It’s funny how little parents know about their kids, and for an obvious reason; you cannot be with them 100% of the time. Sitting at the dinner table, your son uses an offensive word and suddenly his innocence is gone. Or you use the computer after your teen has been online and see that she’s been on some inappropriate sites. What should you do? You are in your child’s domain a great deal, but here are five areas that you may need to look into a little more.
Siblings – If you have more than one child, the older, more experienced child may find it funny to teach the younger one words, phrases, and behaviors such as lying and swearing. They may have learned to hide their misbehavior from you, but are not tactical enough to hide what they teach the little ones. Make sure the older one does not have you fooled.
Rooms – There are lots of places to hide things in a teenager’s room. Should you snoop? Yes — if you have reason to. When a child violates trust, their privacy is immediately gone or at the least greatly reduced. If you trust your child, allowing a reasonable level of privacy is needed. Break this and they will stop trusting you, so be honest with them. Besides, you want the main avenue of finding things out to be via communication, not prying. However, if you are worried, look.
Friends at school or on the bus – The path from home to school is probably one of the scariest areas your child will encounter. One adult who is busy driving cannot adequately watch a bus full of students. If you are lucky, you may have another adult monitor or a camera. Keep communication open with your child and know who their friends are at school and on the bus. Make it easy on them to tell you difficult things.
Internet – Type a sex-oriented search into Google and see what happens. Loads of sites with absolutely no blocks to the pictures will pop up, enabling your kids to see things they were never meant to see. Pornography is addictive and warps kids’ views of sex, women, and of being a man or woman. Of the things a child hides, this is the one that may be the easiest. If your child is getting up late at night, viewing things on the computer (even if it is in the family room), and deleting his history, you should check into it further. His searches won’t be completely gone but what average parent can find it? Install filters and monitor his internet usage. It will make a tremendous difference in his life.
Television – Much like the internet, TV can affect a child’s perception of the world and influences how they see things. That is what TV is supposed to do. It is why commercials are effective. If he or she has a TV in their room, you cannot monitor it entirely. Americans watch too much TV as it is, so I recommend that families share it. Watch things together, and discuss the meaning behind the messages, particularly if you disagree with it. I have been teaching my son that commercials make things look cool because they want your money; a recent Disney Channel music video is completely about wearing cool clothes. “Isn’t that silly?” I point out.
Finally, even with this knowledge, your child will still be alone at times. Your goal as a parent should be to enable them to navigate in the world with values and logic so that when they are away from you, they will make wise decisions and be the type of child you can be proud of.
About Dale Sadler
Dale Sadler is the author of 28 Days to A Better Marriage and How to Argue with Your Teen & Win. By day he works with middle schoolers and by night he is a family counselor specializing in marriage, parenting and men's issues. He works hard to be the husband and father his family needs. Follow him @DaleSadlerLPC or visit www.DaleSadler.net