Dear Family Coach: My 16-year-old daughter tells us nothing about her life. So when she goes to bed, I sometimes browse through her cellphone. At first I just noticed typical teenage girl gossip. But then I read about a boy she likes and is trying to attract by wearing tight clothing and sending him racy Snapchats. How can I address this with her without telling her that I've been on her phone? — Snooper
Dear Snooper: Stop snooping right now. Your daughter chooses not to share her life with you. It would be helpful to figure out why. Is she just private, or is she worried about the potential lectures she will get if she tells you anything? Either way, I can guarantee she will be even less likely to share her life details once she finds out you've been snooping. Furthermore, once you read or see something upsetting, you can't unknow it. That's the danger. You don't know what you will find, or even how to handle it.
Whenever I tell parents to quit reading texts and private correspondence between young people, they inevitably tell me they have no choice. Sometimes they fear drugs or sex or some other ill. Other times they are just desperate for some type of connection to their distant teenager. But these actions only erode trust even further.
Instead of eavesdropping, parents should just talk to their kids about their concerns. So if you are worried about drugs and sex promiscuity, then talk to your kid about those issues regardless of whether or not you read about it on the cellphone. Use stories from the news to help bring up an issue in a timely manner. If your child is closed off and hard to reach, then slow down, and try to find something your teen enjoys and do it with her. Bottom line: Reach out to your daughter honestly and genuinely, without being a snooper.
Dear Family Coach: Our daughter loves her pacifier. We tried to get rid of it when she was 2 years old, but she threw such violent tantrums that we gave it back. Now she's 3 1/2 and totally dependent on the pacifier when she's upset during the day and to sleep at night. We know we have to pull it, but how can we do it with the least amount of pain (for her and us)? — Panicked Parents
Dear Parents: You have good reason to panic. Your daughter adores her little binky. It gives her comfort. It helps her sleep and keeps her calm when she is having a hard time. Plus, you've already tried and failed to take it away, so you know she will put up quite a fight.
But don't dip too far into the pit of despair. This issue can be conquered with some tenacity and consistency. Pick a date on the calendar that will be known as bye-bye binky day. Let your daughter know three days before. On the morning of the designated day, get the pacifiers out of the house. Cut them up; dump garbage on them; or mail them away. Just get rid of them so there is no danger of giving them back if you get weak. Your daughter will tantrum up a storm, since she knows that this behavior worked like a charm to get her beloved binky back last time. Be prepared and ready for it. To ease her pain, consider buying a new stuffed animal, blanket or nightlight to help her transition.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.