It will happen at some point. Either one of your child’s friends or, I dare say, your sweet little angel, will have something inappropriate saved or sent on their cell phone. When this day arrives how should we respond as parents? Here are four suggestions I think we should take a look at.
1. Respond Don’t React
When you come across a sext or inappropriate text on your child’s phone, the natural response will be to react. What I mean by react is freak out, yell, point, lecture, accuse and rant. I certainly understand. In some ways, it almost feels justifiable. Believe me, I have been there, yelled that.
When you do find something inappropriate on your child’s cell phone, create some space between you and your child to collect your thoughts. When you do this, you are not saying that what you saw or what you discovered was okay or that you condone the behavior. You simply don’t want to allow your emotions to dictate your response. “And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice” (Eph. 6:4, TLB).
2. Remember When
Take a stroll down memory lane for a moment. Think back to your worst day as a teenager. What happened? Where were you? How did you feel? Did you get caught? What were the consequences? I ask those questions to give you a little perspective.
I wonder if each of us would have acted the same today, given the power of social media and the Internet. I don’t know about you, but I got in quite a bit of trouble without technology. I would have probably done more damage if I had had a powerful computer in my hand that could connect to the world from wherever I was at the time.
3. Realize the Opportunity
If your primary reaction style of parenting is to hammer away, then your child may feel like a nail. How many parenting tools do you have in your belt? You can’t build a house using only a hammer. Stringent rules without relationship may lead to further rebellion. Realize the opportunity to deepen your relationship with your child. “God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7, CEV).
4. Follow the Plan
If you are aware that sexting may occur, then having an appropriate consequence in place will make this next step easier. When you have a plan, the consequence feels more cause and effect than volatile reaction.
I have, on occasion, overreacted when enforcing consequences for my kids’ inappropriate behavior. For example, when one of my kids has been disrespectful, and I’m in a bad mood, I may say, “Okay, you are grounded for a week! And give me your cell phone. You have lost all screen time and outside activities until Jesus comes back!” A slight overreaction? Yes. What I am saying is be prepared. To whatever extent you can do it, know in advance the consequences for your child’s behavior then you can “follow the plan.”
Question: Which one of the four suggestions is the most difficult for you as a parent? My answer would be number 1.