7 things parents can do to keep a thumb on their kids without squashing them

Parents need to stay vigilant in helping their kids be safe and make good choices in a world that is filled with dangers. Here are some helpful suggestions for doing it without smothering them.

We all want our kids to turn out right. We think about it every day. We ruminate on it at night. We feel a huge responsibility here – and we should. We need to be involved in their lives, but must avoid being extreme. No child or teen wants their mom ever present. Still, the duty to parent is always there, just not in an overbearing way.

Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Keep the freezer full of ice cream

The best scenario is to have your kids’ friends want to hang out at your place. One mother does it this way, “We keep favorite flavors of ice cream on hand so our kids can say, ‘C’mon to my house. We got ice cream.’ They can’t resist coming, and I’m there to keep a watchful, but not hovering, eye on them.”

2. Know their friends

Call them by name. Find out what they enjoy doing as you engage in casual conversation with them. If one is a football player, know some team stats and even go to their games, at least once in a while. Same if one is in the school choir. Attend their concert so you can praise the friend and talk about it meaningfully. It doesn’t have to be often; just enough to show you care. Let your child in on the plans. He or she may not want you to go with them, particularly if they’re teenagers, but they might. Otherwise just show up occasionally. Make it a night out with your spouse. That way both parents get involved.

3. Get to know their friends’ parents

It helps to know the standards of these parents so you can feel safe when your child is at their house. You don’t have to become best friends, just know each other and even visit their home, particularly your child’s best friends. If your child is going to spend a lot of time with this friend, you need to know the parents. And they need to know you. If the parents are, for example, boozers you’re not going to want your child to spend time in their home.

4. Be a diligent electronic devices monitor

This is an important aspect of keeping your child safe. We recently learned of a mother who found her twelve-year-old daughter was having an inappropriate online conversation with a “boy.” She thought that could not happen because she was on a children’s site. The way she found out was that she had a feeling to take the phone and do some investigating.

Along with her tech savvy husband, they discovered the conversations and found out that the “boy” was an adult man who was planning to secretly meet their daughter. You cannot trust most sites. You must have strong family rules, which this family did, and continually check on the device activity. Kids are very savvy about technology and must be monitored. Teach strong values and what dangers there are out there.

5. Eat school lunch with them sometimes

This works for your younger children. Columnist Adrianne Brown reported that she keeps tabs on what’s happening at school with her five school age children by meeting them in the lunch room a couple of times a week – when it works out.

She loads up her toddler and baby and heads for the school just in time for lunch and recess. She said, “While in the lunchroom, I get the chance to sit with each of my children for a few minutes as we eat.” She said this also gives her a chance to see how her kids interact with other children, and gives her the opportunity to get to know their friends.

After lunch she joins them on the playground for recess, just to watch from the sidelines. This allows her to see her kids’ face daily and provides information for her to talk about to them later. She said the kids seem to enjoy having her there. It’s a great way to watch over your kids when they are at school. You can’t know what’s really happening unless you show up, at least some of the time.

6. Never stop warning your kids

Teens may not like this, but too bad. Do it. It’s those constant little talks and warnings that they will remember when they’re in a pickle or tempted to do something wrong. Compliment them on the things they do right. When you warn them, express your confidence that they will make good choices. Discuss those choices so they will be prepared.

7. Pray for them like a dedicated saint, every day

There is no way you’re going to send them out the door without asking an ever-loving Heavenly Father to be with and protect them from harm or evil. There is simply too much of the bad stuff going on to not seek heaven’s help. Also, praying with them – not just for them – each morning before they depart into the world is an extra measure of protection. This step is too important to forget or be too busy to do. Make it happen and you will have the angels on your parenting team.

Do these 7 things, and any others you think of, and your children will feel your protecting love around them, while still giving them the right amount of freedom to grow and develop.

Gary and Joy Lundberg

Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships.