Published in the Spring 2005 issue • Advice
My parents are spying on me!
My parents are super nosey and it’s driving me crazy! A week ago I caught my mother going through my bag, and I think my dad has been listening in on my phone conversations. How do I stop them? I have nothing to hide, but I want them to respect my privacy.
Did you know that the right to privacy is a universal human right? It’s protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I tell you this because I think it’s important to recognize that privacy is essential to a person’s sense of happiness and security. It’s something you shouldn’t have to live without.
Many of the parenting books I’ve been reading frame privacy as a “teen issue,” which I think is bogus. Everyone needs privacy. A lot of parents have difficulty accepting their children as equals with thoughts, concerns and boundaries that deserve respect and consideration. This is a struggle many of us have, no matter how old we get.
Having said that, just asserting your right to privacy won’t get you very far. Parents often respond by asserting their own rights — as your parents and as the owners of the house and blah, blah, blah.
What you need to know is that parents snoop for two reasons: either they think you’re in trouble or they feel disconnected from your life and want to know what’s going on. The only way I can think of to alleviate these concerns is to talk to them. This is a situation where you will be challenged to act with compassion, understanding, patience and maturity.
I recommend starting with something like, “Mom, Dad, I’ve noticed you searching through my bag and listening to my phone conversations. What are you looking for?”
You could also try, “Are you worried I’m in some kind of trouble? What kind of trouble do you think I’m in? If I were in trouble, how would you like me to handle it? How would you handle it?” Your goal in this conversation is to listen, demonstrate you understand their concerns and reassure them that you are okay. Let them know that if you are ever in trouble, they will be the first to know.
Chances are, they’re just wondering what you do in your room all day. Personally, I don’t get the big mystery — you’re hanging out, listening to music, chatting online, doing homework, thinking, talking to your friends, etc.
If they aren’t satisfied by your conversation, you’ll have to adopt some long-term measures. Offer to talk to them regularly so they can feel involved. Introduce them to your friends, or your friends’ parents. Suggest spending time together. Let them know you’re willing to include them, but that your privacy is something they will have to respect.
I think if you’ve made a genuine effort to reason and communicate with your parents, you’ve done your part. There’s no point in arguing with someone who has already decided things are not negotiable. Stash your stuff. Live your life. And be prepared to welcome your parents when they’re ready.