The Parenting Pendulum

I came across this article today: Law Would Let Parents See Kids’ Text Messages, and, well, frankly, I’m outraged.  So, you mean to tell me that under federal law (read the article), my minor child – for whom I am completely legally responsible, whose cell phone I provided and pay the bill on every month – actually has the right to refuse to allow me access to text messages on his phone?

I’m guessing that the law, as drafted (which I have not actually seen), isn’t actually aimed at kids and their right to privacy, and it’s probably also not specifically aimed at preventing parents from having access to their kids’ business.  I’m guessing it’s a law meant to protect privacy rights of cell phone owners in general; unfortunately, kids – some as young as 6 and 7 years old! – fall under that umbrella.

Here’s what I think: any kid who refuses to show his or her parents his or her text messages has something to hide.  Also, they’ve probably been fed some misguided notion  (by their parents!) that they actually have a right to privacy.  As I see it, everything my kids do is my business; privacy (I’m not talking about bathroom privacy) is a privilege as long as they’re minors – not a right.

No, this does not mean that I go through my kids’ things – specifically my teenager’s – or that I read all his texts and emails (anymore).  I do, however, reserve the right to, and he knows it.  So far, there hasn’t been any push back from him on this issue – it’s just the way it is, and we seem to get along fine.

I realize this is an unpopular opinion in this day and age.  But I’m full of unpopular opinions, so what’s one more?

This feeds right into a bigger issue: the overall climate of parenting these days.  Is it just me, or does it seem like we’ve all gone a little nuts trying to turn out happy, confident, brilliant kids?  It seems like everyone is so worried about doing the least bit of damage to little Billy’s and Susie’s psyches that the reins have been let out too much.  Are we really under the impression that kids are just miniature adults who deserve all the perks adults can have, and that discipline and consequences will break their spirits?

A therapist acquaintance (okay, my therapist) recently informed me that it is now frowned upon by the experts to put a child in an isolated time-out – that is, to make a child who is acting out go be by him- or herself, as in sending him or her to his or her room – because it creates shame and abandonment issues.  Are you fucking kidding me?  It’s bad enough that spanking has been taken off the table by “the experts” – now time-outs, too? Apparently, if a kid is freaking out and acting like a complete hysterical brat, or mouthing off and being rude and disrespectful, what is called for is hugging.  I’m serious, that’s what she said.

I’m no expert, but I’m calling bullshit on this one.

I’m not saying I’m a fan of abusive parenting.  Look, I suffered my share of abuse as a kid.  My dad whipped me and my brothers with a leather belt – on our bare skin – leaving welts up and down our backs and legs – and this was his regular method of discipline.  My mother called me names, told me repeatedly that she didn’t like me, mimicked me crying, oh, and slapped me around plenty and once broke a hairbrush on me.  Not cool.  Not acceptable.  Common back then?  Perhaps more than people realize.  But it seems to me that the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other, and now it’s all about being permissive and indulgent and doing for our kids instead of teaching them to do for themselves, and putting their (supposed) happiness above everyone else’s.  And what are we really accomplishing?  Are we really raising a generation of capable, empathetic, respectful, well-adjusted people?  A lot of signs point to NO.

There’s got to be a middle ground.  Kids need to have rules and boundaries and meaningful consequences.  They need to be allowed to fail.  They need to understand that they are kids, not little adults, and that not everything is a right when you’re a kid.

And we parents need to accept that nobody gets out of childhood unscathed.  Every parenting method turns out its share of kids with issues – that’s just the way it is.  Let’s just be rational, okay?  And realize that these kids we’re raising are going to be turned loose on society eventually.


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8 Comments on “The Parenting Pendulum”

  1. Melissa Smith
    February 28, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    I didn’t read the article so Im simply guessing here, but I work for a major cell phone provider and I dont think its geared at protecting kids from parental eyes, its allowing parents to retrieve messages that have been sent and recieved as a sort of transcript. As it stands now, no one can get a copy of text messages even if it could save a life, with out a court ordered subpeona through a carriers legal department. Ive heard that carriers are trying to get the FCC to loosen regulations so parents can keep better tabs on their children. Its a tough ethical delema to where they draw the line when privacy of adults can be comprimised. I could just as easily call and say my fiance is my child and get all of his messages. I may be wrong, but thats my two cents!

    • Melissa Smith
      February 28, 2012 at 6:16 am #

      Ok i just read the article and I was right. Yes, unfortunately, the FCC does in fact require a court order to read your kids txt unless youre lucky enough to get the phone in your hot little hands and hope they havent deleted them already. Sadly, my job position requires me to break that news to extremely pissed off parents like your self on about a weekly basis so i can give you every ounce of assurance the article is bullshit free.

