Snooping is not typically worth the information you get

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  March 21, 2012 06:00 AM

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My high school daughter went to the school dance this weekend and one of her best friends arrived at the dance drunk. I know this because I read my daughter's journal this morning. My daughter is confused, and very mad and disappointed in her friend, as stated in her journal, and is ready to end the relationship with her friend if it doesn't change. While I'm glad that was her reaction to her friends' drinking, it sets itself up as a teaching moment. But to have this teaching moment, I need to divulge that I read her journal, which I don't want to do. Should I just keep quiet? We had a discussion when I picked her up at the end of the dance, and she said some of the older kids were drunk and said, "I don't understand why they do that? What is the point?" So we did have a discussion then about how they think they are being cool and how it can lead to trouble etc., but at the time I didn't know she was talking about her friend. Thank you Barbara!

From: info withdrawn at LW's request

Hi EANH,

Should you just keep quiet? ABSOLUTELY!

The second you divulge that you have spied on your daughter -- and that's what you did -- you lose all credibility, not to mention trust. In other words, you jeopardize your relationship. Snooping may be a way for you to get information, but at what price? Once you have information, what do you do with it? If it's life and death info -- you learn that your child's best friend is suicidal -- then, OK, saving a life is worth the potential risk. But short of that, it's better not to have information you can't act on. Which means you need to find other ways to get information. Which, in fact, you did!

The conversation in the car sounds like it gave you everything you needed to know, short of the person they were talking about. Not only that, but you had your teachable moment without putting anything or anyone at risk. You couldn't have done better had you known the name of the person she talked about.

As I wrote in the article I cited above, if you have reason to think that there's a problem, that can be the exception to snooping. But even that is tricky. Better to get your information in legitimate ways: listening to the kids' conversations, asking questions, talking to friends. And if you need any more convincing, think back to your own teen years and how totally outraged you would have been to find out that your mom or dad read your diary.

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9 comments so far...
  1. Wow Mom you did not handle this well at all! Barbara is absolutely right - you spied on your daughter and you didn't need to. You can glean information in a couple of ways: you can snoop through her belongings or you can cultivate an open and transparent mode of dialog with her. You can be the nonjudgmental person that she feels safe with talking about anything, and both of you would benefit from that candor. Why, after she shared this info with you in the car, did you find it necessary to read her diary? And why am I almost certain that this isn't a first time for you? She's not the one in need of a "teaching moment", you are. She is a young woman now and she has a right to her privacy. Her reaction to her friend's actions indicate that you raised a sensible child - trust her to do the right thing. And do the right thing yourself. Stay out of her diary.

    Posted by JBar September 28, 11 07:44 AM
  1. Wow. Speaking as an adult woman who keeps a journal, I am appalled that the LW had the audacity to read her daughter's journal.

    Your daughter was honest with you and upfront about the drinking at school. You had an intelligent conversation about it. Then you go ahead and VIOLATE her trust by reading her innermost thoughts.

    I would have been horrified, hurt, and mortified if my parents had ever read anything I'd written in my teenage self's journal.

    Shame on you, LW. There's better ways to reach out to your child than to spy on her like that.

    Posted by T's Mummy September 28, 11 08:02 AM
  1. As yet another adult woman who keeps a journal - I second both sentiments above.

    Why in the world do you read your daughter's journal when it's pretty clear from this letter that she DOES open up to you - probably more than many teens do?! What the heck do you hope to gain by this?

    Honestly, I never talked to my parents the way your daughter apparently talks to you - and they didn't trust me. But even MY mom never read my journal. Ye gods.

    Posted by Phe September 28, 11 10:19 AM
  1. Whistle blown, penalty called! NEVER READ YOUR DAUGHTER'S JOURNAL! This a major infraction. I'm calling a Game Misconduct. This is so bad you don't even get to sit in the Penalty box, you must go straight to the locker room and miss the rest of the game and face suspension of the next game. This could potentially get you kicked out of the positive parenting relationships league completely.

