Several weeks ago I participated in a television news spot and an online panel surrounding social media and the family. Since that time, I have been drawn into some interesting conversations about the depth of a parent’s involvement in their kids’ social lives.
Some have agreed that it’s a parent’s responsibility to know what their kids are doing and to do it with them. Others have drawn on the outrage of their past lives. Because of obsessive parents, they have become “hands off.” Still, others have combined these two and developed a strategy of stealth parenting. By breaking out the camouflage face paint and lurking in the bushes, they believe that they are affording a sense if privacy without the unfortunate after taste.
What Kind Of Parent Are You?
Now, I admit that the social lives of my daughter’s are pretty benign, and on the web they’re non-existent. For them, a solid social event involves a play date that doesn’t end with soiled clothing.
However, my oldest is growing older at light speed. I am not entirely sure how it happened, but eating random things off the floor has now transitioned in to meticulous grooming and preening. To say that she has become aware of her ability to do things on her own would be an understatement!
I have officially started to get the horrified looks when I ask if she needs help getting dressed. Not to mention the apparent ignorance that I display when I attempt to refill her water cup. She is five going on eighteen and I hear it when I fail to remember.
But, along with this growing maturity has come an ability to explain why dad needs to be involved in certain things. I can quickly prove that the complicated fastening system on her dress needs my attention. Likewise, she understands the reason why dad insists on hand holding when we are near a busy street.
It is pretty juvenile at this point, but it translates very well in to discussions with older kids nonetheless.
Instead of sneaking the Facebook password or eavesdropping on phone calls, open up a dialog with them!
Explain how the monitoring software on the computer protects them from predators and cyber bullying….and from themselves at times. In short, make sure that they understand the “why” in your actions.
You need to build trust with your kids, but that doesn’t happen when you go government agent on them. Nor does it happen when you become a buddy and fail to be their parent.
Just A Little Aside
If there is one thing that I have learned, both as a kid and as a dad, it is that all of this needs to be done in a manner that is considerate of age and past behavior.
Your responsible 18 year-old should probably have more latitude than that of your reckless tween; unless of course you’re hoping for resentment….and possible bloodshed.
If your kids demonstrate that they can handle more wiggle room, then give it to them. That will build trust and it will give you some great teaching moments along the way.