Friday, July 8, 2016

I Spy on My Teens (I Admit It) When They are Online

I have already confessed to being a helicopter mama (over and over again) right here on Mommy Rantings, as well as in my books. Sure, I do hover over my kids, in hopes that my overprotectiveness will keep them safe and sound. I'm not ashamed of it. It is what it is. I am a mama bear.

I am just not built to be a laissez fairs mama - one who stands back and lets her kids learn (often hard) lessons on their own all the time. I've heard this type of parenting termed so many things. One of my favorites is "safety net parents." So, pretty much, this type of parent stands back and waits until the kid needs a safety net...

And there are a lot of parents who think Safety Net Parenting is "normal" compared to Helicopter parenting. But, I have to disagree.

My mother-in-law recently told me, "You can't make all of their decisions for them. You have to start letting them make their own decisions and learn lessons based on their choices." She was chastising me for being frustrated with my oldest son loading himself down with extra curricular activities at school.

She was right, although it was difficult to swallow the words. I did have to back off from hovering over my 16-, 15-, and 14-year-olds and let them start making decisions on their own. If they wanted to load down their schedule with too many after school activities, they would have to live through the madness and come to the conclusion - on their own, without me nagging every step of the way, of course - that they had chosen to participate in too many endeavors.  

Now, with ten kids, understand that I do not have time to hover over every single one of them all of the time. That would be a feat that I would love to challenge anyone to! However, I do tend to make decisions about what they are going to eat, wear, how and when they do their chores, which activities they will participate in, which schools they will attend, what they can do on the internet, and I even want to meet their friends so I know what types of people they are hanging around with at school. Everything. I make their decisions about everything.

Sadly, this has led to my older children not feeling comfortable with taking initiative in their lives. I also believe it has hindered their ability to complete simple tasks, like their chores, without me standing over them and instructing them every step of the way. Not all of my teens are like this, but at least one shows signs of requiring substantial (and often exhaustive) guidance in carrying out some of the most simplest of things.

I have wandered off of the point for a moment, but I will bring it back to what I was going to say in the beginning. As a proud helicopter mama, I admit that I spy on my teens. I listen in on their conversations, whether they are talking through their Chrome Books, tablets, or computers. I will also stand behind them - or around the corner or peering around the edge of a door - to watch what they are doing online. I read their text messages.

I mean, I don't stand for hours spying on each and every one of them. Who has time for that? I certainly don't! But, when they least expect it, I pop in and check out what they are doing.

Now, there are definitely going to be parents who read this and think, That is just wrong! She should trust her kids and let them breathe! You can feel that way all you want, but at least I know what my kids are into, who they hang out with, and that they are not getting caught up in some of the crazy temptations - or even traps - that the internet has lurking in every corner. Sure, I trust them...

Poor Lorin Lafave was a lot like me. She was a helicopter mom, too. Regardless of her hovering and being fully aware of what her 14-year-old son, Breck Bednar, was doing on the computer, he was still murdered by an 18-year-old online predator. If you think I am crazy, you might want to read her story. He was a trustworthy, good kid. It can happen to anyone. Especially if the kids are sheltered and naive.

I will admit it to my kids' faces, too. In fact, they know I do it. And they don't seem to mind a bit. The thing is, if it bothers them that I am listening in on - or reading - their conversations or watching what they are doing, then something is wrong. And I should start reading and watching more.

I am not and will not be ashamed of my hovering mama issue. Lorin Lafave will tell you herself: you can't be too proactive in your kids' lives. You can't hover enough.

I will try my best to heed the advice of my mother-in-law and let them make their own decisions more, but I won't stop spying on them, I will embrace my helicopter mama license as long as I am a mom.

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