DR. WALLACE: My problem is that my parents don't trust me. They're always checking up on me. I can understand that, but what I can't understand is why they sometimes follow me in their car to see if I'm going where I told them I was going.
Last Friday night, my best friend and I decided to go to a movie. I told my parents what movie we were going to see and what time the movie started. While standing in line, who do I see spying on me? I see my parents driving by to see if I was telling them the truth.
When I complain to my parents that I don't like them not trusting me, all they say is, "We do it because we love you." Do you think my parents should be spying on me? — Nameless, Elkhart, Ind.
NAMELESS: Parents should, of course, be aware of their children's activities, but shouldn't spy on them to verify they've told the truth. Trust is an essential part of a loving, functional family, and only when the teen violates that trust is "unannounced surveillance" justified.
Otherwise, spying, especially on a routine basis, is the opposite of trust. Even when it's done out of love, it's extremely destructive to the parent-child relationship. Teenagers will never grow into productive members of society without being granted gradually increasing independence. Parents who don't trust their children will never be able to let go and allow them to mature. This is a serious parental flaw!
I'M BEING BLACKMAILED BY MY SISTER
DR. WALLACE: About a month ago, my older sister caught me sipping a beer with two of my friends. It was my first experience with alcohol and it will be my last. I only drank about a fraction of a can and I didn't like the taste. The three of us shared one beer. One of my friends took it out of her refrigerator (her dad's beer) so we could find out what the stuff tasted like. It looked so good when we saw it advertised on television - but none of us liked it.
Anyway, my sister, who is 17 (I'm 15), keeps threatening to tell my parents if I don't do special favors for her. Last night I had to do all her chores. Already I've "loaned" her over $10 and I doubt she will ever pay me back. Last week she wore my favorite sweater without asking for permission. When I told her to take it off, she told me to shut up or she would tell my parents about my drinking binge.
I don't want my parents to know about my experiment with alcohol, but I'm tired of being blackmailed by my own sister. Help! — Kelly, Chicago, Ill.
KELLY: Your sister is way out of line and you need to put a stop to her shenanigans. There's a simple way to disarm a blackmailer. Own up to what you did! Sharing a beer with your friends was wrong and you know it. Have the courage to tell your parents what happened and take your punishment. Believe me, it will feel far better than to continue suffering at the hands of dear old Sis!
When you confess to your parents, let them know about your sister's role as well. In my opinion, that was the more severe violation.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.