Parental Protection: When Does The End Justify The Means?

 

Morally wrong actions are sometimes necessary to achieve morally right outcomes; actions can only be considered morally right or wrong by virtue of the morality of the outcome.

-Proverb

 

My Dear Readers,

One of the biggest challenges a parent can face is parenting during adolescence.  This is a time when young people are questioning their world, defining their identities separate from their families, and responding to peer influences. It is normal for parents to worry about the choices their children make, since many times, these decisions will impact their lives for many years to come.  However, by living in their own fear, parents risk not only separating themselves from their children, but inadvertently driving the adolescent towards the very behavior the parent is attempting to prevent.

Below is such a story…..

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Dear Dr. Kane:

I’m so upset with my daughter, I’m about to pull my hair out.  While reading my daughter’s journal, I recently found out that she was considering using birth control. She’s only 15 years old! I immediately demanded to know whether she was engaging in sexual intercourse.  She denied being sexually active, but she admitted wanting to have information so she could protect herself in the event she decides to do so.

We are an African-American family with strong Christian beliefs.  I am totally against my daughter having sexual contact at her age.  I have contacted her older brother who is in college in another state.  He spoke to her stating he was upset about her direction and is firmly against her seeking birth control.

I was so upset that I contacted my girlfriends on Facebook informing them of her decision.  They were also appalled and supported my position against it.  All my girlfriends have children, most of them around the same age as my daughter.  We have decided to stand firm against this and not allow our children to seek information nor obtain birth control measures.

I have strong hopes for my daughter.  She is among the top of class while attending an inner city high school, which at time can be quite chaotic.  My daughter has plans on attending college and attending medical school after that.  Her goal is to become a surgeon.

My daughter says that I’ve betrayed her and our relationship, but I disagree. I will not allow her immaturity and silliness regarding sex destroy her chance to become successful.  I told her that she could date when she turned 16 years old, which is very soon, but because of this, I feel that I have to increase the age she can date to 17.

When I was young, I watched girls her age end up pregnant, and as a result, they missed out on their career goals.  I will not allow her to ruin her chances at being successful.

You’re a man, so you may have a difference of opinion about sexual responsibility, but I know you have children, so I am curious as to how you would handle the situation.  My girlfriends are also curious and we are all hoping that you will respond.

Smoldering in Seattle

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My Dear Woman,

As a parent, I can understand the concern, frustration, and fear you’re experiencing now. It does, however, appear that you are “living in fear,” and your actions, although well intended, are nonetheless reactionary and may further damage the relationship between you and your daughter. When one lives in fear, it can be an emotional rollercoaster, and you may regret decisions that you make while you are in this unbalanced state.  You have already

  • Read your daughter’s journal without her consent,
  • Informed her older brother about what you found and,
  • Discussed her personal information regarding her questions about birth control with your friends on Facebook.

Without delving into your religious beliefs or debating the right of a parent to raise her adolescent, please consider the impact of what you’ve already done:

  • Have you created lasting trust issues between yourself and your daughter?
  • Would your daughter ever want you to share confidential or intimate information understanding you may tell your friends and/or place her business on social media?
  • Whether controlling your daughter’s behavior and activities may be a driving force towards the same behaviors and activities you are trying to discourage?

The Five Rs of RELIEF can help you through this.

  • Respite-step away from the turbulence,
  • Reaction-assume ownership of your feelings
  • Reflection-process the integration of your thoughts and emotions
  • Response-non-reactive expression which is shared with others, and
  • Reevaluation– review of what was learned/gained/ would handle differently when this situation or something worse presents itself again.

This model allows you to take the opportunity to focus on yourself and allow yourself to live with your fear instead of in your fear.  While reflecting, consider your options for communication with your daughter, rather than control your daughter’s actions and behaviors.  Share with your daughter the concerns you may have.

 

Concluding Words

As to your daughter’s statement of feeling betrayed by your actions, betrayal requires premeditation and intent.  Your behaviors in seeking support from her older sibling and your girlfriends are reactionary and ill conceived, but in the adult world your actions would not specifically constitute betrayal. However, please remember that in your relationship with your daughter, you are not in the adult world.   Your daughter is an adolescent whose personal information was publicly shared by her mother.  She is entitled to her feelings.

Having strong religious beliefs and living in fear as a result of your drive for your daughter’s success is, in and of itself, a suggestion that the “ends justify the means.”   It is clear that you have won this battle, but in doing so, you may have lost the war.

Consider the following: your daughter is in a phase of development where there is an emphasis on individualization and separation from parental influence.  Controlling her behavior and failure to maintain your word by increasing the dating age to 17 may have the result of driving her into the same actions and behaviors which you are attempting so desperately to prevent. Please remember that adolescents are very much influenced by their peer group.  Understanding this, it is essential that parents seek to maintain open communication with their children in order to provide a balanced response to questions that are based on experience and wisdom.

Instead of seeking to control her dating behavior by increasing the age in which you provide consent, consider the time and experience your daughter will lose in gaining awareness of appropriate interaction with the opposite sex.  If your daughter does not learn under your tutelage or observation, she will do so in the adult world, where she will be more vulnerable and exposed to those who would take advantage of her inexperience. Understanding your strong religious beliefs, you should be aware of her legal right and ability to seek information on birth control with or without your consent.  This could be the very opportunity for you to assist her in making appropriate decisions about her actions and behaviors.

If you truly believe that you have given your daughter the advantage of a strong moral foundation, then be willing to trust her decision-making skills and her willingness to seek your counsel.  To do so, you must be willing to let go of your own fears, which are deeply rooted in your own past.  Remember that your past is not your daughter’s present, and it doesn’t have to warrant her future.

Be willing to let go of the past and live with fear instead of living in fear.  Remember the advantages you have given to your daughter.

Every advantage in the past is judged in the light of the final issue.”

-Demosthenes

Dr. Kane ….The Visible Man

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