This week, we talk about HOW to undermine your loved one’s use of drugs as they grow up in your home…the dreaded teenage years!
By Pat Merriman
Dunn Co. State’s Attorney
So, up front, I’m going to tell you what I did. My kids were constantly carping, “How did you know?” Well, when you chase the most well-financed, dangerous and powerful drug dealing criminals in the world for over 2 decades, keeping track of a handful of knuckleheads, and keeping them safe, ain’t all that hard to do. You just have to play to win folks. And, that means “surveillance”… and, haters, call it spying if you like. I’ll own that!
With the advent of computers, iPhones and social media, your job, as a parent, is a heck of a lot easier because these kids now put their business on the Ethernet 24/7 for you. Heck the apps and software is so cheap and prevalent, there just isn’t any excuse NOT to keep tabs on them. The hard work NOW pays off LATER. My friends and I even made a deal back in the day—if I see your kid out with someone sketchy, I will just walk up to say, “Hi.” My kids later told me, “I hated it at the time because it was embarrassing but, I know now that you loved me and wanted to keep me safe.” They made it over the finish line without experimenting with the stuff because we kept an eye on them.
But, the self-anointed advocate will cry, “Mr. States Attorney, isn’t it a crime to intercept a wire/oral communication in North Dakota?” NOPE! The Century Code has an exception if the parent is authorized to intercept the communication. And, in the context of being a parent, the issue is called “vicarious consent” (the defense of legal justification) acknowledged by the ND Supreme Court way back in 1986. Voluminously addressed in numerous legal publications including Utah Deputy District Attorney Daniel R. Dinger’s tome and, Deana A. Labriola’s 2001 Catholic University Law Review article. Both document that federal and state wiretap laws have overwhelmingly granted an exception under these criminal statutes in favor of parental rights and the protection of minor children. Use logic… the alternative is that pedophiles and drug dealers would have unfettered access to these kids under the guise of the First & Fourth Amendment. DUH!
So, first, in my house, I made it very clear that children had no civil rights— those were privileges to be earned through trust. You are a parent. Your job is to keep your kids safe until they are out on their own. They are YOUR kids, so, they are going to plot against you just like YOU did against your parents. Follow the logic here? Modern parenting aside, your kids do not have the experience to make safe choices when it comes to drugs and, since they are your stubborn kids, we assume that they dare to disagree. Hence, the problem. You either play to win or, you lose and…that can be your child’s life or freedom. So, stick your nose into your kids’ business. They’ll thank you when they have kids.
Second, the most prevalent form of child abuse is indifference. Far too many parents either see their kids as peers or an inconvenience. They are your dependents—by definition, they “depend” on you to teach and guide them and that comes from discipline! You set the rules… they follow the rules. Easy peasy! You have to keep track of friends, Internet, cell phone and even the parents of their contacts. Simple rules—call when you leave, call when you get there. No sleepovers unless I meet the parents first. If the parents are idiots, their kids are unreliable—the sleepover is going to be at my house. No dating unless I meet the kid and their family. It’s far too dangerous out there today!
In the CBS 60 Minutes news program entitled Heroin in the Heartland, the growing heroin crisis in affluent Ohio, the heart-wrenching stories of the teen dead from this epidemic were staggering. Heroin overdoses skyrocketing with a record 2,482 dead Ohioans just in 2014. Attorney General Mike DeWine said, it’s the worst drug epidemic he’s seen in his lifetime, “Anybody watching today, this show– it could be your family…There’s no typical person. It just has permeated every segment of society in Ohio.” That remark was mirrored by teen addict Hannah Morris, “Even Miss America could be a junkie. I mean, anybody can be a junkie.” Being an addict is now fashionable!
Third, the stories from the parents was more compelling. They wish, now, that they had “invaded their dead child’s privacy.” And, we need to have a discussion about this nonsense because far too many self-appointed “professionals” lecture parents that “spying” conveys the message that you don’t trust the kids. Apples & Oranges. Trust is earned, not assumed. In his excellent theses, Teens and Privacy: Should I Spy on My Child? and The 4 Tactics Kids Use When They Get Caught, James Lehman, MSW, (one of the most respected parenting experts in the world) debunks the modern hype. I’m going to go ahead and use the term “spying”, negative connotation and all, because, at the end of the day, we all know what it is and, we all know that it works. That’s why governments use it to avoid disaster.
Lehman instructs, “I believe there should be a direct link between the amount of responsibility, consistency, and honesty that kids show and the amount of privacy they’re allowed to have in their rooms.” That’s right…when your kid rants “I have a right to keep secrets from you; you don’t have any right to keep secrets from me” well, they’re just… wrong. Lehman points out that adolescence is the “preparation” for adulthood, i.e, a life of their own. “You should know that part of that process includes forming boundaries. To put it simply, boundaries are where your child ends and you begin. When a child is little, there is literally no separation… then as that child develops and gets older, boundaries start to develop…This separation is a natural part of human relationships, and as teens get older, the lines become clearer and clearer.”
But, this “privacy” is a privilege NOT a right. And, if “your child is otherwise trustworthy, honest and responsible”, that’s one thing. If your daughter “meets her responsibilities, comes home on curfew, is where she says she’ll be when she said she’d be there, is hanging out with the people with whom she said she would be hanging out, and you have no reason to be suspicious about anything”, that’s trustworthy. However, “the whole game changes if you have discovered something incriminating or if you have a very real suspicion about your child’s risky activities…I don’t like talking about rights; the word is just too overused in our culture. But here’s the deal: I believe that whoever’s name is on the mortgage has a right to look anywhere in their house. In my opinion, that’s your right because you own the house. Even more importantly, you have a responsibility to protect your kids from themselves, even if they don’t want that protection.” I agree Mr. Lehman—your logic is inescapable.
Lehman continues, “Instead of talking about rights, I prefer talking about responsibility, accountability and obligations. I think once something triggers your suspicion and it’s real—if you think your teen might be using drugs, drinking or engaging in other risky behavior—you have an obligation and a responsibility to your child to look in their room. One empty beer can is sufficient. If you find alcohol or drugs or medication that he’s not on, I think you have to start looking around, because your responsibility is to try to protect your child from himself. And in order to accomplish that, you need knowledge. Remember, knowledge is power. When I say power, I don’t mean hitting something with a hammer—I mean the power of knowledge, when you understand what’s going on, when your eyes finally open and you see something clearly.” Amen AGAIN! OK enough this week, we’ll talk more next week.