Do You Spy or Snoop on Your Children?

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | January 16, 2013

Up for debate at one Parents Anonymous meeting was whether or not it is advisable to spy on our children. I don’t think there is a single answer that would fit every situation but it is worth a thought.

A couple mothers both agreed that snooping would be wrong under any circumstance and would never entertain the idea. One mom said she never enters her daughter’s room without knocking first and when putting away clean, folded laundry she leaves her daughter’s clothes in a basket by the door. The other asked, “Do we teach our children to be honest and trusting by sneaking around through their belongings? I don’t think so.” Good point well put, trust and honesty are important values to consider.

Snooping or spying is like spanking in that parents either support it or they don’t, there is usually no middle ground. Another mom said she does knock before entering her children’s rooms but if the children are not present she will look through papers or peek inside drawers, “How else would I know what they are into? Do I respect my kids? Yes. Do I trust them? No, they are only human.”

If there were a middle ground I may have been on it. I was never the parent that says, “Oh no, not my child!” and I felt like I was ready for just about anything when it came to my girls. I was pretty busy with work, the house and our schedules so I really didn’t take time to snoop… unless there were a red flag and a good reason to make time.

Kids may swear, draw pictures of naked people and tell dirty jokes, that’s normal stuff kids do. Girls chatter about other girls and the ‘cute’ boy in row three. They talk about the teacher they think doesn’t like them and sometimes wish they would get the flu and a substitute would be assigned to grade papers. All normal, in fact the more you smile reading this the less likelihood there is a problem.

One day when I was putting away laundry I opened Katie’s drawer and pushed clean socks into something cold and clammy; it felt like a dead animal and I immediately took a step back. Pulling the socks out slowly I was genuinely shocked to find a one-pound block of mozzarella cheese between socks and underwear— or what was left of it. Katie has always loved mozzarella cheese and since I let them choose their own breakfast or snacks, she picked cheese the day before and forgot about it in the drawer.

Items found in laundry were often a first clue to look further. More often than not my snooping ended there but I would always keep my eyes open. From other members in my group I had heard about drugs, tobacco, shoplifting, having sex and other things in group so I was determined not to be the ostrich with my head in the sand.

When thinking about spying I always considered their age and my role as a parent which was to guide and supervise. If I turned a blind eye to any red flags wouldn’t that be the same as allowing my child to make adult choices like using illegal substances or having sex?

When it was pointed out to me that the room belonged to my child I explained my view, “My child does not pay the mortgage, I do— the room belongs to me but we allow them stay there rent-free until they are eighteen.” I am also responsible for my children until they are eighteen. I think I have the right to decide if they get a pet snake, join a gang or set up shop as a drug dealer. I would want to know if my child has illegal fireworks, the makings for a bomb or a handgun. What my children can do also affects me until they are eighteen so that makes me legally responsible.

In the end, every parent has to take into consideration all the pros and cons and to make a decision that works best for their own family. As for my family, yes, I am probably going to snoop.

Tell me your thoughts on the matter. I am genuinely curious what other parents do and how they make the decision.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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