Parenting Styles

Parenting vs. Surveillance: The Difference

We all work hard to keep our children safe from unwanted influences and dangers. We put filters on computers, tracking software on phones, parental codes on TVs and GPS tracking devices on our teens’ cars. And while all of this policing is an important deterrent that keeps your child accountable, what happens when you’re no longer around to be “big brother?”

There are so many negative influences that we want to protect our children from; so a vigilant, watchful eye is a must for a modern mom. But good parenting goes far beyond 24-hour surveillance. Why? Because one day your child will leave your protection and have to discern on his own which ideas and influences are acceptable. Training him on how to make those decisions is one of your biggest jobs as a parent!

Surveillance: Essential but Incomplete

It’s a little like all those elbow and knee pads we put on our kids when they’re just learning to ride a bike without training wheels. We know that they don’t yet possess the coordination or balance to avoid spills, so we want to protect them from the consequences.

Likewise, the guardrails we put up around our children in areas like media and communication are designed to protect them until they achieve the wisdom and “spiritual balance” to avoid a crash caused by bad choices.

Some examples of surveillance are:

  • placing a filter on your home web browsers
  • pre-screening movies and music before your children see/hear them
  • monitoring text messages sent and received by your kids
  • making sure social visits with members of the opposite sex take place in common family areas of the home, rather than in private areas

Parenting: Shaping Your Child’s Thinking

It’s not enough to merely know that looking at pornography is against the rules, because one day you won’t be around to enforce “the rules.” Your child needs to understand why certain choices are wrong. That takes time and a lot of thoughtful conversation. Parenting means connecting the dots between your core beliefs and real-world decisions. This might look like:

  • talking about the reasons why pornography is a bad idea, and the potential consequences involved
  • sharing with your daughter about the value of modesty in her dress and speech
  • helping your child understand that certain types of communication between teens is unhealthy, especially if it is suggestive or degrading to either party
  • explaining that all of the rules God has given us for living are for our good. For every “thou shalt not” there’s an accompanying “thou shalt”—something better that God has in store for us!

So while surveillance is a necessary element of good parenting, it’s far from the whole story. We don’t want our children to merely live up to the standard—we want them to embrace it, to make it their own. Don’t forget to give your kids the good news: that the things you’ve forbidden them to do will one day bring blessing to their lives, and may spare them some major sorrows along the way.

Related Resources: The secret to helping what children do what’s right

© 2012 iMOM. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.

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