Everything that is in your house is either yours outright or your responsibility, so if you need to search, go ahead and search provided you have not already done anything to tie your own hands, like telling your children you will ‘NEVER’ look in such-and-such place. Untie your hands first, by having a frank discussion with your children in which you admit you shouldn’t have said you’d NEVER look there, then do the search if you still need to.
However, it is also important for you to teach your children about having privacy and respecting the privacy of others, so a ‘private’ area is a nice idea, and that can even be their whole bedroom, if you choose. They should know that privacy is both a right and a privilege and they earn the privilege by being trustworthy and they lose the right when they are not, or even if you suspect they are not. They have to know that although you aren’t going to rifle through their things on a regular basis, if you suspect they have something they shouldn’t have, you are going to look through it and you will have them present for the search.
To further establish the notion of privacy, it is key to make sure that each child understands that although you may search their things, they are NOT to go in each others’ ‘private’ areas. Let them know that the punishments will be swift and severe for violating each other’s privacy.
When kids get to be teenagers, they definitely desire more privacy and begin to wage wars with parents on this issue. If you choose to let your teen’s bedroom be a ‘private’ area, then go ahead and do that, but the teen must know that if he takes your things into the room, you do have a right to go retrieve them and if this is a persistent problem, the bedroom may lose it’s ‘private’ status. You also still reserve the right to search the room if you suspect there’s a reason to do so, but having them present for the search goes a long way in keeping trust.
Further, if the teen truly wants a ‘private’ room and you’re okay with that, then that means you don’t go in there when he’s not there and you don’t enter without knocking and getting permission. That means you don’t go in there and get his dirty clothes to wash them. That means if the stereo is so loud that he doesn’t hear you knock when his girlfriend calls, you don’t stand outside all day and knock, you simply go tell the girlfriend that he didn’t answer his door when you knocked and ask to take a message for him. They need to learn that with privacy comes responsibility.
A diary is a different story. When you decide to encourage your child to keep a diary, you better decide, in advance, that you are never, ever, ever going to read it for any reason, or you really open yourself up for a world of hurt and mayhem when they hit the teenage years.
At Down To Earth, we come upon this very frequently, a mom gives a diary to a girl about 10 years old. The girl writes in the diary and perhaps even shares her entries with her mother or her sister or her friends and it’s all a very cute little thing.
This girl continues to keep a diary and when she hits about 13-14, she starts to write things in it that she would never want anyone to see in a million, trillion years. That’s the true purpose of a diary, to write the things that are too terribly horrible that you can’t even say them out loud. Teens use a diary to sort out their thoughts and it helps them prevent themselves from acting upon terrible impulses they are having. They write things that pop into their heads and are quickly dismissed once they see the idea on paper. That’s a diary working, doing it’s job.
Then, the gal gets to be about 15 and mom suspects drugs, sex, or some other such terror is going on and mom decides to read the diary for the protection and best interest of the daughter. EGADS what a mess that is. Mom reads stuff that scares her half to death OR makes her so angry she’s ready to kill. The worst part is that the stuff mom’s reading is probably stuff the gal worked out long ago and doesn’t even think or feel anymore.
Then, either mom keeps her mouth shut and simmers quietly into a nervous breakdown or mom confronts. Now there’s going to be a war because the gal knows exactly what was in that diary and is mortified. Trust is out the window. She’ll stop keeping a diary and stop telling you stuff exactly when you need her to keep doing both.
I stand firm on this one, parents should not read diaries. If you suspect your child is using drugs or having sex, you can probably easily find other evidence without reading a diary.