monitor their kids and think they are great for that. I too have kids that tell us stuff, maybe because they know that is how we find out! Live and let learn by their mistakes. Trust goes a long way.

  31. Reziac August 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    The most important thing you can give your kid isn’t love, or security, or rules, or any of the usual list. The most important thing is PRIVACY. Privacy tells your kid he’s a real person (not an owned object) and that he is TRUSTED. In turn, he will trust YOU. Trust is earned by reciprocating, not by making it all go one way. When your kid trusts you, he’ll TALK to you (and ask your advice), just like the kids in the article.

    Trust makes kids want to do the right thing. Distrust makes them feel unloved, and then they won’t care what you want.

    I swear there’s a stupid gene that turns on when people have kids, that makes them forget how much it sucked to be a kid. The powerlessness that comes from parental distrust is a major factor here. Don’t be that parent.

    Remember too that helicopter parenting isn’t so much about “safety” as it is about trust. The helicopter parent fundamentally does not trust his kids — to be safe, to be sensible, to be a human being.

  32. E August 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    @Andy — yes, I agree. It’s a nice concept to believe that if left completely to their own inclinations, then kids would self-limit, but not every kid will. I keep saying this in this forum, but I have 2 kids, same gender, same parents, same household and COMPLETELY different in how motivated they are (among other differences).

    We packed up the Xbox each year when the school year started — it literally sat in the attic until Xmas break and went back up after until summer. I am 100% sure that if it was available, they both (but 1 in particular) would have played FAR more than would have been healthy/wise/prudent given their other responsibilities.

    Kudos to people who have kids that balance things with self discipline at such a young age. That’s just not our experience.

  33. Jill August 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    @anonymous mom…I don’t think you’re bringing up a separate issue, which is, the extent to which you limit technology TIME in order to make time for physical activity, family obligations, schoolwork, etc.

    I think that’s a different question from the issue raised in this post, which is, the extent to which a parent should monitor and control what an older child is DOING when they do have technology time.

  34. E August 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    @Reziac…I guess we all form opinions from our own experiences, but I don’t think PRIVACY is the only thing that matters.

    Like it or not, not every kid is going to feel comfortable talking about things with their parents. Like it or not, not every kid will safely avoid drugs. Like it or not, addiction and health issues from drugs and alcohol can be life changing.

    If you are concerned about your child’s mental or physical health, there are valid reasons to take a closer look.

    We can talk about the low odds of child abductions and other parania based helicoptering, but sadly teens and drugs are NOT a low odds situation.

    I do agree with you about trust being super important, but not every kid that has 100% trust makes great decisions every time. That’s the challenge….how to move forward when a parent has legitimate concerns (academics, drugs/alcohol, etc).

  35. E August 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    @Jill, the post also included lack of limits:

    I lifted all limits on screens.

  36. Laurambp August 27, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    This mom has it right.

    I really feel like the constant monitoring is why so many teens today DON’T use facebook – why risk using it and getting in trouble if mom is constantly checking it?

  37. Dee August 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Love this! My son (12) tells me a lot and I don’t want that to change. Distrust breeds distrust. I generally give him a lot of credit and leeway and this mom’s experience shows that it’s a good method.

  38. E August 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    @Laura, I’m not sure that’s why kids ditched FB…I think it has more to do with the behemoth that FB has become (same reason a lot of adults have ditched it). There are so many more micro-social apps available (instagram, snapchat, twitter, vine…) and they migrate thru those as well.

    Perhaps some people migrate to other platforms to avoid parents, but that’s no different than kids not planning their keg party in your kitchen as you cook dinner.

    There was an entire College/NCAA investigation (and fallout) from tweets regarding a promoted party involving players and an agent.

    There was recently a local police investigation in regard to an instagram account that had somehow collected nude photos of local teens and created an account to display them. They were investigating the people that followed the account, etc.

    I was contacted by a parent who knew I was friends with another boy’s mother. There had been a “situation” between the boy and girl and the boy was tweeting really horrible things about the girl. She brought the tweets to her parents and he reached out to me to help in contacting the boys parents to put a stop to it. This is a kid who is a “good kid” and “great student” who I like very much.

    Sometimes what is shared on social media CAN have a far reaching impact. Yes, we all made mistakes and our kids will too, but it’s a challenge to completely let go and just hope for the best.

  39. JulieC August 27, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    As the parent of two teens, one thing I have noticed is that when a kid does do something stupid, there seems to be a need on the part of some adults to just almost try to ruin someone’s life.

