Parenting Vivian | 03 Feb 2011 05:52 pm

Effective Parenting – Is it Okay to Spy on Your Kids?

In substance abuse counseling, you see it all the time. It is the dynamic between a parent and an addicted child. The child is angry with his parent. Instead of dealing with his addiction, he is scowling and rolling his eyes at a distraught mom whom he is shaming for looking through his things.

My son and I had a conversation about privacy before he became a teenager. I established my position from the beginning. First and foremost, I own everything. He had NOTHING that wasn’t provided for him. Secondly, I had access to EVERYTHING that I owned. Out of respect for his privacy about his maturing body, I promised not to walk in on him if he was changing clothes. Otherwise, his door was to remain open and unlocked.

I believe that most parents are very trusting of their children until a child starts behaving uncharacteristically. It wasn’t until my child started retreating to his room when he received certain phone calls that I started taking note. When he started closing his door and I had to remind him to open it, I began to wonder. When he became guarded about my entering his room, I asked myself why. When I reached for his book bag and he grabbed it first, I became curious.

A defining moment was when I told him I was going into his room to get my CD. Though he was involved in a phone conversation, he ran from the living room to his doorway with a startled expression. Confused by his behavior, I said, “I was just getting my Fantasia CD that I had asked you to return some days ago.” Breathing as if he had just run a marathon, he said, “you were gonna go into my room without asking?”

Metaphorically speaking, this was when the flares were launched and grabbed the attention of the rescue party. I asked why he had a problem with my going into his room. He tried to play it off by saying that it wasn’t that he had a problem with my going into his room. It was that he knew better than I where the CD was. He even made it sound like he was looking out for my best interest. I opted not to press the issue.

Rather, I waited until he left for school the next day. I searched his drawers, underneath his bed, and his closet. Whew, good, no drugs, nothing stolen. Then my wise self whispered, “Check the boom box.” Yes, I wanted my CD which, by the way, he couldn’t find. I clicked the eject button. Voila, there it was. Wait a minute, it wasn’t my CD! I pressed play and was startled by blaring harsh lyrics.

Previously, my child and I had had multiple discussions about music brought into our home. He defended that it was just music and that rappers had a right to express their reality. I clarified that I like both rap and hip-hop. I like the rhythms and the flavor of the music. But I detest the violent, disrespectful, sexually exploitive content. So when the lyrics chanted the *itch word and other slurs against women, Sojourner Truth’s words echoed, “Ain’t I a woman?”

At this point, I started thinking back over my son’s behavior. He had been more edgy and flippant. He would respond with sarcasm and challenged what I asked him to do. He was preoccupied with “spitting” as the kids call it. He said he had skills and was networking with others on the internet to help him perfect his lyrics. Yet, he’d nervously hit the close key when I approached.

News flash: TEENAGERS LIE. No matter how sweet and docile their presentation, parents need to keep their eyes and ears open. Doesn’t matter whether they are making good grades in school, behave responsibly, or are preaching on the street corner, they are highly suggestible, inexperienced about life, and most of all, they think they know better.

Let me give you some other sobering realities. Suicide among teens is on the rise across cultures and ethnicities. Teen dating violence is rampant. Almost daily, there are news reports of deaths from teen drug use or alcohol. In this day and time, a parent cannot afford to look the other way. Trust your instincts! Get up-close and personal. Your child’s welfare is at stake.

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