Can you respect someone and not allow them privacy? That question in of itself seems apparent. Obviously, if we don’t allow someone their privacy, we are not being respectful. However, in the world of parenting, this can get complicated really quick. We want our children to be respectful of the privacy of others. The obvious specifics of this include bathroom privacy and the changing of clothes. I mean that should be realized without a lot of explanation. We don’t want to embarrass others.
Respecting privacy is a broad subject. It can be as simple as leaving someone alone when they use the bathroom to more complicated issues of refraining from discussing sensitive matters. There are some unspoken and unwritten rules depending upon your culture and or social setting. Not walking into someone’s home or their bedroom without knocking would appear to fall into those categories. We as parents expect them to understand these things, but there are other ways of showing respect that they must learn over time. This, of course, has to do with expected words or behaviors that differ according to one’s environment.
What about your kids’ privacy? Well, as babies, there is none. We change diapers, feed them, clean them, and determine there coming and going. Privacy at this stage really does not exist. I can remember when my children were babies. There was a ritual at our house when it came to our evenings before bedtime. My wife and I would feed them, then I would go get in the shower, hurry to get clean myself, then I would hear my wife say those famous words, “okay daddy”. The shower curtain would open and I would be handed a naked baby. After a relaxing shower, I would hand them back to my wife, who would dry them and put their pajamas on. Then they were ready for bed.
As kids begin to walk and able to do more for themselves, the natural progression came to give them more space. This freedom included the ability to choose and the right to basic privacy. The more they grow and their world expands, you as a parent will have to guide and determine their ownership and control over objects, their speech, and behavior. Once you do establish these boundaries, it is important for you as the parent to initiate respect for these boundaries and led by example. This means knocking on the doors of the bathroom or bedroom in order for them to establish their first steps of independence.
The more that their world expands, the more items of respect, ownership, and their rights will come into play. You establish what these rights are. They can and will differ from other parents’ rulings on several subjects. As you delegate to them what their rights are, it is paramount that you as a parent respect those rights outside of any rule violations by your child. Obviously, when rules are broken, rights and privileges can be lost. So where do we begin after the basics? Much of this will be determined by your child’s personality and maturity level.
When my kids were old enough to go to school, my wife and I showed them how to help with laundry. If they helped with laundry, we would allow them to choose what they wore to school (obvious exceptions noted). We would respect them to express who they were with style and hair (again…within limits). The more freedom, respect, and privacy that they wanted came with a new responsibility. If they managed the responsibility, my wife and I would grant more freedom, privacy, and respect to them as individuals. I know that it can be quite complicated for many parents. For us, it was simplified. If they wanted to do, choose, and be respected, they had to obey the rules and be responsible. As long as that understanding was met, they enjoyed more control, respect, and privacy.
A key to ensuring this was to be consistent in discipline. If they violated the rules or your trust, the freedom, choices, and a good amount of privacy were forfeited. The problem that we as parents saw in others was that redemption was not always offered. If you are a parent, your child will screw up. However, it is important that you allow them to learn and grow from the experience. Discipline does matter, but so does forgiveness and redemption. Your kids must see that you are not going to hold mistakes over their heads and prevent them from progressing. Parents that do this will not experience a healthy relationship with their child/children. As a matter of fact, it can encourage them to shut down communication.
Eventually, your kids are going to leave home. Do you want them to desire a relationship with you? If the answer is yes, you must initiate respect. I did not say to let them do as they please. What I am saying is that you work together through mistakes, showing them that you not only want to restore them but want them to have more. As a dad, I have come to the place where I must turn over the decisions to my children. They have all left the home. I need to continue to respect them and grant them privacy. This means not being so quick to offer advice. This means reaffirming that they are now in charge and are responsible for their own decisions. This took a lot of hard work and time. To be honest, it is an ongoing struggle for me. I want to do for and fix things when it comes to my kids regardless of how old they are. This journey with your kids is not easy at times, but it is essential for them to develop correctly. Take the time, communicate, and be consistent. Be the best dad possible.