    I know of a kid who smoked dope while at a travel tournament for a sport. The guilty parties were sent home early, which was a huge punishment. Some parents weren’t satisfied (parents of OTHER kids). One parent took it upon himself to call the very prestigious university that had admitted one of the guilty parties to inform them of what he’d done. That school decided to defer his admission for a year. Was that really necessary?

    Kids, especially teens, will do stupid stuff, no matter what we may try to do to stop it. A few won’t, but just give them time!

  40. SOA August 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    This works great with some kids. I was the type of kid my parents could trust because I always did the right thing. Never once got in trouble at school. Never once needed reminding to do my homework. So yeah my parents gave me a lot of trust and I did fine with it.

    So if your kid is like that, then give them all the trust and back way the hell off of them until they mess up and give you a REALLY good reason not to trust them like bringing home bad grades or getting arrested or something like that.

    But unfortunately not all kids can handle that. Some kids you have to stay on their butts all the time. Just a personality thing. I have seen some siblings where one was the one you had to stay on them and the other could be trusted with anything.

    So I don’t think this is some magical it works for everyone thing, but it definitely does work for some kids. I have seen good kids that got no trust from their parents and it caused them to actually act out more out of frustration from not being trusted. Don’t make that parental mistake.

  41. Brad August 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Part of erring on the side of trust is letting your kids self-rescue once they’ve made a mistake, and giving them lots of empathy rather than anger or (worse yet) fixing their problems for them. Trusting them to live with the consequences of their choices is as important as trusting them to make mistakes.

    Give them a self-referential heads-up (“I don’t think that’s a choice I’d make for myself”), then shut up and let them make up their own mind. If they make a mistake and you don’t say anything, they’ll start to realize you’re not as dumb as they previously thought. If they make a mistake and you give them a lecture, well, they’ll probably need to make that mistake again before they really learn the lesson.

  42. Havva August 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Like many others commenting here I was also treated with trust and respect and given space as a teen, at least so far as I did not violate that trust. And likewise I valued that trust far above any short term desires.
    I wonder if free-range parents were more likely to have been granted that trust as teens than your typical controlling/helicopter parents.

    I also think trust matters to younger kids. Even if they can’t articulate it. I was telling my husband the stats on people who think it should be illegal for 9 and 12 year olds to go to the park alone, and suggested that such people don’t trust kids. Our 3.5 year old wanted to know about this topic and we told her how trust and freedom go together. That when she is older, she will be allowed to go to the park on her own, because we will trust her to take care of herself, to know what things are right to do and what things are wrong. And that we trust her now in smaller ways. For instance her crayons an pens are out on her desk because we trust her not to color on the walls. But we also noted that she could loose trust, like the time she cut up a book, and I took her scissors away. Then, noting good behavior, I took a deep breath and gave her back the scissors. She was on cloud 9, and that night and the next few nights, without the usual delays and distractions she ran off on her own and got herself ready for bed as soon as we announced it was time.

  43. SOA August 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Ha I am also in the club of my kids would watch youtube videos of minecraft or skylanders or mario games or play said games 24/7 if I had no screen time limits. So that means I am one of those parents that has to put a screen time limit in place since my boys are incapable of limiting themselves. And that is okay. Maybe as they grow up they will mature and I can trust them to limit that a bit more.

    So just wanted to let those posters know I am with you on that!

  44. Emily August 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    >>So if your kid is like that, then give them all the trust and back way the hell off of them until they mess up and give you a REALLY good reason not to trust them like bringing home bad grades or getting arrested or something like that.<<

    @SOA–I wouldn't put "bringing home bad grades" on the same level as "getting arrested." When I was a teenager, I was a good kid, and a good student, well-liked by my peers and adults, involved in multiple extra-curricular activities…..and also bad at math. I wasn't failing math because I was bad, or lazy, or dumb; I was failing math because I didn't understand it. So, my parents didn't stop trusting me and take away all my privileges; they got me a math tutor.

  45. Jody August 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I thought I would chime in on the screens thing since my article did reference no limits.

