In parenting, as in other relationships, respect is a two-way street. In short: You have to give respect to get respect.

Parents are sometimes challenged by the concept of respecting their child — especially when that child grows to be a rebellious teen. And no issue tests the boundaries of respect in the teen years more than privacy.

During puberty, privacy becomes extremely important to young people. Body changes and their accompanying modesty, and the teen’s growing need for independence make privacy and personal space critical hot-button issues between parents and teens. As a teenager draws away from family and gravitates toward friends as their primary sphere of influence, privacy becomes a shield.

Sometimes, the urge to violate your teen’s privacy stems from concern. If a parent suspects his or her child is engaging high-risk behaviors like using drugs or alcohol, it’s tempting to search the child’s room, car or personal belongings for evidence of wrongdoing while he or she is at school or out with friends. Unfortunately, this violation always results in a loss of trust between the teen and the offending parent.

In other instances, parents violate a teen’s privacy not out of a need to know or a need to control behavior, but to satisfy their own curiosity. Some parents may even dig for details in an effort to live vicariously through their teen’s experiences. There is a fine line between monitoring behavior and being nosy — intention is a big part of the difference. If you feel the need to read your daughter’s journal or scroll through the text messages on your son’s phone, give some honest thought to your own motivations before you proceed. Remember that developing responsibility as a teen requires a gradually increasing level of freedom to make your own decisions.

However, this is not to say that privacy trumps a parent’s responsibility to keep his or her teen safe. Many young adults don’t possess the maturity to understand the risks and consequences of their actions. If you suspect your teen is hiding something, try to be understanding and respectful — but fully explore your concerns with her participation. Tell her you understand there are reasons she might not want to tell you the truth, and ask for her help going through her things.

Set expectations for behavior that earns privacy. Allow your teen the freedom to make good choices, and award that behavior with privacy. However, parents should not be afraid to demand access to their child’s social media passwords, voicemail, texts and other resources if it is warranted.

Remember: Sometimes, parents need to invade their children’s privacy to ensure their health and safety. By modeling respect, parents can use earned privacy as a tool to help their teens become adults who can make their own values-based, individual choices.

To learn more about parenting through privacy issues, contact us today.