Balance-Point Parenting

Filed under:Mothering,Priorities,Sad — posted by Anwyn on August 8, 2006 @ 1:26 pm

Carol Platt Liebau has a link to an excellent article by Kay Hymowitz recommending against the multitude of high-tech gadgets available to parents to spy on their children. I agree with Hymowitz and Liebau. This is not smart parenting, and as Hymowitz says:

Your 11-year-old son wants to take a public bus for the first time: Absent a GPS phone, you think about his judgment, how he handles money, how alert he is to his surroundings. With GPS, parents are trying to make an end-run around careful, and admittedly difficult, deliberation.

That’s the point, followed by this commenter at Liebau’s:

Carol – This is a more complicated matter than your post (or Hymowitz’ piece) makes it sound. Where does the parent’s duty lie? With the safety of the child or the moral support of the child? Also, who says the youths have to be aware of the tracking?

Keeping the child safe and encouraging the child’s independent development are objectives that overlap but change in priority over time. The younger the child, the more helpless to affect events around them, the more important the parent’s responsibility to keep the child safe–at the same time showing the child what kind of choices and behaviors keep them safe. As they grow and take those lessons, implicit or explicit, to heart, we expect them to exercise the same good judgment in keeping themselves safe. So it’s a two-column chart: at birth, the “Safe” column is all the way up to the top while the “Moral Development” is down near the bottom. As the child grows, “Safe” drops and “Moral Development” rises. When they reach a balance point on any particular issue, that is the decision point for a mom or dad: Is my kid mature enough to take on this responsibility himself? If “not yet,” that’s fine. If “yes,” you have to be prepared for the kid to screw up and deal with that as it happens. At least you’re basing your decision on your own judgment and knowledge of your child–and not on the GPS data that says your kid went somewhere other than where he told you last night.

As for “who says the youths have to be aware of the tracking?” all I can say is, if you can use the tracking data without tipping your kid off that you are spying on them, you must be a lot smarter than I am. A kid who’s being spied on will become sullen, lie more (why tell the truth? Mom can find out what she needs to know the hard way!), and be even more difficult to deal with–not to mention lose trust in her relationship with her mother. Too sad. Not worth it.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace