Snap chat, Instagram, Facebook, internet, smart phones; the exposure to the world is much different for teens today. There are many ways for them to interact with one another as well as other individuals from all over the world. But despite this increased exposure to the world, are teens today that much different? They still go to school, do homework, play sports, and attend dances. They have peers, girlfriends, best friends and parties. Today’s teens still look to us for guidance and trust. These same teens will continue to try and test that trust as they spread their wings to become independent. Curfews will be broken, white lies told, detentions served and maybe even a suspension or two. Learning from these mistakes is the most important thing teens will do as they become respectable young adults. For every minor infraction we will deal with as parents there will be an overwhelming amount of joy. The successes and accomplishments of our teens will be astounding as we help our children grow into amazing young adults.
As the parent of two teenage boys I often wonder the best way to keep them safe in the world today. How do I teach them right from wrong? How do I prevent them from viewing pornography, trying alcohol, or smoking marijuana? What will keep them from having sex before they are ready? And I can’t deny I worry about the really horrific danger of becoming the victim of school shootings, drunk driving, or human trafficking.
The reality is we can never completely protect our children from the world. We often forget that our parents experienced most of these same worries, and so did their parents and their parents before them. I grew up in a time when the only way to communicate with my parents when I was out was a land line phone at a friend’s house or a pay phone on a street corner. My parents could not use Find My Phone, Mspy, or Family Tracker to know where I was at all times. They had to trust that when they dropped me off at the mall with a friend I would actually stay at the mall and shop. My parents didn’t know if I snuck out of the school dance to go to a college party. And, there was no way for my parents to know if I was sneaking into a grownups bedroom when they were not home to take a peek at a Playboy or Playgirl magazine. Yet, despite all of these possibilities and bad choices my friends and I survived. And for most of us we can say we are respectable adults.
My parents had to rely on family rules, boundaries, communication and most important…trust. The term helicopter parent did not exist. We played with our friends until dark and returned home for dinner at dusk. If we did not arrive in time for dinner there were repercussions for breaking the rules; maybe no television show that night or extra clean up duty. As we got a little older we went to school events and parties. If we broke curfew there were repercussions. But if we were good, we communicated with our parents, and we respected their rules, we reinforced their trust in us and more freedoms came.
Today, things are different. Where is the trust? If we let our children dictate the rules without repercussion where is the respect? Enabling children to be independent can be the most important thing we can teach our children. What message are we sending by monitoring kids 24/7?
I admit it’s a different world now with technology. But we also use this as an excuse to be helicopter parents. Kids can access so much more and communicate and bully each other remotely. However, is searching their phone every night going to prevent them from bullying, having sex or getting hurt? Is placing Webwatcher on the computer going to keep them from testing boundaries? Will using Find My Phone keep them from trying alcohol or drugs? It won’t stop any of these activities. Building trust and communicating are the keys to helping your child make good decisions.
My parents worried about the Oakland County Child Killer when I was growing up. This did not prevent them from letting me ride my bike 3 miles to get to my softball practice in middle and high school. But they sure did talk to me a lot! There were regular discussions about how to stay safe, who to trust and what to do in an emergency situation.
Help protect your child by getting to know who their friends are and make a point to meet the parents of their friends. Take the time to talk with your children. Tech-free family time is a great way to foster communication with your children. Make a point of sitting down for a family meal at least a 1-2 times a week.
Teach your kids right from wrong. Listen to them without judgment. Walk into the room while they are on their computer, not to hang over their shoulder but just to say Hi. Or maybe the better choice is to keep their computers in a central location where someone is often walking through the room. Taking time to monitor and intrude on their privacy should not be a regular parenting behavior. A sense of trust has to go both ways to work. We cannot teach our children trust if we do not practice trust.
Load the “spyware” to the computer if it gives you a sense of relief. However don’t implement its use unless the time comes that trust has been broken. If your child begins to hang with a new crowd, becomes withdrawn or has participated in dangerous behaviors then this is the time to consider accessing some of their information. Help your child learn from the mistakes they have made and let them understand that it takes time and energy to regain trust.
Studies say that helicopter parenting and hovering over children is resulting in increased anxiety in children. Kids are not able to establish a sense of independence with a parent constantly hovering. They are also not able to learn to problem solve. If we are monitoring and correcting their mistakes before they even have a chance to make them then where does the learning happen? We must know the difference between providing a safety net and wrapping them in bubble wrap. Independence is important for the proper growth of our children.
Let your child make mistakes. Let them explore who they are and who they want to be. Let them fail. Then, when the dust clears, be there to help them up. Do not be judgmental. Instead, show them the way to learn. Help them take their mistakes and grow from the experience. Don’t solve their problems for them. Employers today feel that there is a big sense of entitlement that comes from those people that were raised by helicopter parents. Encourage your child to find solutions to the problems they have created. Becoming a responsible adult comes from correcting our mistakes and walking away with knowledge. Help your child to be that person.