Much is being said about the topic of privacy and children/teens these days. To be sure this is not a simple issue as parents work to balance letting their kids be and working to assure their safety. The expanse of threats has grown as parents must now worry about more than the neighborhood in which their children roam. However, while parenting concerns have indeed shifted through the years and care is required, it should be balanced to allow kids as much privacy as possible to develop their own abilities to manage their lives.
I have listened as parents share their many techniques of keeping tabs on their children, some of which include the use of trackers and access to their child/teen’s text messages. It is stunning to hear parents share how they use this information to interject themselves into situations that have the potential in which their child may make a poor choice large or small. I find it concerning those children and especially teens are not being allowed to navigate these conditions independently. These are valuable opportunities that offer our kids chances to practice skills such as managing awkward social dynamics, speaking up for themselves, leading others in more positive directions and most often, making the right choice. By anticipating and jumping into a variety of situations, we are communicating they are not capable.
We should be mindful that we need to allow kids to learn to deal with the thoughts and emotions that arise when they are uncertain of what to do next. It is part of their development to navigate the many challenges of growing up with limited input from parents when possible. Most children are able to manage playground disagreements independently, and most teens can figure out how to leave a situation they feel might not turn out well. Allowing kids the chance to trust their own instincts is critical to learning to manage more challenging moments in the future. Trusting them to do so means parents must learn to step back. If we do not allow kids time to foster these skills, we will run out of time to parent them, as we have allowed them to become overly reliant on adults to support and rescue them.
When possible let your kids fail while they have you as a safety net. Let them learn for themselves. Continue to give them time to practice learning about responsibility, making good choices and problem-solving in your home. Trust that they will learn to navigate challenges, make mistakes and recover from struggles big and small. Messing up is part of growing up and should remain so.