    I have seven kids. Two are 3, two are 6, two are 14, and one is 16. This article is about the teens. Of those teens, one is on the spectrum and will program and tweet around the clock, one is very social and texts 24/7, and one mostly just watches some TV and uses social media to chat with friends. All three attended a Sudbury school last year, which is a sort of unschooling school. As expected, the programmer programmed, the social one was social, and the other struggled to find her place and asked to leave. This year, the programmer is going to public high school solely to get off the computer. We compromised and he is doing an intensive half day Cisco networking program and half regular high school. He has to do homework first, but then has no screen limits. High school in a structured setting was my way of preventing 24/7 screens. The social one is flourishing and remaining Sudbury. The other is doing standard HS. That is an example of a freedom (no screen limit) being tailored to 3 different needs/kids.

    My four younger kids do not have screen limits per se BUT I pretty much keep the TV off other than first thing in the morning or right before bed, when we are all tired, and we do not own a computer. They were gifted iPads, which we use for school for about 20 mins each day, which earns them 20 mins of play after. Then, they are out away. In my experience, no limits for young kids means obsessive play. Even if you wait to see if the novelty wears off. As they get older, they will progress to no limits, but more around 12. I want them to explore interests when they are younger, so I do impose limits at younger ages.

  46. Amanda Matthews August 27, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    If you switch from restricting screen time to no restriction, then at first (maybe even for the first weeks/months) most kids will spend all their time on the screens. But eventually, it will even out.

    if you’ve NEVER imposed limits, the kids already know how to self-regulate. I don’t impose limits, and there are some days where the kids will spend the whole day playing minecraft (usually when the weather is bad) but most days, they spend a reasonable amount of time outside.

    But that’s my KIDS not my TEEN. I don’t really think TEENS will find much to do for hours outside. They need to get some exercise, of course. But the novelty of playing with sticks and dirt has worn off by then. Most places don’t allow teens to loiter, so unless the kid has a specific outdoor hobby, there isn’t much to do out there. So they will, say, walk to the coffee shop or the comic book store, but that only puts them outside in short bursts.

    Anyway, self-regulating is very important to learn; as an adult, no one is going to tell you to stop playing video games and get some exercise. So imo parents need to relax, and realize that a kid can’t play Minecraft all day every day forever – you just have to let them get to the point where THEY realize they need to get some exercise/sunshine/etc. (even if it’s a subconscious realization). Because if you tell them, then you’re limiting, and you’re making the screens the forbidden fruit, and they will want it more.

  47. anonymous mom August 27, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    Again, while I agree with this in theory, there’s also the issue of consequence for bad choices being WAY more serious now than they were in the past. Getting drunk at a party or being caught with marijuana won’t just mean a slap on the wrist or a lecture from an officer before you get driven home; it’s going to be a serious legal issue that could result in a charge you can never get off your record and not being able to get loans to go to college. Send racy messages and images to your girlfriend (even if you are both underage), and if her dad finds them, it might not just be him confronting you, but him going to the police and getting you charged with a sex crime. Write some hasty, nasty messages to a classmate and you might be facing cyberbullying or even cyberterrorism charges.

    We have just raised the stakes so much, by criminalizing so much and making the penalities for crimes so heavy. I find it hard to entirely blame parents for not allowing their children privacy when making one wrong choice could have such a profound impac on the rest of their lives. Now, I’d say the solution would be us lightening up a bit as a society, being less punitive, and allowing people second chances, but I’m not sure that’s happening. I can’t fault parents for feeling like being hypervigiliant is their only option.

  48. anonymous mom August 27, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

    I disagree that no limits leads to self-regulation. Honestly, the people I know who spend the least amount of time on screens were people who had extremely limited access when they were growing up. People who had unlimited access to screen time growing up tend to still spend lots of time–often way more than they ideally want–on screens. Yes, in theory, if we don’t have imposed limits we learn to self-regulate, but I’m not sure that in practice it actually happens that way, at least in many cases.

    My kids have basically had no screen time limits for several months–a sanity-saver for me at the end of the pregnancy and after the baby was born–and they were no more inclined to self-regulated at the end of that time than at the beginning. I do think that some things are simply designed to be so addictive that many children do need to have limits set for them. Some might not, and that’s great, but I think many do.

    Speaking of which, from The Onion’s “Back-To-School Preparation Tips for Parents”:

    “Rehearse your child’s family vacation story thoroughly so no one knows about the 12 straight weeks of iPad.”

  49. marie August 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Great post! The more I trust my kids–and let them know that I trust them, the more they trust me and the more they come to me to discuss what’s happening in their lives and in the lives of their friends.

  50. chris munier August 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    Well, isn’t this a nice, self-congratulatory article…

  51. Amanda Matthews August 27, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    “People who had unlimited access to screen time growing up tend to still spend lots of time–often way more than they ideally want–on screens.”

