This is some stuff I posted on Tumblr first, but I felt it also deserved to go here too. Besides, I haven’t posted on here in ages, and I’m hoping to change that.
Walking the very fine and moveable line between Privacy and Protection is a difficult job, and too many parents don’t even realize there is a line. People look at this as a black and white issue, a problem with a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s not. It’s an issue that needs to be considered with care and empathy individually by each family. I absolute believe children and teens deserve privacy, but it’s also my job as a parent to protect you long enough until you are mature and developed enough to be your own person. This becoming your own person is a gradual process, not an overnight thing. And everyone comes to it at their own pace. When my son, aged four, asks me to go away because he’s in the bathroom or his bedroom or something, I respect that and I go into the next room where I can still hear what he’s doing but am not intruding on him. But because he’s four, there’s also a decent chance that if I’m not looking at him he may be trying to eat an entire tube of toothpaste, sail his duck in the toilet or have peed all over his bedroom carpet. I know this because sometimes he tries to do things like that even if I AM watching him. So I have to check on him, but I can do it quietly, unobtrusively, sometimes even unnoticed. If he notices me and he’s doing nothing wrong, I can simply say “hi just checking” and go away again. Keeping tabs on your children doesn’t have to be traumatic, inconvenient, and shaming for them. If you do it in a respectful way, they will be grateful for the proof that you care enough to be making sure they’re ok.
The fact that so many parents don’t believe their children are entitled to privacy is a fucking shame. But just because you need privacy does not mean you get UNLIMITED privacy. Kids often need protecting from themselves as much as anyone else (I’m far more worried my kid is going to leap off the stairs and break his arm than that a stranger is going to snatch him in public). This is not a black and white issue, it’s a fuzzy shades of grey and moveable area, where you tailor your parenting style to the kid. Too many parents don’t believe their children have any character to speak of, because they never bothered to instill one early themselves, or get to know their kid as person to find out what sort they’ve developed on their own. Get to know your own kid, know how they think, what sort of person they are, what their needs are, and you will have a better chance of spotting when they’re heading into shark-infested waters and heading them off at the pass than if you treat them like prisoners whether they’ve given you cause or not. And teach them how to navigate the dangers and pitfalls of life with kindness and integrity BEFORE they fall into those pitfalls, rather than punishing them afterwards. It’s kinder, more effective, and will ensure your child looks to you as a teacher, not a prison guard.
That saying, “I’m your parent not your friend” is crap. You should be friends with your child. You should be friends with your child. You should be friends with your child. Kids, parents should be the first friends you make. It is possible for people to have multiple layers of relationships. My husband and I are lovers, partners, and yes friends. I am good friends with my realtor, but we also have a professional relationship. My mother has been my best friend for a long time, but she’s also still my mother and yells at me when I do stupid crap. Yes, even though I’m 30, because she doesn’t have the power to tell me what to do, but as my mother she has the right and even duty to say “wake the fuck up and take care of your life, dammit”. I don’t HAVE to listen, and sometimes I don’t because she’s not in control of my life, but sometimes I do because she’s wise and loves me and wants me to be the best person I can. Btw, this is not a privilege my father has. He was an abusive prick before he left, and he’s not been involved in my life for 20 years. He has no relationship with me, and gets no say in my life. My mother does. Be friends with your kids, even when they’re little. Who do you think people take their troubles and problems to for advice? Their friends! Be your child’s friend, and be genuinely their friend, so that when they have a problem or are in trouble they’re not afraid to turn to you and ask for help. Would you rather they turn to you for advice and help in a situation, or went to their peers who may be idiots or cruel, or simply ignorant? The best way to help someone is to work with them and support them, not to imprison them. Love and mutual respect are the only way to have a healthy relationship with someone, and it’s our job as parents to teach those qualities to our children. No excuses. If you can’t manage that, don’t have children until you can.