My eldest is about to turn 13, the age Facebook determines is mature enough to participate in their chaotically connecting community. I can no longer hide behind their rules for disallowing him access, so now I am working on preparing him.
This terrifying video has shown up on my newsfeed. Contrived or not, this was something I wanted to discuss with my kids. I sat down with my two older boys (the almost 13-year-old and the 9.5-year-old) and we watched this together. They immediately caught on to the problems.
Why did all three girls know they had to hide their activities from their parents? Because, on some level, they knew what they were doing was inherently dangerous and/or wrong. Or they just didn't trust their parents' rules and feared getting in trouble. Either way, the outcome could have been disastrous.
My boys and I made some promises to each other. We worked together to come up with this list. These promises have a direct impact on the social media aspect of life, but also serve our family as a foundation for living and working together. This is our covenant:
1 - Rules are made to keep them safe, not to control them or make them miserable.
Sometimes it's hard for a kid to understand this, but when they do get it, it makes it easier for them to comply. When you know that someone is genuinely trying to keep you safe and happy out of love, it makes sense to listen.
Of course, for this to work, then those rules need to make sense and love needs to be a common theme in life in the home. I admit, I grew up in a house where I didn't feel loved and some rules were placed for no other reason than to remind me that I was powerless and had to submit. I am very familiar with the ramifications of this situation - I felt cornered, so I did lie to do the things I wanted. I refuse to repeat that example.
Very importantly, they have a say in these rules! We are a family team and we talk together to make sure that everyone is happy, everyone's needs are met, and everyone agrees. But there will be rules, for all of us.
2 - Rules are discussed in advance, no surprises.
Because they are involve in the rule-making, they are fully aware of what's expected. If I come up with a procedure, they are consulted and have the opportunity to suggest changes. They are never blindsided; we are transparent.
For instance, my boys know that they have zero privacy online. Every email that they get is also automatically sent to me (thank you Google!). They will be my friend on Facebook, and I will have their password so I can see their private messages. They have no expectation of privacy, so there is no upset when they realize I'm watching. They agree to these terms and I promise not to abuse it.
3 - I will say "no” as rarely as possible.
4 - If I say "no,” I have to be able to tell them why. If I can't, then I'm doing something wrong.
We have all seen the "Because I'm the mom, that's why!” shirts, signs, and posts. I don't buy it, and neither do kids. This mentality simply rubs it in a child's face that they have zero power over their own life. This is not the thinking that makes them want to listen and obey; it is not cooperative; it does not foster communication and trust. Those are all things that I value in our family. Yes, it takes more effort to explain and include our children in family decision making; our kids and relationships are worth this time and energy.
As an added bonus, showing them what's going on in our head gives them the example of a reasonable thought process so they can make their own decisions too. I believe demonstrating reason by explaining ourselves creates better citizens and future leaders than wielding absolute power.
5 - They are allowed, even encouraged, to ask why I said "no,” and I must answer.
I encourage my kids to listen to their gut; I'm the mom, and my gut gets heard too. I had to make another admission; keeping my kids safe is utterly selfish. I truly don't know what I would do if I lost one of my boys; I honestly don't know if I'd make it. For pure self-preservation, I need my kids to be safe. With tears in my eyes, I explained this weakness of mine. They responded with mirroring tears and a hug. We're on the same page.
7 - If they feel the need to lie, then they realize it's unsafe and they're doing something wrong.
Because of promises number one through six, the ball is now in their court to make the choice that keeps them safe. Because they understand the foundation and the reason for the perceived confinement, it's easier to accept. If they are tempted to hide something from me, this is a huge red flag. They know that this means they need to stop and ask themselves some questions.
I want the answer to each of these to be a resounding "YES!”
Then more questions follow:
Melissa and Ellen are birth doulas, childbirth educators, placenta encapsulation specialists, and Parent Effectiveness Training instructors serving the Denver, CO area. They are passionate about pregnancy, birth, baby care, and parenting. They bring over twenty years of combined experience to their premium childbirth classes, doula support, parenting classes, and placenta encapsulation services in the metro Denver area.