    They spend a lot of time on screens, but they still take themselves away for the screen long enough to earn money to pay for the screens (and an internet connection), make or procure dinner, etc. right? And, they have unlimited access to the screens, yet no one tells them to turn off the screens and do these things?

    Self-regulation doesn’t mean they only spend x amount of time with the screens – it means they get away from the screens long enough to do everything else they need to do. (For kids, playing outside is one of the things they need to do.)

    Maybe it would have taken your kids longer to self-regulate. Maybe because they knew the freedom would come to an end, they kept using it while they could.

  52. E August 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    @Anon Mom, I agree with you on both fronts. The consequences of missteps is very high and very expensive and very long reaching.

    And I’m with you on the screen time/gamers. I work in IT and thus have worked with a lot of men who spent hours glued to screen and guess what, despite the fact that they have children and are 30-40 years old, they still seclude themselves and play a LOT of video games. Yes, they show up for work and are responsible adults, but they also spend a TON of time playing games. I realize that’s not a terrible way to spend your life, but I’ve also met their wives who don’t appreciate it.

  53. Amanda Matthews August 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    In previous generations, wives didn’t appreciate how much time men spent playing golf. *shrug*

  54. Andy August 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    @Amanda Matthews I knew some people who did not finished college (or finished but it was close call) primary because they were unable to stop playing (or watching movie) and start studying or at least go to lecture. They did get jobs and so on, but they would be better off if they would be able to turn the thing off, study or sleep and finish the school.

    Those people did not had super strict parents, they spent most high school doing whatever they wanted and going to sleep relatively late because of games. It was other way round, parents were easy. They had acceptable grades at high school cause high school can be easy and you are talented and smart. I did not seen self regulation in them, just a lifestyle they were unable to change when needed.

    Maybe some people self regulate and others do not.

  55. E August 27, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    @Amanda, yes, people can remove themselves from their families/spouses in a number of ways. However, there are literally no obstacles to screens, they are available ALL the time.

    I agree with you that some people can’t self regulate. And when we’re talking about children, some people take the stance that they have to intervene in order to instill some form of balance (just like you do with food — or most people do).

  56. E August 27, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    @chris munier — I actually had a similar thought, but figured I was chalking it up to my envy, lol. I will say that with at most, only 1 teen driving age (if they are even driving yet), you are just starting the real joy of parenting teens, lol!

  57. Andy August 27, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    We should not talk about “screens” as if all activities on computer would be equal. Screen time is often almost one-to-one replacement for previously non-computerized activity. If I would not mind my kid playing lego in situation x, it makes no sense to mind Minecraft. If I would not mind my kid reading stupid romance book in situation x, it makes no sense to mind browsing pointless blogs. If everyone in the family is doing his own thing alone right, kid playing alone on computer should not be treated differently just because it is “screen”. And so on.

    According to study (I know only about one) the kids who spend most time on social networks spend also most time socializing in friends in real life too. The computer is not used as replacement where the kid has an option to meet in real life as much as we like to believe.

  58. lollipoplover August 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    Who has the time to stalk and monitor teens anyways? I can barely answer all of my e-mails or remember what photos I took or who I need to call back. I’ll be damned if I have any reason to monitor yet another devise, especially one that is not mine.

    Respect and trust get you far in relationships. Control, spying, and violating privacy requests are setting the stage for negative interactions. I know with my kids, there is an implied trust that I have for them and consequences if it is broken. They ask A LOT of questions. I am their Siri. We are a family and here to support each other. And respect each other’s need for privacy.

  59. Donna August 27, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

    “Honestly, the people I know who spend the least amount of time on screens were people who had extremely limited access when they were growing up.”

    I can’t speak for their screen use today, but the friends that I had growing up with extremely limited screen access (which was just TV in my childhood) all sought out screens whenever away from their parents. They would go to friends’ houses and want to plant themselves in front of the TV.

  60. Amanda Matthews August 27, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    To me, lack of self-regulation would mean an adult who chooses screen time over going to work, chooses buy a video game over food. More screen time than a wife would like, or quitting college to do what you want rather than living a “better off” life are just choices, in my book.

    I don’t see how a child could ever learn to self-regulate unless he is given the ability to do so. It’s a part of independence, which I thought we were all in agreement that a child has to practice to learn.

    Unless you guys are suggesting that mothers and wives should just regulate adult`s time, since there are all those adults that “can’t”. But who will regulate for the mothers and wives?

