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Question:
I have a 13 year old daughter. She wants to attend events and hang out with her friends but resents the fact that I ask “who, what and when” and check up on the facts before letting her? Am I being over protective?

Answer:

Depends. If you insist on accompanying her to every single thing she does, yes… otherwise, you’re simply being a smart parent.

Thirteen is a very impressionable age in our society. She is just old enough to want to do things, and begin to experience things that our society pushes at kids far too young. However, she is still emotionally immature and has insufficient experience and character to say “no” to tempting friends and desire, not succumbing to peer pressure.

The fact that she tells you to “butt out” and doesn’t want you asking questions should raise a few red flags. There is a difference between the simple embarrassment of having your parents ask questions, versus defensiveness that comes from a kid KNOWING they are wanting to do things they shouldn’t be doing.

It’s one thing for you to insist that you are going to accompany her at all times and never let her begin to have a chance to build trust and develop decision making abilities. That WOULD be over-protective and counter productive.

However, asking questions, checking up on the facts, doing a little reconnaisance on occassion and knowing the “who, what, where and when” is not only proper, it is VITAL, especially in today’s world.

Don’t let your teen pressure you and bully you into feeling guilty for doing this. You need to be “Ronald Reagan fighting the Cold War” when it comes to your teens: TRUST, BUT VERIFY.

Don’t let them, or anyone else tell you that to “verify” means you do NOT trust them. Hogwash. Trust has be earned. In today’s world, only the foolish parent falls for the favorite teenager guilt trip, “you don’t trust me.” Darn right I don’t, not until you’ve proven you are trustworthy. You’re a parent first, not their “buddy”.

My advice? At that age, decreasing the oversight as they grow and earn the trust, you need to be diligent about:

  • knowing who they are with at all times
  • knowing where they are at at all times
  • knowing when they will be home
  • knowing the friends, and the families of the friends they hang with
  • insisting that any change of plans be approved first

Then, and this is important, make sure they know that AT ANY TIME, randomly, you will go to where they say they are, and you will verify that everything that have told you is true. And you must actually, literally, do this.

More often at first, less often as they grow up and earn your trust. It’s important you verify their stories. Don’t wait a couple of years “trusting them” only to find out you’ve been schnookered.

No doubt you’ll get read the riot act about how “lame” you are, and how you embarrass them in front of their friends. But you can be discreet about your verification. If she has a cell phone, show up outside the event, call her, and tell her to come out confirm to you she is there. Or, if you can simply go there and keep your presence unknown, then do so. Yep, SPY on your kid. Oh, the horror. (have you forgotten your child’s “right to privacy”??? Funny, I don’t recall having that right when I grew up. When did that ammendment get passed anyway?)

However, TELL YOUR CHILD you checked up on them, and give them details to prove it. You WANT them to know that you could pop up at any time to verify their story and that randomly, but predictably, you do.

Trust but verify. If it worked on the Russians and kept us from nuking each other off the planet, it will work on your teenagers!

Hey readers, I know you have a bunch of experience with teenagers. How about sharing your advice on the message boards for all of us to read. Go here….