Monday, April 22, 2013

Disgusted: My Response to "What I Found in My 5-Year-Old Daughter's Diary"

Upon reading Kim Bongiorno's "What I Found in My 5-Year-Old Daughter's Diary" on HuffPost Parents, I was immediately disgusted and felt violated on behalf of that little girl. I was so incensed and my first move was to post it on the page and let you all share in my feelings. Then I thought better of it. I don't want to drive up her traffic. I don't want to lend weight to her motives, because the end somehow justifies the means (in her mind).

So, let me break it down for you: her young daughter had been asking for a diary. She got one. She wore the key around her wrist and told everyone that under no uncertain terms were they to look in that sacred space. Her mom couldn't stand the curiosity. She read it. She posted pictures of and quotes from it on the internet for all the world to see.

It was full of sweet things, so I suppose Bongiorno thought it OK to post. Her daughter is young and may not remember or even be aware of what's been done, so I suppose Bongiorno thought it OK to do. Bullshit. And bullshit again. I'm so pissed for that little girl and at her mom. Who cares if she knows? Who cares if it's not her innermost secrets? Who cares if she remembers for life or forgets it all by next week? The fact is, it's her diary - hers, not her mothers. She specifically said it's off limits to everyone, which shouldn't even need to be stated, because everyone with the courtesy one affords a flea innately knows not to open another person's diary. I don't care if she's five, fifteen, or fifty - that is her private space and it is not to be violated by anyone for any reason.

Now, I'm sure there are those who will disagree with me. In fact, I know there are plenty who do. Let's take a gander at some of the comments on the original post, shall we?


"this is a cute! (btw, i have 2 girls 2 and 4 and would do the same) if you are close with your kids this isn't an issue, its called having a relationship with open communication. try it. you might have your eyes opened to the fact your kids would appreciate you wanting to know and caring about their opinions!"

"why would a mother, who found such beautiful writings, not express her joy to
her child for seeing what joy the child has for life itself....?
as I read this article, I see a mother and child in a moment of real bonding,
knowing that each loves the other unconditionally.... with that kind of love
comes great trust.... I choose to believe that the mother shared with the
child on a childlike level that she could share it with the world, to show others
what joy children can feel without shame and fear....
why is it so easy to blast the mother for 'invasion of privacy' when the issue
could just as easily be the opposite... one where they were all happy to
share with the world.... people are always so dern quick to jump on the negative....
what about the positives.....
and for all the naysayers out there.... sounds to me as tho they never had a real
bonding experience with their own mothers... 'sizeable nugget of resentment'
sounds as tho her issues go far deeper than just a diary to me....
in the end, I congratulate this mother in raising a child full of life, love, and awe....
if we could all do that... what a better world we would have..... thank you for sharing...."

"In this day and age many parents don't have or take the time to show enough interest in their children. I grew up in the 50's when life was much simpler. It was a occasional Saturday matinee at the movie or a day at the community swimming pool but it was also solo fishing with my father or going bowling with my mother just the two of us. I don't think it mattered what we did as much as the inter reaction that took place.In today's world the Xbox and it's counterparts replace the experience of close human contact. My parents were always open with me and I knew I could talk to them about anything especially with my mother who loved me unconditionally. Her role in my life was one of the most valuable influences in my life and I would have given anything I had to her including my most inner desires and thoughts. No need for the lock on a diary if I had once because everything I had was hers too. Good for you and don't worry about all the negative possibilities that might happen due to your actions. I think you are a wonderful person to show such concern as to the condition of your child's heart. If there is unconditional love between the two of you that is all that matters and there is nothing that can drive a wedge between the both of you."

"Wow, as a mother of a daughter who has written about things from the day she found a piece of paper and a pencil I was delighted reading this story as it reminded me of all the adorable notes, letters, songs, questionnaires, stories etc. that I have tucked away and bring out and share with my now 13 yr old daughter from time to time.
I was delighted until I got to the comments and most of you took me right back to the nasty world we live in. The daughter is 5 -6 yrs old for goodness sake, what soul shattering secrets could she be writing about. I myself found this adorable and I am happy she shared which in turn brought some wonderful delightful memories rushing back."

"I don't blame the mother for snooping, given today's Nabokovian 'entertainment' industry."



And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm so disgusted. I'm disgusted that there's even one person out there who thinks this is acceptable. I'm more disgusted that she has this much support and others who would do and have done the same.

Little people are people. Size, age - they don't matter. I'm disgusted by the lack of regard children get in our society because they're too young and too small to do much about it or to be taken seriously by most. I'm disgusted that in Bongiorno's original blog post she states, "I did not tell her I looked. She's my kid, and I need to be able to check in on her - she's not even 6yo yet, so in my opinion, she can't have too much of a say here" and that, honestly, I think there are more out there like her than there are like me and you. So, because she's your kid and she's just young and little, she gets none of the courtesy and respect you'd give any other human on the planet. Not only that, but you lied to her by omission. Bullshit, I say. And shame on you. (And yes, I know I very rarely cuss, but I'm extra livid right now and that's what's coming, so...)