  61. Papilio August 27, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    Yep, yet another example showing that excessive control just makes bad things unnecessarily attractive – and vice versa.

    The only thing I kinda miss from the story is giving them the information (or make sure they got it) that allows them to make informed decisions. (That unfortunately would have to include all those ridiculous(ly) punitive laws…)

    “I know that my kids won’t always be on the “right” side of every situation, like they happened to be tonight. Eventually, they may choose to have sex or try pot.”

    If you want grandkids, I’d sure hope they choose to have sex eventually… 😛
    But on a serious note: if your son would actually decide he’s ready for sex and he and Girlfriend get birth control pills and condoms and do it, would that be a ‘bad decision’? If yes, is it just bad because it would be breaking the law, or is it bad, period?

    “And, considering that 99% of the adults that I know have done both, I think that they will be just fine.”

    99% – WOW!

  62. anonymous mom August 27, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    @Amanda, I see what you are saying, but I’m not thinking of a person who plays WoW for 36 hours straight and starts peeing into a cup so they don’t have to leave their computer (although obviously that would be a problem!). I’m thinking of the more common issue of feeling like you wasted your leisure time by spending it online or in front of the TV, when you would have preferred to have done other things or would have ultimately felt more fulfilled by other things.

    I think my concern is that self-regulation is extremely difficult in a context where we are actively encouraged to not do so. Like, TV shows are designed to keep you watching. Video games are made to keep you playing. Tablet games are designed to make you want to keep going up one more level. These things are specifically designed to try to override our natural sense of self-regulation, and often succeed. It can take an enormous amount of self-control to resist, and I don’t think many adults have that level of self-control, consistently, much less children. Now, obviously families make their own decisions about this, but I don’t think there’s anything damaging or “helicopter” about putting some limits on activities that children have trouble self-regulating their own time on.

    As an example, my son has sometimes spent the entire weekend playing video games. (Now, he obviously ate and slept and got dressed and all that, but he spent all of his free time playing video games.) And, afterwards, he felt crappy about it. He wished he’d used his time more wisely. Unfortunately, because we are not entirely rational creatures, that did not translate into his never again spending the entire weekend playing video games. Because, we often do things we don’t want to do. I want to exercise every morning, I really do. But, it’s easier to sleep in. Sometimes I need some outside accountability to get me out of bed and doing the thing my better self wants me to be doing.

    It’s kind of like, in an ideal world, we would all be able to easily self-regulate how much we eat. It shouldn’t be very hard. But, in the context of constant access to unlimited quantities of extremely tasty food that is not good for us–and daily exposure to advertisements encouraging us, against our rational self-interest, to buy and consume said food–it’s often extremely difficult if not impossible to self-regulate. I think self-control is often something we need to learn, often with help, instead of something we are just born with.

  63. Resident Iconoclast August 27, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    I know it might be five or six decades late, but is it too late to ask Jody Allard to adopt me?

    Her writing makes it clear she is secure, has high self esteem, and wants her kids to develop into responsible adults, not simply an extension of herself.

    I wish there were more open minded leaders like her.

  64. Emily Morris August 27, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    This sounds just like what parents did before all the cutesy parenting pretties popped up on the market…

  65. Dan August 27, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    1960’s and 70’s: No TVs or phones allowed in kids rooms. Family rooms only.

    2010’s: No TVs or Cell Phones or Computers allowed in kids rooms. Family rooms only.
    Charging stands for devices are in the family room.

    No snooping required.

  66. Andy August 28, 2014 at 3:26 am #

    @Amanda Matthews If you decide you do not want to continue school or hate it for whatever reason, that is one thing. It is different if you want to finish and planned to study today. Except that you started a game “just for ten minutes” and now it is two in the night and you did not started to learn yet. So you cram as much as possible, go to sleep at five. Next day is pretty much the same, except that you are sleep deprived as a bonus.

    Then you fail exam are all sad and depressive and wov to never do it again. Rinse and repeat until you get kicked out of school.

    That is not lifestyle choice. It is just a failure to accomplish something you wanted and theoretically could.

    Lack of self regulation has degrees. Being long time unemployed and unable to pay basic bills is an extreme consequence. It is more likely that there are going to be piling smaller problems, in both relationships and work. Those people are great friends (less great colleagues), but I would rather raise my kids so they avoid those problems.

