She is a good child and has involved parents who love and support her. We saw the signs, but we didn’t act, because we were trying to show him that we trusted him and didn’t want to control. Big mistake.
We found out there was a problem when we looked at his notes after Christmas. For the first time, she had D’s and C’s. She lost all privileges to the device and even has to ask permission to watch TV. She’s steeped in all things social and her Christmas presents are gone.
Of course, we sat with her twice before school started and went through what happened to understand what she was thinking and what she had been exposed to, and to really make her understand to how selfish and dangerous his actions were. We were in shock and my heart was broken. I never imagined that she would have lied to us like that so soon and sought such unhealthy negative attention.
How long do we keep her in the face of these consequences, and how do we start to repair the way she sees her world and her family? The media are non-stop, superficial sexual images of self and material things. I believe his phone apps are to blame. TikTok and YouTube really gave her an unhealthy self-image. I don’t plan on returning her phone for a few years. It brought with us a disease that I never thought I would have to face.
A: Whoa, my boy. I sympathize with you. As a mother with a child who uses (addicted to) Roblox, I feel you. And as a woman who was once 13 and lied, I feel for your daughter. There is a lot to unpack here, and there is so much that I don’t know. Your daughter signed up for a very popular game, got sucked into shenanigans (of which, I don’t know – sexting, inappropriate images?), Naturally dropped out of school (technology is too alluring), got bad grades and was punished severely for it all.
But here’s the deal: I have no idea how your daughter feels. I see how you feel (rightly upset), but where is your daughter in all of this? It is more than a collection of its mistakes, and we need to see it to move forward. Although consequences have been and are necessary, grounding her in all things social, taking away her Christmas presents (!!!!) and picking up her phone for a few years is a lot. As, a lot a lot. And I’m not even sure it’s practical. Do you really want to deny him access to a phone for the next few years?
Again, while I fully understand your shock, I need you to hear me: Teens sometimes lie to their parents. Your daughter knew she was breaking the family rules. She probably felt like she was breaking her own rules, so to continue she had to lie about it. It can be the mind of the young adolescent. Even when teens know “the right way,” the influence of others, the power of technology, and the desire to be loved and seen trump their morals. This is not an indictment against his whole character; it’s life. Good children sometimes lie. And fall prey to the influence of older teens. And fail some courses. And get into trouble.
The question you ask me is, “How long do we keep her in the face of these consequences, and how do you start to fix the way she sees her world and her family?” My answer is: I don’t know, because these are not the questions I think we should be asking ourselves. Instead of just considering your effect on her, I would also like to reflect on her experience. What would happen if you decided to support her during this difficult time instead? It does not mean to return his phone; it means we help her unzip the pictures she saw or what the teens said. We’re not going to “fix” the way she sees the world; toothpaste does not return to the tube. And I’m concerned with how much you seem to want her to be a young child again; this does not happen. The “repair” work has to happen in your relationship with her, because in my opinion, it was you who hurt her.
Our job, as parents of teenagers, is not to punish and shame them to perfection and innocence. It is walking with them because they inevitably come into contact with these harsh realities. By cutting your daughter off from all that is good in her life, taking her Christmas presents away (I’m clearly in shock at this one), continuing the shock and grief, you are building a deep rift between you and your daughter. This separation will not lead to her healing and good sanity; it will lead to depression, anger, or more deviousness – or all three. Your daughter hasn’t resisted the siren song of older teens before, and if we continue to punish her, we’ll send her back to them.
I’m not suggesting you give up its tech and forget that it all happened, but we have to go back to some of the biggest punishments here. Say, “Gertrude, I want you to collect your Christmas presents. I think I freaked out and got a little too hard on this one. Then return them. You won’t lose face, trust me. Then I would call meetings with her where you work together to help her get her technology back and some freedom. Yes, she broke the rules, and yes, she lost your trust, but we have to be parents in a way where there is always a way forward. Always. It is your parental responsibility to build this path, so that this event can be a lesson learned, not a stain on her whole personality. Loving him unconditionally is as important now as ever, so find your way. Stat.
By meeting her to create this path, I would also help her learn more about sex and sexuality. (Watch all the videos you need on amaze.org, then show them to her and chat.) I would find out about the effects of technology on the brain (I recommend Julianna Miner’s “Raising a Screen-Smart Kid” ), and I find a middle way between all authorized technology and all media is “nonstop sex and superficial images of self and material things”. I don’t disagree with you, but your parenting job is to help her cope with it, not tear everything up and put your head in the sand.
If I’m speaking a little harshly to you, it’s because you have an important opening here. You gave her freedom and she made a whole series of mistakes. Lesson learned. But switching to the opposite end of the spectrum is just as bad. Your relationship with your teenager has to exist somewhere in the middle with flexibility, compassion, limits, and a lot of unconditional love. If you cannot get there on your own, please consult an advisor or coach. You deserve just as much support; no one needs to go it alone. Good luck.