    Don't tell your daughter and never do it again. She will never trust you if she knows you have no respect for her private personal space. You should be completely ashamed of yourself. It sounds like your daughter is a sensible girl and is competent enough to handle her friendship problems on her own. She mentioned the drinking to you in a responsible way. You didn't need to spy to find out there was drinking at a high school. Trust your daughter and unless it's a life or death situation, respect her boundaries as an emerging adult.

    Don't snoop. it's terrible. Karma may come and hip check you into the boards for moves like reading someone's private journal.

    Posted by Hockey Referee September 28, 11 11:59 AM
  1. Ok, ok, she shouldn't have read the diary. I have not done this, but understand the temptation. When you are really worried about your child, you sometimes do things that are not appropriate. So, while the letter writer can talk to her daughter about this, she can not mention that she knows how upset her daughter is about her friend. I would still take great comfort in knowing that this behavior upsets your daughter!

    I agree with Barbara that you already have a teachable moment with what she told you. Now that you know more, though, you could always use the vague "I heard that this party was pretty wild from a few other mothers in town" and feel her out for more. I live in a pretty small town and know a lot of my daughters' parent and I do actually hear from them a lot of what happens without my kids saying anything. I always use these teachable moments whenever they present themselves.

    But don't be surprised if she doesn't say much more. Be glad she talks to you, even briefly, and that she has her journal to help her think things through. Keep the lines of commuincation open. If she's telling you things, you are already doing a great job!! And no more diary reading!


    Posted by ash September 28, 11 03:58 PM
  1. Around five years ago, my sister wanted to install key logging software on her home desktop computer to monitor the online actions of her kids. My advice was simple:

    "I understand your desire to ensure they're not meeting up with sexual predators, however, what are you going to do when you find out one of them took $10 from your purse?"

    Reading the journal is your choice. What you do with the information can cause irreparable harm to your relationship with your daughter, and destroy her trust in you for years.

    We all can't wait until you talk about what you read, then you're writing another letter on here in six months when your daughter still doesn't speak to you.

    ... and this advice is coming from a 30 year old single male.

    Posted by Mike March 21, 12 09:44 AM
  1. why are all the posts dated 9/28/11? today is 3/21/12.

    sounds like you have a good kid. she didn't approve of the drinking, she told you what was going on, and she's keeping a journal, which shows she's thoughtful about her life.

    Hope this reassures you that you have NO need to snoop ever again. If you keep doing it, she WILL find out and then YOU will be responsible for ruining your relationship with this wonderful girl.

    Good luck to you.

    Posted by just cause March 21, 12 10:18 AM
  1. If she already told you the basic story, and you had a discussion, what on earth were you looking for?

    Going on a fishing expedition is never a good idea.

    Posted by di March 21, 12 12:36 PM
  1. Recycled letter. Well it is a good week for vacation so why not?

    Posted by j March 21, 12 02:20 PM
 
9 comments so far...
  1. Wow Mom you did not handle this well at all! Barbara is absolutely right - you spied on your daughter and you didn't need to. You can glean information in a couple of ways: you can snoop through her belongings or you can cultivate an open and transparent mode of dialog with her. You can be the nonjudgmental person that she feels safe with talking about anything, and both of you would benefit from that candor. Why, after she shared this info with you in the car, did you find it necessary to read her diary? And why am I almost certain that this isn't a first time for you? She's not the one in need of a "teaching moment", you are. She is a young woman now and she has a right to her privacy. Her reaction to her friend's actions indicate that you raised a sensible child - trust her to do the right thing. And do the right thing yourself. Stay out of her diary.

    Posted by JBar September 28, 11 07:44 AM
  1. Wow. Speaking as an adult woman who keeps a journal, I am appalled that the LW had the audacity to read her daughter's journal.

    Your daughter was honest with you and upfront about the drinking at school. You had an intelligent conversation about it. Then you go ahead and VIOLATE her trust by reading her innermost thoughts.

