Our children need us to be their parents, not their friends.
It is amazing how many parents seem to be afraid that their kids will not like them as friends. An acquaintance of ours glanced at her daughter’s open diary one day — “I wasn’t really snooping,” she said, “it was just lying there and I couldn’t help it.” What she read took her breath away because it was about experimentation with drugs and with sex. She couldn’t tell if some of it was about things that had already happened or that were being thought about.
“What do I do?” she asked us. “I’m trying so hard to be her friend, and I’m so afraid that if she knows I looked in her journal she just won’t trust me anymore.”
The answer is, first of all, your daughter doesn’t need you to be her friend — she needs you to be her parent. And you be should be far more worried that she has not trusted you now and in the past enough to tell you what is going on than you are about whether she will trust you in the future because you looked at her journal. Count yourself lucky that you got some clues, and find out what is going on.
This is not to say that you should go around reading your kids’ journals, but it is to say that we should be more adamant and insistent that our kids level with us and do not keep secrets from us. And it ties back into the misplaced idea that we need to be our kids’ friends.
Another dad we know bought a car he couldn’t afford because his son didn’t think the one he had was “cool.” Still, another family bought their 8- and 10-year-olds iPhones and iPads and the latest Wii game because the kids told them they were the only ones in their classes without these necessities.
Parents. Think deeply about this: We are stewards of God, not servants of our kids. Our duty and our task are not to please our kids but to please God. Our goal is to raise responsible and righteous kids who respect us, not self-indulged, entitled kids who think we are cool.
Don’t ever think (or let your kids think) that there are some things that they are doing or thinking that you do not need to know. “Privacy” is not a constitutional right of kids from their parents.
Explain to your children that you are their steward and they are your stewardship. Stewardship is, at its core, a simple principle that even young children can understand, and by the time a child is old enough to be baptized, he or she is ready for a serious discussion with parents about the things he is a steward over. In that discussion, talk about the fact that the most important stewardship that Heavenly Father gives us on this Earth is the stewardship over children — which is really a stewardship over others of our spiritual brothers and sisters.
Once children understand this, it will be easier for them to understand why you need to know everything, why nothing is off limits, and why all they have in the “need-to-know” file in their brain should be open to you because, as their steward, you need to know it all.