Monitoring your childís contact with his or her surrounding world
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 donít 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 childís positive
choices when you arenít there.
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,
youíre 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 parentsí
personalities. A parentís ability to actively
monitor is often one of the first things
to suffer from this clash.
Parents need to monitor their childrenís
comings and goings through every age and
stage of growth.
Being an active monitor can be as simple as answering some basic questions:
- Who is your child with?
- What do you know about the person(s) your child is with?
- Where is your child?
- What is your child doing?
- When will your child be home/leaving?
- How is your child getting there/home?
You wonít always have detailed answers to these questions, but itís
important to know most of the answers, most of the time.
You may also want to keep these things in mind when being an
- Open the lines of communication when your child
is young and keep those lines open.
seems obvious, but honest communication is crucial. When your child is
young, talk openly about things you do when you arenít with your child;
then ask your child what he or she does during those times. As your
child gets older, keep up this type of communication. Both you and your
child have to take part in open, two-way communication.
- Tell your child what thoughts and ideals you value
instance, if being respectful to adults is an ideal you want your child
to have, tell him or her; even more importantly, tell him or her why
you think itís important. Donít assume that your child knows your
reasons for valuing one practice or way of behaving over another.
- Know what your child is watching,
reading, playing, or listening to.
Because TV, movies, video games, the Internet, and music
are such a large part of many of our lives, they can have a huge
influence on kids. Be sure you know what your childís influences are.
You canít help your child make positive choices if you donít know what
web sites he or she visits or what he or she reads, listens to,
watches, or plays.
- Know the people your child spends time with.
you canít be with your child all the time, you should know who is with
your child when youíre not. Friends have a big influence on your child,
from pre-school well into adulthood. Much of the time, this influence
is positive, but not always. With a little effort from you, your child
might surround him or herself with friends whose values, interests, and
behaviors will be ďplusesĒ in your childís life. Your child also spends
a lot of time with his or her teachers. Teachers play a vital role in
your childís development and overall well-being, so get to know your
childís teachers, too.
- Give direction without being rigid.
some cases, not being allowed to do something only makes your child
want to do it more. Is the answer just plain ďnoĒ or does it depend on
the circumstances? ďYes, but only if...Ē is a useful option when making
To find out how some parents use monitoring
in their daily parenting practices, visit the section that relates to your childís age. Or you can read on to learn about mentoring.
A special note to those of you with pre-teens or teenagers4,5
Keep in mind that even if
youíre the most careful monitor, your child may have friends and
interests that you donít understand or donít approve of. You may not
like the music she listens to, or the clothes he wears, or the group
she ďhangs outĒ 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
Is this (person, music, TV show) a destructive influence?
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 ďno,Ē you may want to think before you act, perhaps giving
your child some leeway. Itís 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
childís choice of music.
Being your childís mentor can keep your child from being hurt by encouraging him or her to act in reasonable ways. Now letís think about mentoring.