My 15-year-old lies to me. I believe she does so in order to do what she wants. She shows a deliberate disrespectful presence. I have set boundaries for Internet usage and she has violated that boundary by talking to people she does not know, lying, and telling me they go to school with her. She created a blog with her pictures, full name, school information, and the like. This violates my rules of conduct on the Internet and the boundaries I have set for her. She is assigned chores at times and she does them sloppy or not at all. She is disruptive at times at school by talking to her friends in class when the teacher is teaching and now the teachers have had to separate the friends. This is not a high school behavior, showing responsibility, or respect for herself and others. It shows a lack of disrespect in all counts.
My options are to remove the Internet from her room leaving just the computer for school work with a printer. I can block by password on my computer assess to the Internet. She tells me she needs to do research on the Internet so I have allowed just that amount of time to complete the school work and when I check to see if she has indeed gone to the sites she said she would go to, she has done that plus checked her e-mail, which she was not supposed to. When confronting her, she said I thought it was okay I was only on there a second. I don't buy that. I take it as a disrespect for authority and dishonest.
I am trying to figure out what to do, and how long to make consequences and how to turn this around. I believe she has become comfortable in dishonesty, disrespectful presence and lack of healthy responsible young adult behavior. Suggestions are welcome.
Most people attempt to do what they want to do within the confines of the limits placed upon them. You declare that it is not appropriate behavior for a high school student, but reality states that it is typical -- not necessarily excusable, but still typical.
What is happening is that you have built up numerous issues with your daughter that are not being resolved. Thus, you are overwhelmed by all the little annoyances that come with having a teenager and the issues are being mixed and confused. For example, you called your daughter's checking her e-mail as "lying" but you didn't describe a lie. If you told her to only do her homework and not to check her e-mail, then she was disobedient. However, I suspect that you gave her permission to do her homework and assumed she would understand without having to be explicitly told not to check her e-mail. She decided that you were limiting her time, so as long as she stayed under the time limit, she could fit in what she could.
Please don't think I'm defending your daughter, but I'm trying to put a measure of fairness on the matter. Teenagers may be approaching adulthood, and their ability to reason is rapidly increasing, but in many ways, they are still as literal-minded as a child. In fact, their increasing ability to reason means they begin looking for loopholes in the rules.
Instead of being distracted by a variety of problems, running here and there with none of them being solved; let's focus on just one for the moment, get a resolution, and then figure out the next issue. Since most of your note centers on the use of the Internet, let's start there.
It is good that you are aware of the dangers of the Internet. Your daughter needs protection because as a teenager she has not developed the ability to accurately assess risks. She literally doesn't see or understand the dangers and so wrongly concludes that they are not there.
- If not done already, have her remove her current blog.
- Discuss in detail what can and cannot be placed on the Internet (things like personal information). Tell her why it is a danger and if you can, supply her with some information on people who have been victimized by being too free with their personal information. Don't expect to convince her, just layout your reasons and tell her it is not suggestions, but a rule.
- Let her create a blog, but let her know that it must be within the limits you set. If she breaks the rules, she will be losing her access to the Internet at home.
- I strongly recommend that the computer in her room does not have Internet access. Only have computers in open areas of the home, where someone at any time can look over a person's shoulder should have access. It is amazing what people will or will not do just because they might be caught -- use that to your advantage.
- Allow her access to mail, but let her know that all e-mail will be monitored (and do so). Address problems that arise from the content of the e-mails as they arise.
You probably think I'm crazy. She is getting all these freedoms, where are the consequences? What I suspect is happening is that you are creating artificial and unenforceable rules. Not all rules are the same. Suppose I made a rule that my child is not allowed to sit down. Even if my child, for the most part, obeys the rule, it is bound to be broken. Should I then get upset because the child broke my rule? Is the child "bad" because he broke my rule?