  67. Andy August 28, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    @Donna It is true that kids of overly strict parents tend to binge doing whatever was denied in short term. But, when they are left alone longer, they often stop binging after week or month and revert to old long time habits. Then they become overly strict parents.

    I think it is possible to put limits on place when the kid is getting too obsessed in something without being overly strict and allowing him enough freedom and enough of that activity.

  68. Lola August 28, 2014 at 6:10 am #

    Thank you! My eldest is 11, and you’ve just put in words something that’s been nagging me this last year, about her behaviour (and mine!).

  69. Donna August 28, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Andy – Considering those friends who were seriously denied TV (or had no TV) binged for 4 straight years of college, I certainly didn’t see a reversal. By binged, I really just mean that they seemed to always have the TV on when home. I’ve lost touch since college so I have no idea how they are today with screens or as parents.

    I think that limits are fine. My kid has them. I simply think that overly restrictive parenting doesn’t do kids any favors. In my experience, they either become addicted to the thing that was deprived or become snobs about it to the point that they are not particularly enjoyable to be around.

  70. Lisa August 28, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    Jody, I think you just won the prize for the best guest post ever published on FRK! This made me want to stand up and cheer. I used to work with teens (back before I was a parent), and it was always so hard when parents asked me what their kids were doing or how they could get their kids to talk to them. After years of working with teens, I came to the conclusion that by the time your kid hits puberty, you can’t control them at all. You basically get no say. You’re done as a parent. You have to pray you did a good job — and if you’re lucky and you did build a good foundation, then you get to experience exacy what you are experiencing — the transition from being a parent who sets rules to a guide who gives advice and then lets kids make their own decisions.

    Biologically, teens are adults. They usually only act out when they’re treated too much like children!

  71. Jen (P.) August 28, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    @Andy – “If your kids would spend so much time playing outside that they would spend zero time learning for school, did no housework and did not shown up home, you would probably put limits on it too (be home soon enough to do all homework and study before sleeping).”

    This is a great point. We’ve never put strict limits on screen time (or anything else really) but have taken more of an ad hoc, case by case approach – as in if I notice you’ve been sitting on your behind playing on the computer, instagramming, texting, watching tv or whatever else for what seems like an unreasonable or unhealthy amount of time, I’m going to tell you to get up and go outside, go for a bike ride or a run, or otherwise find something else to do. If you ignore this request, I will find something for you to do, like wash dishes, clean out a closet, pull weeds in the garden, etc.

  72. Jen (P.) August 28, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    @anon mom – “I think my concern is that self-regulation is extremely difficult in a context where we are actively encouraged to not do so. Like, TV shows are designed to keep you watching. Video games are made to keep you playing. Tablet games are designed to make you want to keep going up one more level. These things are specifically designed to try to override our natural sense of self-regulation, and often succeed. It can take an enormous amount of self-control to resist, and I don’t think many adults have that level of self-control, consistently, much less children. ”

    Ain’t that the truth! My kids tend to watch tv shows via Netflix and when one episode ends, the next begins automatically. It can be hard to overcome the inertia of sitting there and watching “just one more.” A (metaphorical) kick in the seat of the pants from mom or dad is often needed to break the cycle.

  73. E August 28, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    @Lisa — I guess you are talking about sexual maturity when you say Teens are “biologically” adults? Because there is much research about the continued brain development in teens (and even college aged kids).

    There have been lots of studies/discussion about teen brains and how their frontal lobe is not yet fully developed and how that does impact their decision making. There seems to be science behind the fact that teens don’t always properly evaluate risk/outcomes vs behaviors. There’s also studies that suggest that drug use (even weed) impacts the young brain differently than people that use as older adults.

  74. Jenna K. August 28, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    I agree that too much control backfires. But I don’t think keeping an eye on your kids’ online activities is stalking. How is that stalking anymore than finding out who their friends are when they are younger and meeting those kids’ parents? Friending them on Facebook and then occasionally clicking on their wall to see what they’re saying and who they’re talking to…is that really stalking? I do that to random people I haven’t seen in a long time…is that stalking them? I’m curious to know what they’re up to and they put it publicly on their wall, so all I’m doing is looking at what they are sharing.

    Also, until they are adults, it’s our job as parents to watch out for them and sometimes they make bad decisions online and need guidance. I believe there is a line between stalking and keeping an eye on what they’re doing. I guess I still believe that even when they are teenagers, they need guidance, and so while I won’t be hacking passwords and reading emails, I still think I should talk to them about what they’re doing online.

