Ask the Expert — Think Before You Trust
“I would like to know your opinion on a 13-year-old boy’s use of Facebook and Xbox Live. I want to trust him and let him choose to do the right things, but I also understand that he is too trusting of others. I have parental controls, but he complains that he can’t play with others that friends of friends know. Suggestions please.” (Monica J.)
You have an interesting situation on your hands, but also one that is very common. What is before you is the dilemma of dealing with past experiences and the desired freedom of the future. Your son wants more space, but some of his mistakes in the past have caused you to be a little more cautious than he wants you to be. I’ve seen this before when it comes to driving, grades, and dating. Your situation just so happens to involve the 21st Century elephant called “Social Media”.
At ScreamFree, we teach two principles that pretty much go hand-in-hand. The first is this: Kids Need Their Space. This principle speaks to the idea of giving kids a degree of freedom so that they can have a sense of ownership over their lives.The other principle is: Kids Need to Know Their Place. This principle has to do with the boundaries and structure that parents must set.
Putting the two principles together, calls parents to give their children some space, but with an understanding that the space takes place within the boundaries they set. “Space” without “Place” is chaos.
In the case of you and your son, this may mean that you give him an opportunity to engage in Facebook and Xbox Live without some of the restrictions. After all, you said that you want to trust him and let him choose to do the right things. The way to do that is…to do that. Will you be anxious about it? Yes. This isn’t anxiety-free parenting we are talking about; it is ScreamFree Parenting. To be ScreamFree through this means we are going to have to exercise some of our emotional muscles.
As you give him a little freedom, help him see where his freedom ends and his boundaries begin. This calls you to be very clear about the consequences that exist for violating those boundaries. With that said, make sure that you define for him what “too trusting” looks like.
If he suddenly falls back into his “too trusting” pattern, then that may mean increased restrictions for a time or a period of no “screen time.” The goal is not to make him become “less trusting,” but to help him learn to think before he trusts.