Our youngest has always been so easy and independent that he got used to flying under the radar.

He did well in school, behaved at home and did what he was supposed to do. We rarely had to help with homework, rarely had to entertain him and rarely had to help him do anything. We reveled in how easy and independent he was.

Jonah puzzleJonah doing a puzzle.But this past fall, we got a report card that wasn’t exactly stellar. It seems he wasn’t doing all of his homework and didn’t always let us know when he had tests to study for. He was also pushing the limit on his screen time — cashing in on our hands off parenting approach and sneaking extra hours here and there. He’d also stay up later than he should at night, because I wasn’t always going into his room to make sure he’d turn off the light.

It took a couple of months for us to catch on to what was going on. In a household of four kids and two working parents — it’s not hard to get away with stuff. And frankly, all parents want to believe they can trust their kids.

We started by just asking if he had finished all of his homework and took him at his word. We attempted to pay closer attention to his screen time and trusted he was sticking to the limit. But 11-year-old boys can be a sneaky lot — at least ours was. These measures weren’t really working. He needed us to pay closer attention.

So in the past month, we’ve taken to checking the school website for his assignments every day and going over with him what he has done and what he might have “forgotten.” Now he has to ask to use his tablet — which I keep — so he’s not tempted to sneak extra screen time. And every night, I try to sit down with him, say prayers and talk a bit about his day before he turns out the light.

How is he liking the hands-on parental smothering? He loves it. He seems happier than he’s been in a long time. He doesn’t mind when we check the website to make sure he’s done all of his work — and most of the time he has. He’s getting better grades and seems proud of it. Now that there’s no chance to sneak screen time, he’s gotten more creative and is finding other things to occupy his time. And every night, he calls me into his room to pray with him and to talk about the day.

It just goes to show that it’s true what they say. Kids crave boundaries and thrive when they have them.

To read more FranklyStein click here


FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 15, Adam, 15, and Jonah, 11.