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Privacy, self-respect, personal discipline, and boundaries

Parents, one of the first steps in teaching your children boundaries, privacy, respect, and personal discipline is to knock on their bedroom door before entering. This should start as soon as they are able to walk. It is not about control or losing control. It is actually holding on to, or gaining, control. If you cannot trust your children behind a closed door in your own home, what will happen when they are not in your presence?

I know there are countless parents who understand this concept and are naturally practicing it. On the other hand, there are far too many parents who refuse to understand why they should knock on the bedroom door of their six-year-old child or teenager. These parents believe that they are the owners and adults in the home and the children must bow to them as servants. They think that they have a right to everything that happens under their roof, and it’s disrespectful to the parent to have to knock. The Parents Plus Kids’ article, “Should Parents Knock Before Entering Their Kid’s Bedroom?” gives this simple point: “Knocking before entering a room with a closed door is simple etiquette. If my door is closed, it’s closed for a reason.”

Why do so many parents have difficulty understanding this point? It is my view that it is about power and control. Parents do not want to give up power. They believe that knocking on their children’s bedroom door demonstrates weakness. They also believe that it will be the children who are disrespecting them if they ask their parents to knock on their doors before entering. This is a myth. Power is corrupting, and knocking on doors before entering is one way of teaching the right use of power and control. Furthermore, Kids Plus Parents states, “Children who are given this example are likely to become respectful adults. The most effective way to teach a behavior to a child is to show it.”

When our children lived at home between birth to age 20, there was an understanding about bedroom doors. I will call this understanding “The Brennen’s Bedroom Door Etiquette”.

• Bedroom doors remain open as long as the child and parents are decent.

• Close your bedroom door when you are naked and/or putting on clothes.

• Everyone, including the parents, sleep with the bedroom door wide open.

• Everyone knocks on closed bedroom doors and waits for a response before entering.

• When children knock on their parents’ door during the day and get no response, that means, do not disturb at this time.

• Locked doors are allowed when naked or putting on clothes. Everyone practiced these behaviors.

As parents, we wanted to teach our children the importance of privacy, self-respect, personal discipline, and boundaries. It paid off. As parents, we did not lose power or control. We maintained the proper use of power and control.

An unknown author writes about his method of dealing with bedroom doors. “Our philosophy is based on common sense. We have rules that apply to adults and children. An open door means anyone can walk in without knocking. An ajar door means knock and walk in. A closed door means knock and wait for a response before entering. Locked doors are not allowed. Some rooms have bars for the windows and one can only exit through the door. In the case of a fire or accident, a locked door is too dangerous.”

Teaching privacy is important for children, especially as they enter the adolescent years. Parents need to understand that giving the proper amount of privacy will actually increase the child’s confidence in their parents. It is imperative parents understand that the goal of parenting is to create healthy, autonomous, functioning adults and not dependent children.

Parents, if you want your children to learn about respect and trust, then knocking on their closed door and waiting for a response to enter is one of the easiest ways of doing it. It is appropriate to say that the first lesson about discipline and respect starts at the bedroom door. Parents, if you have never done this before, you will be amazed what will happen when you knock on your child’s door and say, “May I come in?” and actually wait for a response. It may take a while for you and your children to internalize this, but it will instill an intrinsic locus of control for them. Start knocking on your children’s bedroom door today.

• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragment.org, telephone 327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.

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