Would you tell another parent if you heard something about their teen?
29 Aug 2018
Would you tell another parent if you heard something about their teen?
Exploring Teens written debate - Series #1, debate #5
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Before we begin, I ask for consideration of the following:
- Please appreciate that these writers are not professional writers. They are part of the Exploring Teens audience and have volunteered to write one side of this debate.
- These debates show that every area of parenting has people who will passionately see it from completely opposite perspectives. Everyone’s experience is shaped by the lens of their own experience. It’s unlikely there is ever a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ position.
- Reading through the debates, I am in awe as to how much thought people put into parenting. We often beat ourselves up, but I can't see any inadequacies here. All I see is committed and passionate people wanting to do their very best for the teens in their care.
The case AGAINST telling another parent if you heard something about their teen?
Getting my own teenager through adolescence is difficult enough without involving myself in other people’s lives. This may seem blunt, but I’m sure it resonates for a lot of parents of teenagers. It’s the main reason I would not approach another parent if I heard something about their teen.
I would not tell the other parent if I hear something about their child, because I would not appreciate another parent, particularly one I do not know, approaching me and telling me what they have heard my son do, or say. I am not one to be oblivious or bury my head in the sand about what teenagers can get up to – far from it – I just can’t see that it would be constructive.
Another reason I would not approach another parent about their teen is around the context of the supposed issue. If I heard through my son, or through the school grapevine about one of his school mates, it can’t automatically be assumed that the information I receive is accurate. The story may well have been embellished or altered before it reached me. This then raises other questions for me, such as, how severe is the issue I have heard about? What right do I have to get involved? What might the long term repercussions be on my teen, the teen involved in the issue, and for their parents? Also, if this was an issue that potentially involved the school, then it would certainly be inappropriate for me to intervene.
I also believe that what goes on in someone else’s home is no-one else’s business. It’s a parental unwritten rule that you don’t want to appear to be judging parents on their parenting skills, or what you believe to be their lack of skills. What you intend as good will and well-meaning may be interpreted as criticising and interfering. Parents know their own children best, so it is best left to them to figure out how to deal with their own child.
As teenagers are very self-conscious, and eager to feel a sense of belonging, I would be considering the damage that might be done to my child’s friendships and general reputation if he came to be seen as the ‘dobber’ when the other teenager finds out both parents have been discussing them. Another consideration is that the other teen’s parents might be in denial about their child’s behaviour, and so accuse you of interfering, or inflaming the situation. So I would not want to be the one to confront the parents about their child’s activities. If, for example, the issue is about my son’s friend and I knew the parents quite well, I would support my son to think about ways to approach his friend in a sensitive and caring way. I would also consider what my son might feel about me approaching another parent with or without his consent. This links back to potential repercussions, and the message this might send to my teen about managing problems and being trustworthy.
Any problems or issues my child opens up to discuss with me, I use as a basis for talking through with him to help him to; strengthen his resilience, form strategic and critical thinking skills, and develop ways of coping with other people’s behaviour in a constructive, rather than destructive manner.
Of course there are always exceptions in any given situation. If there was talk of a child with suicidal ideation then this would need following up. If there was violence or threats involved, then this would need to be swiftly acted upon.
Author bio: A proud mother of 2 boys - a teenager and a 'tweenager', I work full time and juggle two businesses on the side. As a counsellor, I have been trained to see both perspectives in any argument, and as a parent I believe that it's invaluable to have a space for parents to trade stories and not feel so alone while surviving through the minefield that comes with parenting adolescents in modern times.
The case FOR telling another parent if you heard something about their teen?
Do you like egg on your face? I don’t! Would I tell another parent that their child is doing something that could or would be detrimental to them now or in the future? Hell yes, and I also hope it would be reciprocated.
Children are a huge responsibility given to us with no rule book or agenda, totally a hit and miss exercise for us all. A gift from god? For some it’s a glorious gift, for others a mean joke.
“Kids will be kids!” they say. Well yes of course they will, but their actions are often dictated by their environment and the way they are assisted or not, through the labyrinth of learning prior to being set free (and yes we do have to set them free). During this time of learning, growing and nurturing, I believe we are responsible for them, indivudally as parents and collectively as a community.
Growing up, I always moaned that; life was hard, my parents were unfair and OMG how frustrating it was to learn they knew everything I was doing before me! It’s only now that I have to come to understand that those people I once thought were busy bodies were simply being good friends to my parents by helping to keep them informed (not that I was bad, just naughty on occasions - honest).
It’s generally accepted that kids will try and stretch the rules, bend them a little or totally break them. Rules for our children provide boundaries but they are set to our own standards and that's what might account for why we see some behaviours in kids that we consider 'bad', they are the result of rules that are not aligned with ours. Regardless though, rules still can and do teach our children both respect for others and self-respect.
So would I tell a parent if I see a child breaking the rules? Yes, I would. But what rules?
If they were smoking cigarettes, then probably not. Nor would I tittle tattle each misdemeanour to a parent. I think other parents should only become involved when we're talking about the 'bigger picuture' of parenting. So when I refer to ‘rules’ I don’t mean parental rules (becasue they can all differ), I’m referring to the rules of life, common decency, respect etc.
If for example, my son was seen hanging with a crowd of kids around a shopping centre and was being rude, loud and annoying shoppers, I would expect to be told. I cannot rectify something I don’t see. He needs to understand the implications of his actions. I know he wouldn’t like to be annoyed or harassed while shopping, so he shouldn’t be doing it to others. He should be setting a better example.
If I saw a child driving around in a car doing stupid things, would I tell a parent? In a heartbeat.
If I heard a friend of my son had suicidal thoughts, would I tell a parent? In a heartbeat.
I have many heartbeats on my list.
If the topic was a teenage pregnancy, I would also tell the parents, BUT all involved would be at the table.
The key is in the delivery to the parent/caregiver.
In approaching the parent/care giver of another child, there are a few things I would consider. Firstly, I don’t think being politically correct serves anyone well. I feel we have lost ‘respect’ in that process. So I wouldn’t be side-stepping the facts to soften anything. Secondly, if it can be brought up casually in general conversation with your child, the other child/ren and their parents all present, this can work well. Some parents don't know how to discuss issues with their kids and might appreciate a ‘forced segway’.
Sometimes having a chat to the child concerned first and advising them you will talk to their parents, can also have the desired impact. But I would still then let their parents know I spoke to the child.
However, none of this is not about being a busy body. I believe you have to stay within your boundaries and be approachable and honest with the children. As for the other parents, I put myself in their shoes. If the actions of their children could cause concern or hurt them or their children then TELL THEM!
I would hope and pray that other parents would do the same for me because “I do not like egg on my face”
Author bio: Stay at home mum with 2 daughters in their early 20’s not at home and a 14 yr old son who is a handful. Husband is away at work all week and I’m ‘old school’.
So now it's over to you guys!
We love would love to know which side of the debate you sit on.
NEXT DEBATE IN SERIES #1 ----> Should parents take thier kids out of school for a family holiday?
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