How to Keep Your Kid Out of Jail


Do you have the same fear that I do? The fear that at the first opportunity of freedom,  your kids will toss all of the values that you’ve pounded into them out the window? The end result? They’re calling from jail begging to be bailed out.

Drastic sure. But still a fear.

Let’s face it, physically creating a human being is the easy part. The real work begins when free will kicks in.

Raising kids is like building a house.

The first 5 – 6 years is spent laying a solid foundation. The next 5 or so is focused on building the structure. If the foundation is not solid the structure will be weak and collapse in the face of a storm. Or in the case of our kids, adversity.

Middle school tests this structure with gale force winds. And apparently opens the door to swearing.

I hate swearing.

  • It devalues the message and the person
  • People assume you’re less educated and ignorant
  • Swear words are a distraction and just plain noise

All of this causes people to stop listening and your message is lost.

My daughter loves words. She can’t get enough of them! She’s an avid reader. An amazing writer. And a talker. She is smart and happy to share her knowledge with others.

One day my daughter and I were driving home and she offers up a confession to me.

“Mom. I have to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.” She takes a deep breath and dives in. “I’ve been swearing.”

“Why…?” I inquire.

“Everyone else was doing it. So I figured I would.” (Thank you peer pressure.)

“How’d that work for you?”

“It didn’t.” She was quiet for a moment. “I’ve been thinking about how you feel about sweating and I want my words to have value.”

“And…” I prodded sensing there was more.

“I stopped. But my friends keep pushing me to swear!” She proclaimed. “Even after I explained why I wasn’t going to anymore.”

“So what do you do?”

“Ignore them and walk away. They finally gave up.” (Her friends have learned over the years that you can only push this gal so much.)

This conversation was important because she put a foot onto the rope ladder that I had extended to her. I’ve told my daughter that she can tell me anything. I might not like it and I will not promise she won’t get in trouble. We’re accountable for our choices. But I will be calm and listen. The ladder felt shaky to her because she was testing it, but I held it firmly so that she could travel safely across. This reinforced her trust and kept the door open to future conversations. And brought a bit more comfort in being honest with me in future.

Instead of getting angry at her for doing something I disapprove of, I kept an open mind and listened. This was an opportunity for me to gain insight on her thought process and learn how she handles difficult situations. Especially ones when norms clash between her and her friends. Peer pressure is brutal peeps.

And it’s just begun.

The secret to keeping our kids out of jail folks, at least to the best of our ability (they unfortunately still have free will), is to treat them like intelligent people. When they ask to talk, drop whatever you’re doing, take a deep breath to prepare yourself, and LISTEN. Don’t offer advice. Don’t assume the worst. Just listen. And ask questions to clarify.

Open-minded parent + kid’s leap of faith in being honest with parent =  Wiser kid with accurate info making better choices.

Let’s face it. If they’re not coming to us for info, they’re getting it from their peers and YouTube.

That’s how you avoid them going to jail. Keep on building that relationship of trust and honesty with them. It keeps the door open to continue to guide them to making good choices.

Honestly, this is the hardest age for me as a parent. And the scariest. Old enough to be more independent, go places on her own, and responsible enough to complete chores without reminders. I get anxious with this increased independence! More is out of my control. She’s still my baby and I desperately want to protect her.

I struggle navigating when to let her spread her wings and when to clip them back. More often than not my urge is to just lock her in her room to keep her safe. It’s easier. (Although…I suppose one may consider that jail. I forgot. We’re trying to avoid that.)

Giving my babies the freedom to jump out of the nest is scary! I don’t want them to get hurt. But sometimes, I just have to let them fall. Yet I’ll be there to help them back in the nest, patch them up, and brainstorm a better flight plan.

I have a confession.

There are times when after offering my wisdom and being repeatedly ignored,I just want to shove her out into the world with a “Good luck. Let me know how it works for ya.” And when she discovers that by golly, I do actually know what I’m talking about, I take the low road and respond, “Huh. Shame no one gave you a heads up on that one.” Then I smirk to myself and do the “I told you so” dance when she’s not looking.

Don’t judge. We all have our moments.

But most of the time, I hold her and comfort her and help her work through the pain, so that she can learn from the experience and become wiser and stronger because of it.

This is only the start people. We’re still building the structure of that house. We can’t give up now.

Call to Action:

Your turn. What is your greatest challenge with your kids right now? What are you struggling with? Share in the comments and let’s keep this conversation going!

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