Let me illustrate this with a story from the Old Testament. Saul was leading an army of Israelites against the Philistines. His son Jonathan with the aid of God put the Philistine army into an uproar (I Samuel 14:1-15). Saul took advantage to the situation to turn the ruckus into a full victory (I Samuel 14:20-23). Saul was so excited about the win, that he didn't want anyone pausing, even to eat. Saul placed Israel under an oath, "Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies." So none of the people tasted food" (I Samuel 14:24). I sure it sounded noble, but it was a foolish rule. After all, who fights better, someone well fed or hungry after hard work? Worse, the battle went through a section of woodlands where honey was dripping from the trees, but no one could eat it.
Because Jonathan was gone when his father made the rule, he did not know of it. As he battled through the area, he ate some of the honey (I Samuel 14:27). It revived him, but the rest of the men remained faint. He was told after the fact about Saul's rule and Jonathan rightly pointed out that Saul caused more harm than good with his oath. "My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?" (I Samuel 14:29-30).
Saul eventually learned that Jonathan had broken Saul's oath. "Then Saul said to Jonathan, "Tell me what you have done." And Jonathan told him, and said, "I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand. So now I must die!" And Saul answered, "God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan." But the people said to Saul, "Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day." So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die" (I Samuel 14:43-45).
Notice the mistakes made by Saul, from a parenting point of view:
- He made a rule but did not inform every one of its existence. Yet, he expected everyone to obey it.
- He made a rule that wasn't practical. He caused his own army to starve.
- He made a rule that wasn't enforceable. By this, I mean that the rule was of such a nature that Saul could not monitor his own people to make sure they were following his rule. The people did try, but you can't be everywhere.
- He made a rule that though he said he would enforce in the end he did not because it involved his own child.
Rules, such as "no private information on the Internet" are necessary for the safety of a child, but it is not an enforceable rule. You can install software to monitor most cases, but no software solution will be perfect. The software can be bypassed. Then there is the fact that your daughter has access to the Internet even if you bar her from the home computers. There are still computers at school and the ones at the library. You can't monitor her 24 hours a day.
Your punishment of "no e-mail" is not enforceable either because of the same reasons. Your "no Internet" rule was not practical because you had to "break" the rule so she could do her homework.
Your daughter is on the verge of entering adulthood and in a few short years, she must learn how to control her own behavior without you standing over her. That means she needs some practice flights while you are still available to catch her if she falls. What I fear is that most of your problems with your daughter are that you are controlling her life so much that she has no room to grow. You are placing artificial restrictions that are not enforceable or practical and then you are becoming upset when your rules aren't being followed. In the story above, Saul's problem wasn't Jonathan; Saul's problem was Saul. I suspect you are doing something similar to yourself.
I was asked a while back to talk to two brothers who were caught looking at Internet pornography. They were, and still are, good decent boys, but they got caught up into something that one of them admitted was uncontrollable. What I did was sit down with them and went over in extreme detail why pornography was an addictive behavior, why people peddled it, want they did to make it appear attractive, and most importantly what harm it caused to the viewer. In other words, I stripped it of all its glitz and helped them see all the trash hiding under the glitz. After talking to them into the wee hours of the morning, I then told them that neither I nor their parents, nor anyone else, could stop them from seeing pornography. Anything done could be undone. If they were determined, they could bypass any restrictions placed on them. But, I told them, they could now appreciate the danger and I have delivered the warning (Ezekiel 3:17-21). The only person who could stop this was themselves. It was within their ability (I Corinthians 10:13). I wanted them to have a great life, a wonderful wife, and beautiful children, and when life is over a home in heaven; but I can't make anyone do the things necessary to have that assurance -- only they could. As far as I know, they completely dropped the pornography.
You see, what I did was tell them the reason behind the rule, the dangers that were lurking, and the reason the rule was a shield for them from that danger. But then I told them they were entering the adult world and I expected them to act like responsible adults. They rose to the challenge because deep down that is what they wanted for themselves. In this matter, do the same for your daughter. Your rule is reasonable, so show her the reason and the dangers. But be honest with her and yourself that the rule is not enforceable. Tell her that you want her to have a marvelous life unscarred by predators, but she is nearing adulthood and you no longer can fully protect her. She has to do it. I wouldn't be surprised if she, too, rose to the challenge.