  2. happy2bewithyou
    February 28, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Hey Lisa…I really liked ur straightforward…and I well know how hard it is to be really straightforward. Just had a experience at my home few minutes ago…lol. EVen I say the same in different words..I had a strict pair of parents..who were definitely not my friend..but very loving..over caring..over protective and as a that time child, I would still say, over expecting..and not being close to them taught me what I shouldn’t be like to be close to my kid…But the learning never stops 🙂

  3. Caryl Becker Phillips
    February 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I could say soooo much Lisa but I will try to be succinct. The result of the permissiveness is being felt in our educational system and is part of the root cause of the problems our schools are facing today. If you could only here the excuses of why “Billy” hits kids on the playground or is disrespectful to teachers and classmates. It is unreal. A teacher friend, (not from GH) was bitten by a first grader. The bite broke the skin and swelled. The teacher had to get a shot of Gamma Globulin in case the child has Hepatitis. The parent blamed the teacher and the other child that was fighting with the student and she threatened to sue the school. The fact is that parents are so afraid that they will alienate their children or that their children won’t love them that they are paralyzed and ineffective. In school, I see the children with the most permissive parents longing for the structure, routine, and discipline that the school setting provides. Hold your kids accountable for their actions with a consequence that fits the crime and FOLLOW THROUGH. Like I said, I could go on and on. But the last thing I will say is that all therapists have crazy kids. I am the parent of a therapist and my grandkids may never recover from it.

  4. Stacey
    February 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Wow, that’s some messed-up system! We’d pretty much already decided that our children will NOT have a cell phone, but this bit of information solidifies it for me. They can borrow one of ours when needed, but I won’t allow them to think they have the right to keep secrets from me. And I have to say that I hate texting in general so it wouldn’t bother me a bit to disable that feature if we do allow them to have a cell phone.

  5. Life After Grad School
    February 29, 2012 at 12:33 am #


  6. Catsie
    March 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    I SO applaud what you’re saying. Having worked as a cashier in multiple grocery stores, I can’t BELIEVE how many parent come through my register with bratty kids and offer to buy them something to shut them up. Um, hello? You’re REWARDING their bad behavior!!! Are you TRYING to turn your kid into a juvenile deliquent??? That just means they’re more likely to do it again next time so you’ll offer them the candy bar again! SO freaking stupid.

  7. Sam
    March 12, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Actually for once Lisa I absolutely agree with you 100%. I have raised 5 children… biologically 3 whom are now in their early 20s and (for the past 13 years) a step-mum to 2 who live with us 70% of the time who are now 17 & 18. Parenting and the ‘rights’ of children have changed A LOT during my 24 years as a mother. My children were raised traditionally with rules and verbal discipline and on a couple of occasions when they were little a tap on the behind. They were taught to respect their elders, be polite to people in authority positions (ie: teachers) and not only respect themselves, each other, and their family but everyone on a whole. We have no religion at all but I feel that children need to have ethical teaching and have good morals. 20 years ago you would not see the current lack of respect for others or other peoples property that you now see. Wanton damage is done to expensive cars, ‘tagging’ of people’s housing and fencing, shopping centres, trains and buses has been occurring for the last decade here and it is escalating and a large proportion of parents DO NOT CARE! In fact many parents defend their children’s bad attitude and the ‘reasons’ that they damage other family’s property (yet these are the same people who are outraged should someone do this to them or theirs). Our children have become zombies to the internet and mobile phones… they have become the “ME” generation and the “NOW” generation. They need instant gratification, they want everything now (things normally you would wait for until you were an adult and earned money to pay for these ‘wants’)….. I guess it is not their fault… they are used to pushing a button and getting the answer to everything straight away and this is why we are finding so many non-functioning young adults who don’t know how to organise their lives, get or keep a job etc.

    I totally agree that as parents we should be able to ‘check up’ on our children…. to ensure their safety, to ensure they are not secretly getting up to things that could harm themselves or others. Parental rights have gone out of the window and our children’s rights have become more important than our rights as a parent. This does not mean that kids don’t have rights… of course they do… as a person they have the right to love, to safety etc. BUT…. children need the guidance of their parents and giving kids the exact same, or more rights, than adults in every facet of their life is just wrong.

    When our youngest two were in primary school (year 6 & &7 – 11 & 12 yrs old) we went to a school meeting where we were told about the ‘rights of our children’. Our children would be given basically ‘free reign’ to do what they wanted that year during class. They were allowed food and drink at their desks, they wouldn’t be forced to do their work if they didn’t want to and could choose to do homework (or not!)… consequently class was chaos and our children’s grades plummeted due to incompleted classwork and homework (which they mostly didn’t bring home). Giving children the same rights as parents without guidance and rules and insisting they do what you want them to do (ie: school work)… just not work!

    Sure there are kids that are polite that ‘respect’ their grandparents, parents and teachers but these are now the minority and live in families where there is more guidance, supervision and discipline (not physical discipline)… but real, proper rules that MUST be kept to or there is punishment. Kids actually thrive with rules and boundaries and accept the punishment for overstepping these. My older children often tell me “I’m glad you didn’t let me…… (things like drink alcohol)” when I was 15 etc.

    I think ‘personal rights’ have gone crazy personally and respect for others has gone with it to a large extent. Being a parent is tough enough.. particularly the mid teens (when kids start really “flexing their muscles”) which I found very difficult, particularly with 5 kids with 8 years gap from eldest to youngest…. through to early 20’s when our children are still trying to find their first paths into adulthood (which can be exhilarating but also a bit heartbreaking watching them make mistakes and get hurt emotionally, financially and physically….. but also important for them to go through with only a parents guidance and advice rather than bailouts or cottonwooling).

    A large proportion of our generation don’t appear to have made very good parents….and I am slightly terrified on this next generation now attaining numerical adulthood becoming parents. I just hope that perhaps they will re-think their lax parenting with no rules and self important attitude and perhaps parent in a more positive way that will in turn give us a nice generation of people.

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