Do you need to be a superhero with x-ray vision and eyes in the back of your head to be a careful monitor? Of course not. You don’t need to be with your child every minute of every day, either. Being a careful monitor combines asking questions and paying attention, with making decisions, setting limits, and encouraging your child’s positive choices when you aren’t there.
Being a careful monitor combines asking questions and paying attention, with making decisions and setting limitations.
When your child is young, monitoring seems easy because you are the one making most of the decisions. You decide who cares for your child; you decide what your child watches or listens to; you decide who your child plays with. If something or someone comes in contact with your child, you’re usually one of the first to know.
Things may change as your child gets older, especially after school begins and into the pre-teen and teen years. As kids begin to learn about their own personalities, they sometimes clash with their parents’ personalities. A parent’s ability to actively monitor is often one of the first things to suffer from this clash.
Parents need to monitor their children’s comings and goings through every age and stage of growth.
Being an active monitor can be as simple as answering some basic questions:
You won’t always have detailed answers to these questions, but it’s important to know most of the answers, most of the time.
You may also want to keep these things in mind when being an active monitor:
With a little effort from you, your child might surround him or herself with friends whose values, interests, and behaviors will be "pluses" in your child's life.
To find out how some parents use monitoring in their daily parenting practices, turn to the section of this booklet that relates to your child’s age. Or you can read on to learn about mentoring.
Keep in mind that even if you’re the most careful monitor, your child may have friends and interests that you don’t understand or don’t approve of. You may not like the music she listens to, or the clothes he wears, or the group she “hangs out” with. Some of these feelings are a regular part of the relationship between children and adults. Before you take away the music or forbid your child to see that friend, ask yourself this question:
In other words, is your child hurting anyone or being hurt by what he or she is doing, listening to, wearing, or who he or she is spending time with? If the answer is “no,” you may want to think before you act, perhaps giving your child some leeway. It’s likely that taking music away, not letting your child watch a certain show, or barring your child from spending time with a friend will create a conflict between you and your child. Make sure that the issue is important enough to insist upon. Think about whether your actions will help or hurt your relationship with your child, or whether your actions are necessary for your child to develop healthy attitudes and behaviors. You may decide that setting a volume limit for the radio is better than having a fight about your child’s choice of music.
Being your child’s mentor can keep your child from being hurt by encouraging him or her to act in reasonable ways. Now let’s think about mentoring.