    I would have been horrified, hurt, and mortified if my parents had ever read anything I'd written in my teenage self's journal.

    Shame on you, LW. There's better ways to reach out to your child than to spy on her like that.

    Posted by T's Mummy September 28, 11 08:02 AM
  1. As yet another adult woman who keeps a journal - I second both sentiments above.

    Why in the world do you read your daughter's journal when it's pretty clear from this letter that she DOES open up to you - probably more than many teens do?! What the heck do you hope to gain by this?

    Honestly, I never talked to my parents the way your daughter apparently talks to you - and they didn't trust me. But even MY mom never read my journal. Ye gods.

    Posted by Phe September 28, 11 10:19 AM
  1. Whistle blown, penalty called! NEVER READ YOUR DAUGHTER'S JOURNAL! This a major infraction. I'm calling a Game Misconduct. This is so bad you don't even get to sit in the Penalty box, you must go straight to the locker room and miss the rest of the game and face suspension of the next game. This could potentially get you kicked out of the positive parenting relationships league completely.

    Don't tell your daughter and never do it again. She will never trust you if she knows you have no respect for her private personal space. You should be completely ashamed of yourself. It sounds like your daughter is a sensible girl and is competent enough to handle her friendship problems on her own. She mentioned the drinking to you in a responsible way. You didn't need to spy to find out there was drinking at a high school. Trust your daughter and unless it's a life or death situation, respect her boundaries as an emerging adult.

    Don't snoop. it's terrible. Karma may come and hip check you into the boards for moves like reading someone's private journal.

    Posted by Hockey Referee September 28, 11 11:59 AM
  1. Ok, ok, she shouldn't have read the diary. I have not done this, but understand the temptation. When you are really worried about your child, you sometimes do things that are not appropriate. So, while the letter writer can talk to her daughter about this, she can not mention that she knows how upset her daughter is about her friend. I would still take great comfort in knowing that this behavior upsets your daughter!

    I agree with Barbara that you already have a teachable moment with what she told you. Now that you know more, though, you could always use the vague "I heard that this party was pretty wild from a few other mothers in town" and feel her out for more. I live in a pretty small town and know a lot of my daughters' parent and I do actually hear from them a lot of what happens without my kids saying anything. I always use these teachable moments whenever they present themselves.

    But don't be surprised if she doesn't say much more. Be glad she talks to you, even briefly, and that she has her journal to help her think things through. Keep the lines of commuincation open. If she's telling you things, you are already doing a great job!! And no more diary reading!


    Posted by ash September 28, 11 03:58 PM
  1. Around five years ago, my sister wanted to install key logging software on her home desktop computer to monitor the online actions of her kids. My advice was simple:

    "I understand your desire to ensure they're not meeting up with sexual predators, however, what are you going to do when you find out one of them took $10 from your purse?"

    Reading the journal is your choice. What you do with the information can cause irreparable harm to your relationship with your daughter, and destroy her trust in you for years.

    We all can't wait until you talk about what you read, then you're writing another letter on here in six months when your daughter still doesn't speak to you.

    ... and this advice is coming from a 30 year old single male.

    Posted by Mike March 21, 12 09:44 AM
  1. why are all the posts dated 9/28/11? today is 3/21/12.

    sounds like you have a good kid. she didn't approve of the drinking, she told you what was going on, and she's keeping a journal, which shows she's thoughtful about her life.

    Hope this reassures you that you have NO need to snoop ever again. If you keep doing it, she WILL find out and then YOU will be responsible for ruining your relationship with this wonderful girl.

    Good luck to you.

    Posted by just cause March 21, 12 10:18 AM
  1. If she already told you the basic story, and you had a discussion, what on earth were you looking for?

    Going on a fishing expedition is never a good idea.

    Posted by di March 21, 12 12:36 PM
  1. Recycled letter. Well it is a good week for vacation so why not?

    Posted by j March 21, 12 02:20 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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