Mind Your Business: Denise

My House = My Rules

"I have four teenage kids living in my household. I am a nosy parent, but my four teenagers think I have no business going through their stuff," says Denise. "I have no problem going through my kids' backpacks, dresser drawers, pockets, lifting up their mattresses. I even listen in on their phone conversations."

"I think my mom snoops way too much. I feel like I have no privacy at all," says her daughter.

Her son agrees. "My mom gets crazy with it. She goes overboard when it comes to finding things in our room. She was thinking about getting her P.I. license because she enjoys being so sneaky," he says.

[AD]"I want to find out whom they're hanging out with and what they're doing. I think teenagers put on a big show in front of their parents," says Denise. "When I found out my daughter had a Myspace.com account, I immediately disabled it. I refuse to be one of those parents who doesn't have a clue what they're doing."

"I think my mom needs to butt out," says her daughter.

"Dr. Phil, I'm running out of creative ways to snoop on my kids. Do you have any new techniques for me? I say as long as they're living under my roof, it's my rules. What do you think?"

"What's the downside here?" Dr. Phil asks Denise.

"The downside is my kids think they're entitled to more privacy," she says.

"What if one of the downsides is that your kids say, 'Mom doesn't trust us, so we just must not be trustworthy'?" he asks her. "Would that be a downside?"

"Absolutely," she agrees.

"Do you think that is a possibility here?"


[AD]"Because I think that's going on with your kids. Second downside " "

"How many do you have?" asks Denise.

"Well, a few," he says with a smile. "Second downside, is it possible that because necessity is the mother of invention, and that we tend to be adaptive, that you're teaching these kids to be really good liars?" he asks. "Because you say, 'I don't know why my kids lie; I always catch them.' No, you catch them every time you know about, and for every rat you see, there are 50 that you don't. You catch them one out of 10 times."

"If you want your children to be trustworthy, you need to teach them to respect themselves, and trust themselves, because you can't be in the backseat with your daughter on a Saturday night. You can't be at that party with your son when someone rolls a keg of beer in," says Dr. Phil.

"Bottom line, I think you're being a damn good mother. I think it is your job to know what your children are doing. I think it is your job to know what's under their bed. I think it's your job to know if they've got bad rhetoric on a MySpace [account.] I think it's your job to know if they're coming home after drinking. I don't disagree with that at all, and I wish more parents would tune in and dial in like you're tuning in and dialing in to your kids," Dr. Phil tells her.

[AD]"Now, having said that, you've got to lighten up, Mom. You do. You've got to lighten up a little bit. See, I believe in trust with confirmation. 'I'm going to trust them, but I'm going to go over and check.' I think that you have to do that with your kids, and I think it's a matter of how much they earn the trust. If they say, 'I'm going to go here, here, here and there,' and you check and they're here, here, here, and there, then you don't have to check every time. It will be more effective if you don't check every time, if they don't know when you're going to show up and when you're not. You're too predictable right now."

"Mix it up a little bit?" she asks.

"Mix it up a little bit," he advises.

"You do need to let them know this is going to be a program of trust with confirmation," says Dr. Phil. "'If I find you where you say you're going to be, doing what you say you're going to be doing, then I'm going to lighten up.' And they have to have some place that they can be private, if it's a journal or a diary. That doesn't mean that you can't know about their friends, you can't see where they're going, you can't drive by to see if their car is there. I think it's good to check, but you don't want you to send the message, 'You're not trustworthy.' So I agree with what you're doing, I just think you need to vary your game a little bit."

[AD]"Done," says Denise.

"And let them know that they are trustworthy, because you basically have very good kids, don't you?"

"I do."

"Just give them a little opportunity to earn some sense of self-integrity," says Dr. Phil.