“What is that?” I asked DQ when I came into her room to wake her up.
“What is what?” she asked, moving the covers slightly to conceal what I was pointing at.
“That,” I said, flipping the covers aside and grapping the lime green cell phone that had been hidden underneath. “I thought you told me that it was put away for the night. You lied to me.”
“I didn’t!” she protested. “It was put away.”
“So when was the last text?” I asked her, flipping it open to reveal an unread message that came in at 12:45 am. She grabbed it away from me before I could read any further.
“I was asleep then,” she said, clutching the phone as if it held top-secret information.
“Uh-huh, right. So when was the last text that you sent?” I inquired, attempting to get the phone back. She stealthily maneuvered it out of my reach, but saw that I wasn’t kidding around. She opened it up and scrolled down.
“12:30,” she said sheepishly.
Dang it. Dang it! Why does she have to do this to me? I mean I set up guidelines, and mostly she obeys them. But this bending of the rules? I had told her in the beginning, on Christmas day when she was presented with the phone, that she had a strict 9pm phone curfew. I told her that if she couldn’t follow that rule, among the other rules I had put in place, I was going to have to take the phone away. Only once before I had caught her bending this rule. I let her off with a warning that if I caught her using her phone again after curfew that the phone would be taken away. And I had done my best to be naïve to the subsequent rule bending that occurred after that, meaning that I had purposely not checked to make sure that she was following the rule – choosing to “trust” that she was putting the phone away at the proper time. But there was no denying it this time. I mean, it was in plain sight. And now she was forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do…
Be the parent and take the dang phone away.
It’s not like I enjoy punishing my kids. I actually hate it. Things are so much easier and more serene when we are all getting along. I like my kids, and I’m pretty sure they like me. But as parents, we run the risk of sometimes NOT being liked when we have to enforce rules to keep them safe, to help them learn how to be responsible, and to allow them to get enough sleep at night instead of staying awake texting until the wee hours of the morning.
And sometimes I wonder if kids purposely break rules to see if their parents are paying attention. I mean, it’s almost like they WANT to be caught with how obvious they are in their monkey business. Either that, or they really believe that parents just won’t notice. For example, remember that one friend of mine with the pothead son? She ended up voicing her displeasure at his habit, and forbade him from letting any of the wacky weed into her home. And he promised her that it never had, and it never would. But when she was collecting laundry from his room, he had left a half-filled pipe right on his dresser table. Either he really thought it was invisible, or he wanted to get caught.
Or there’s the third option, if I remember correctly from my own hijinks as a teenager – rebelling for the sake of rebelling just to prove to parents that they can.
In my purse is one lime green cell phone, buzzing away with questioning texts wondering where my daughter is. And stuck at home is my daughter, her thumbs going through texting withdrawal. And me? I am not exactly jumping for joy about having to enforce punishment that I laid out from the very beginning. But what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t? What kind of message would I be giving her if I set rules and then allowed her to break them? I mean, we’re supposed to enforce the rules as parents.
From what I know of child/YA psychology, testing boundaries is totally normal at her age…for any and all of the reasons you suggested above.
I was generally pretty un-rule-breaky in my teens, but even so, I felt the need to rebel now and then, for the adventure, to see if anyone was paying attention, or just out of going through a phase of feeling like my parents were idiots that never would have thought of doing any of the wicked cool stuff I was doing (even though I distinctly know that both of my parents were much bigger rebels than I ever was.)
So, what your daughter is doing is normal and expected. And your reaction, though it is added stress and you don’t like doing it, is also the right one. You are showing her that there are, indeed, boundaries, and that, even though you will cut her slack on minor offenses, if she pushes too far, there are definitely consequences that she has to deal with. Though it often seems like having no restrictions on our behavior would be awesome at that age, taking a stand as a parent, when it is necessary, a) helps teach your teen about obeying the rules of society, and b) shows them that you care about what they do.
Did you resist the urge to look at her text??? I’m not sure that I could have. What could possibly have been so important that it needed to be discussed at that time of night? I’m curious about where you draw the line with her privacy.
I have an understanding with my daughter that I am allowed to check her texts whenever I feel the need to. It’s not her favorite rule of mine. But it was the rule I set up when I gave her the phone, and she agreed to it. I don’t utilize it often, but I have utilized it. And at 12 years old, her texts are mostly “lol”, “kk”, or other one word not-saying-anything texts – nothing alarming or totally scandalous. So no, I didn’t check it this time, nor felt the need to. But I have that option if I ever feel like it’s necessary.