  75. Warren August 28, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    1960′s and 70′s: No TVs or phones allowed in kids rooms. Family rooms only.

    2010′s: No TVs or Cell Phones or Computers allowed in kids rooms. Family rooms only.
    Charging stands for devices are in the family room.

    No snooping required.

    That is not anywhere near trust. That is control.

    If you have raised them right, you don’t need to snoop, no matter where they use tech or anything.

  76. Warren August 28, 2014 at 10:59 am #


    If you are doing what you are doing, to be part of their life, and share in their public postings, thats great.

    If you are doing it out of worry or mistrust, thats bad.

    It is all about the motive, no what I mean?

  77. Andy August 28, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    @Jenna K. It becomes stalking if you acquire their passwords and reads messages meant to be private. Or if you take their phone without them knowing and read all text messages there. Or if you install spyware on their computer to get detailed report about their browsing habits.

    If you do what anyone else can do without being accused of stalking, then you are not stalking neither.

  78. K August 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    A lot of the comments here seem to be of the nature that solution “x” is the correct one, or parents that do “y” will be doomed to have children that fail.

    I think, instead, that the take-home message might be more along the lines of “being sensitive to your child’s particular needs or ability to manage autonomy”.

    I have to be a mean mom and limit screen time – experience has shown that, without limits, at their current ages they aren’t mature enough to put down the device for health, safety, or common sense. But, I can trust two of three to choose nutritious food. While I don’t spy excessively, I know that our kids watch too many videos, but that most of them relate to videogames.

    This seems to come down to knowing your kids and allowing autonomy where they show sufficient maturity to manage it.

    Stalking is creepy no matter who you are.

  79. BL August 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    “teens don’t always properly evaluate risk/outcomes vs behaviors”

    And adults do??!!

  80. Yocheved August 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes! My 11yo tween is just now coming into that stage, and her rules are getting fewer and fewer. She’s making good decisions, and talking to me about things that worry her. I know that might not always be the case, but she knows that I will be there for her.

    Last year I started my own “no yelling” rule, where I promised her that I would not yell at her, no matter what she says or does. I told her that she’s old enough to know right from wrong, and we will discuss consequences, while keeping calm and rational. If she’s late coming home, she’ll walk in and say “OK, how long am I ground for?” I’ll tell her “one day”, and that will be the end of the conversation. Later on I’ll praise her for taking responsibility for her actions, and we’ll discuss how she can be better at keeping track of time so she can avoid grounding.

    Our relationship has improved SO much!

    Now, can someone please explain to me why a 6th grader still needs to bring “safety scissors” to school? It was on her supply list this year!

  81. E August 28, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    @BL — no segment of the population makes perfect decisions of course, but the research (and insurance rates, ha!) indicated the kids aren’t as equipped as adults when making decisions.

    Now, maybe we already knew all this (anecdotally) but the science is now confirming the brain is not yet fully developed and specifically in this area.

    The only reason I brought it up, was because someone said they were “biologically adults”. I presume that means the ability to have sex and procreate because there are other “biological” differences.

  82. Andy August 28, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    @E Who is adult is a judgement call. We do not need to require unchangeable frontal lobe, we need it developed enough. Unless you advocate for everyone under 25 not being adult (that is when it stops changing).

    Teenagers tend to risk more then adults. Young people are bigger agents for change (good or bad) then us. They are also very close to adults in a lot of regards, their logic and thinking are developed a lot.

  83. SOA August 29, 2014 at 12:18 am #

    I have posted about this on here before but I had a best friend in high school. I was a good girl in school and tried to help her by having us study and do homework and projects together. Or we just went and hung out at the mall or went to a movie or had a sleepover. We were not bad kids.

    But her mother was psycho and tried to say I was a bad influence on her. She was this uber controlling parent partly because she worked a lot and I think she was never there so to make up for that she thought she could control every little thing.

    She started illegally recording any phone calls coming into her house or going out of her house. This is technically illegal to do this and not get consent and inform the party that you are recording them. So she was recording my private phone conversations with my friend.

    I found out and I was pissed. That was a violation of my privacy and her daughter’s privacy. So from then on when I called I would say really odd things or really gross things about my period or something just to keep them guessing and make them regret recording phone conversations and listening to them. I hope her step dad had to hear me describing my period flow.

