How to destroy your kid’s trust in you forever
IF you hired a private investigator to tail your teen and then secured evidence that he or she was taking drugs or something similar, what would you do next?
As their parent, punishing them or even calling the police might seem the most effective step. A case of teach them a lesson, they can learn the hard way and all those great "back in my day" style announcements.
The Daily Telegraph revealed this week that undercover detectives in Sydney are being hired by worried mums and dads to track their children from the school gates to shopping centres, parks and anywhere else with the potential for mischief.
We moved from helicopter to drone parenting.
Pats on the back all round then.
But amid your fury and despair when confronted with third-party proof of your suspicions, there will be a far greater casualty.
Gone, possibly for good because your son or daughter, faced with the subsequent interrogation, would fixate only on why you went behind their back.
And any opportunity to deliver a productive life lesson about something dangerous? In the bin, along with your parent-child relationship.
Yes, affluent but suspicious mums and dads across the north shore and eastern suburbs are paying PIs thousands of dollars to spy on their kids.
The plan is to "gather evidence" in a bid to prove or dismiss a gut feeling that someone's little darling is behaving badly.
What it does in fact illustrate is that we have achieved the ultimate fail in lazy and inept parenting.
Sure, raising kids is complicated but paying a stranger to solicit information about your own child when you have not put the required effort in, how exactly is that a win for anyone?
At the going rate of $125 an hour for a minimum of four hours a day, you can have your deepest fears realised - about how you have failed to build and maintain trust with your child.
Investigator David King quoted an email from one prospective client: "I'm worried about my son. I have a feeling he's hanging around the wrong people, they use him for money. I need to find out who they are and what they do and where they go."
That's parenting for you - worry and the queasy paranoia you feel from the day they are born and erupting probably around the first time they run off from you in a crowded public place.
Any parents of teenagers will attest to the fact that they can be secretive, disobedient, wilful, moody and downright difficult to be around.
But at what point does exasperation become distrust or suspicion so deep that you would hire an investigator follow them and report back on their activities?
I'm not saying this is not hard or at time fruitless to keep engaging with your kids but you don't give up. Ever.
They want the boundaries, they want you to stand in their way and secretly they want you to say no so they can see a clear line drawn.
That's called trust and it sets then up for positive relationships in their adult lives. Strapping a secret camera to a tree and pouring over the footage later does not.
Regardless of what the PI finds out, how would you feel if someone you loved had you put under such scrutiny? You would feel betrayed.
Wayne Carney, of Special Operations Group Australia, told parents one option was to buy backpacks fitted with clandestine GPS trackers.
"You're monitoring their movements," he told this paper. "It is about peace of mind and making sure the safety and wellbeing is taken care of."
My issue is not with businesses exploiting a financial opportunity from parents with more money than sense.
And sure, who hasn't thought, even fleetingly, what it would be like to microchip your child and see what life in like inside their body and minds.
But we don't own our kids. We nurture them.
As a parent, you can't demand trust. It's a gradual process that requires mutual commitment.
Teens especially are entitled to privacy and just because they want privacy does not mean they are up to no good.
Fear makes a parent feel disengaged and disempowered. That and an inability to say no.
Success is your teenager feeling open and comfortable to talk to you about tricky issues as you navigate a relationship beyond a disciplinary set up.
It's frightening to think interactions with our children have become so fractured that we couldn't just ask them what they did when they went out, where they went and who with.
All reasonable questions, especially for younger teens. Why have we lost track of who our children's friends are or who their friends' parents are. When did we stop simply paying attention?
Sometimes all it takes is some basic observation to know that things are not quite right. And then it is up to you to take that bone and gnaw away at it until you get the answers you need.
Your kid might not like it, but you are not their friend.
You are not their best buddy.
But you are their greatest ally and it is your job to keep them safe until they are old enough to keep themselves safe.
They might not like your intrusion but better you than some paid stranger fishing around in their lives.