Monitoring your child's contact with his or her surroundings
How can you be a careful monitor? This next example may help you decide. As you read, think about these questions:
- Are these grandparents being active monitors?
- Is it clear why a value or behavior is desirable or undesirable?
- Are these grandparents being flexible?
- Is the child's behavior destructive?
- How might you handle a similar situation with your child?
||Sam, Esther, and Rachel (Age 13)2,3
What's the Story?
Rachel has been living with her grandparents, Sam and Esther, since she was a baby. Until recently, Sam and Esther agreed on the values and behaviors that they wanted to teach their granddaughter. But now that Rachel is a teenager, they don't agree on issues that involve her.
I know that I agreed to let Rachel wear makeup, but I'm still not comfortable with the idea. She looks like a 30-year-old, not a 13-year-old. Plus, isn't makeup just the beginning? Next thing you know, she'll want to go places with her friends without chaperones. Then what?
If we tell her she can't dress the way she wants or wear makeup when she wants, she'll just start doing it anyway and lying to us about it. She asked me if she could start wearing makeup to school. I discussed it with Sam and he agreed, so Rachel and I went out and bought what she wanted together. Then I showed her how to apply the makeup without putting on too much. Wearing makeup is just the beginning of Rachel's process of becoming who she wants to be. But I want to make sure that Sam and I are a part of that process from the beginning.
What's the Point?
It's only natural for Sam to try to protect his granddaughter, but being strict with her may have the opposite effect. If Rachel feels that her grandparents aren't willing to listen to her needs and wants, she may decide not to get their input at all. Cutting off communication with her grandparents leaves Rachel at greater risk for getting hurt, having problems, and feeling pressured.
By going with Rachel to buy makeup and showing her how to apply it, Esther and Sam are providing guidance without being rigid. While wearing makeup may seem like a small issue, Esther and Sam are setting a solid example for making choices as Rachel gets older. Not only are they aware of what Rachel is doing, but they are also keeping the lines of communication open. The manner in which they handle this situation will let Rachel know whether her grandparents support her growing up. With that knowledge, Rachel is more likely to talk to her grandparents about other important issues, like boys and dating, which can help prevent future problems.
Esther and Sam decided together that Rachel's wearing makeup wasn't an issue worth fighting over. If Sam has doubts about that decision, he needs to discuss them with Esther so they can find a compromise that is agreeable to both of them. If Sam's doubts are not about Rachel wearing makeup, but stem from his worries about other things, like going out with friends, dating or curfews, then he and Esther need to talk about those issues while letting their initial decision about makeup stand.