    The above type of psycho shit is what makes your kids rebel from you. I ended up a straight A student in high school and college and a responsible citizen. Her daughter ended up on meth. So yeah………who was the bad influence again? I had to back away from all of it because it was nuts. If she really wanted to be more involved in her daughter’s life she could be present and be home. Recording her private phone conversations was not the answer. Oh she also called my mom about every hour when her daughter was at my house waking my mother up and bugging the shit out of my mother. That is also a great way to make sure your daughter loses every one of her friends with good parents who are home when you call them every hour. This was when she was 16 years old mind you.

    Don’t be like that mom. If your daughter runs into trouble, look at your own parenting and see where you might have gone wrong. Then don’t blame it on their one friend who actually was a good student and responsible girl. Blame it on your daughter and your own parental failings. Because trust me her daughter would have been better off having me as a friend than running me off and making my friend run off and rebel. The second my friend graduated she left home on a bender and did not come back for two months.

    Don’t be that nutsy overprotective parent.

  84. E August 29, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    @Andy – I agree with you. I was just responding the “biologically adults”. I guess if I’m being honest, I dno’t believe teens (HS age) are adults anyway.

    I think there is risk involved with helicopter/non-trusting parenting. But there is also risk in deciding “they are adults” because (as you say) that’s not the case at a certain age for every kid.

    My personal example is my own kid who is very bright. He graduated with honors but still performed FAR below his ability. He got accepted into the colleges he applied to. But even in this very acceptable situation, he realized as a college freshman that he could have worked harder and had even more options. He knows that a college he was very interested in attending (and to which he was accepted but we couldn’t make the $ work) would have given him more financial aid to make it a legit option.

    Now, I’m not wringing my hands over this, though we did have numerous discussions about his work effort in HS. BUT, if he’d been even more casual about his HS academics, it would have been a difficult situation (dealing with allowing extra curriculars and other privileges).

    Sure, I could say “well he’s 16 and he is an adult” and let his grades fall wherever they fell, but that doesn’t seem like good parenting. If he is (even at 19) rethinking how blase he was about HS academics, it shows that the cost/benefit evaluation differed in just a few short years.

    So, sure, people can presume teenagers “are adults” (at least my definition of adults, which means they make 100% of their decisions), but I’m not sure that’s any more “smart” than hovering over them.

    When people say “don’t sweat the small things” or “pick your battles” I’m totally on board. But labeling them “adults” and being hands off completely is not something I can get behind. They drive our cars, some of their choices can create legal/financial situations that we are entangled with, etc. etc.

  85. no rest for the weary August 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    I am cheering for this lady. She figured it out: when you try to control people, they either submit with resentment, or rebel. It’s never a recipe for connection and trust.

    I applaud her for encouraging dialogue and dispensing with the rigid limits and rules. Address issues as they arise. Much better preparation for life.

    Hooray!! I am thrilled to see this success story documented here.

  86. David B September 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Here’s another similar piece that articulates such a parenting philosophy: http://www.the-big-shift.net/2014/08/how-not-to-parent-a-teenager.html

  87. jim September 1, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Right. Don’t check to make sure they’re wearing their helmets when on a bike, don’t check that they fasten their seat belts, don’t check their homework. After all their smart. They know how to ride bikes. You taught them. So what can happen. You’re a good driver. So what can happen. Kids are kids. Good kids are kids. They are pressured by outside forces. They are bullied and harassed. So go ahead and stick your head in the sand. Monitoring their electronics shows them that you care. It teaches them what to look for. It’s easy to say, “I know my child. I establish communication with them. I talk to them. My child is not at risk.” So you its back and allow them to invite anyone into your home on the internet. Wake up. They are children. They need you to take car of them. Oh yeah. It takes a lot of time to check their electronics and there’s really nothing you can do about it way. You are treating them like smart adults. Not like smart teens. You trust them so no more curfew times, no age limits on who they can date, no limits on what they can drink(and maybe drive). I wonder if those parents who lost their children regret being so trusting.

  88. Mary September 2, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

    A while back on Facebook my friends were clucking and agreeing with a blog post that I just absolutely can’t find. It was a mother unapologetically declaring that she was “overprotective” and 100% right to be.

    She homeschooled her kids. Her teenage son had never been allowed to go to a friends house. Not just sleep over, but visit without her supervision. The only friends they had were ones she chose, they came to her house and only spent time in family rooms. The only other socializing was supervised church functions. They were not allowed to use the Internet at all, or talk on the phone without her present. Her 18 year old had never even gone to a movie alone. He’s old enough to have had a job and drive for 2 years!

    It was really really insane, and more disturbing that my friends were agreeing with her.