Respecting My Kids: Privacy

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in "Respecting My Kids" series, Parenting

Respecting My Kids: Privacy

“She didn’t have to go and tell that, thought Ramona, feeling that her mother had betrayed her by telling, as if it were funny… She still thought Chevrolet was a beautiful name, even though she was old enough to know that dolls were not usually named after cars.”  Beverly Cleary,  Ramona and Her Mother

At the bus stop a few weeks ago, I thought it would be funny to share with another parent my daughter’s recent foray into the advertising world by putting her on the spot and asking her to perform her rendition of the Nationwide Insurance jingle: “Nationwide is on your side!”  Not only did she not want to do it, she also became so angry at me that she had tears in her eyes.  I realized in that moment that I’d disrespected her; I’d used what I thought was an amusing story to have a laugh with another grown-up.  That story belonged to her, and I shared it as though it were mine.  I violated her privacy.  Later, when we had a moment alone, I apologized to her.

Some forms of disrespect are obvious; calling our children names, hitting them, and belittling them are clear violations of dignity.  But in my own parenting, I’ve noticed that one way I disrespect my kids is through this habit of calling attention to their cuteness and displaying it for fun.  I don’t think of this tendency as mean-spirited.  We all find our kids adorable at times, and we want others to know about the sweet, silly, quirky, and creative things they say and do.  But I’ve come to believe that privacy is important; allowing our children to decide what they want to keep private and what they want to reveal to the world is part of treating them as real people.

Once, when my daughter was home sick from school, she spontaneously drew a picture of her school’s principal and wrote a paragraph about why she loved this woman.  Of course, I thought her creation was so sweet and wanted her to give it to the principal as a gift.  After mentioning this idea to my daughter a few thousand times, I finally caught myself– my hope, my agenda.  What better way to take the fun out of her drawing and writing than to push her to present them for someone else’s benefit?  Her creation belonged to her and she wanted to keep it to herself.  So I backed off.

Writing this post has been an exercise in respect, too.  How do I write about this topic without violating my kids’ privacy?  In the last few days, I’ve asked Clara and Rachel about some of their experiences with me, especially moments in which I’ve blown it and have humiliated them.  Which stories do they want to keep private?  (most of them, understandably).  Which are okay to share?  (a couple, as long as I don’t identify which girl was involved).  I can see in their faces that they feel taken seriously when I ask for their permission.  They want to be in the post, and they like that Mommy is telling people about her mistakes, but they also want and deserve ownership of these stories.

So to wrap it up, Rachel would like you to know that some day she plans to invent “a hiccup machine that can capture your hiccups and hiccup them for you.”  And Clara wants to tell you about the summer she collected over 200 worms for a back yard compost and named them all Sophia.

Respecting My Kids Series

This post is part of a series called “Respecting My Kids.”  The following are links to other articles in the series:

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If you or someone you know would be interested in joining a weekly therapy group for parents, please contact me.  Day, evening, and weekend times are available.  Groups are kept small and provide a safe place to share your experiences, as well as to explore new possibilities.  I offer a free brief phone consultation to determine whether or not this group would be a good fit for you.  You may reach me with questions at or 443-286-3432.


About Lynn Davies

I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University in Maryland. I have been in private practice for over fourteen years and have experience working with adults and adolescents, addressing a variety of issues: anxiety, depression, relationship problems, past or current trauma, eating disorders, self-mutilation, bereavement, parenting concerns, boundaries, and self-care.

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