Here's what that blog should've been:

"What I Found in My 5 Year-Old Daughter's Diary"

Nothing. Because I didn't, wouldn't ever look.

I told her I'd never look and I meant it. She's my kid and I need to be able to trust her, so I need her to be able to trust me in return. It's called mutual respect. She's not even 6 years old yet, so in my opinion, she has just as much say as anyone else in this world.

The end.



Would that have ended up in temporary fame via The Huffington Post? No, likely not. Would it have ended up in a lasting bond between child and parent? Ya, probably. I'll take the latter over the former any day.

48 comments:

  1. Yup, that really upsets me. If a parent thinks their child is hiding something, they should have the decency and mutual respect to address the child to their face. If the child lies, so be it. If they make a mistake in their life and you aren't there to fix it for them, that's called LEARNING. There is a fine line between Attachment Parenting and Helicopter Parenting, and I think too many people are ready to take the easy way out by snooping around and disregarding their child's privacy. That shows not that you care about your child, but only that you don't respect them enough to have their own lives, their own secrets, and to respect you enough to come to you when they need you.

    I'm appalled.

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    1. I absolutely agree. What I find even more shocking is that this woman didn't just invade her child's privacy to satisfy her own curiousity (something I can understand but that I think she should have controlled), she then allowed the whole world to do the same. She should be protecting her daughter, not exposing her on the internet. Disgraceful and sad...

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  2. Jeesh. If you read it, it's one thing, I suppose. Although I doubt that your 5 year old is writing anything problematic that would require review. But to capture it and post in online? What a violation of her wishes and privacy. Children are people. They aren't these little alien creatures for whom courtesy and other concepts are not applicable.

    Just don't do this. Treat your child with respect. Teach them that their wishes will be respected whenever possible. Treat them that their need for privacy is OK, and will be respected. Teach them that they are worthy of respect and courtesy. Not that it is okay to bare their innermost thoughts and scribblings to the world, at any age, without their consent.

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  3. My 6yo has a journal and the only time Ive looked in it is when she asked me to. She wanted me to see the picture she drew. I looked at that one picture and I closed the book. Everyone needs somewhere to get out their feelings. I would never violate another person and read their journal just like I would never want someone to violate me like that. It upsets me when parents think so little of their children that they think nothing of violating their privacy.

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  4. You know, I don't think it ever occurred to the mother that she was violating anything. She saw cute things in the diary, and wanted to share how sweet her daughter was.

    But it should have occurred to her.

    She should have thought: How would -I- feel if I asked someone not to tread in my private spaces, and then they not only did it, but posted it for the world to see?

    But too often, people don't think of children as we do adults, entitled to the same respect we would grant to another adult, or even an older child. That's a mistake.

    Again, I can understand why she would want to check up on her daughter's diary. But sharing it like that was a violation of one of the few ways a child that age has to express her autonomy: a request for privacy.

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  5. Absolutely agree with you! I was disgusted when I saw the original post on Huffington, and upset that so many people think it was not only ok, but actually a good thing to do! So NOT ok.

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  6. I had an argument like this in another parenting group I was in. Many mothers seem to think that because the item/child is under their roof, they have free reign to do as they want with that child's things. A diary is so private and personal, we do not have rights to our children's thoughts or feelings!

    My mother used to look through my diary and punish me for things she found in there. Nothing bad but things like saying she was mean, or something similar. It was ridiculous. When I was 18, my mother went through my diary to see if I was having sex with my boyfriend. I was, and would have told her about it had she not completely overreacted the first time I attempted. Point is, perhaps if you don't already know what's inside the diary, the problem is your relationship with your child and not the diary itself. Do some work and parent instead of snooping.

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  7. That mother is a jerk. We are here to teach our kids about appropriate boundaries so they can develop and protect them in life. Clearly, this mom has none.

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    1. Oh, this makes me so sad. Kim is not a jerk. Not at all. You may disagree with her, you may think she made a mistake, but please don't judge so harshly based on one action that you don't like.

      I know Kim and she is a lovely person, mother, and friend. Please, don't call her names. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

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  8. Great article and insight. Trust and honesty are key in the parenting relationship. Once that is broken, then things become hidden and walls are built, no matter the age. Issues that are considered "small" to a 5 year old may still be considered "small" to a 15 year old in an adults eyes however; those "small" things build and shape that childs emotions and thought processes. If we degrade the child by labeling their issues small, which believe me- that child sees each life issue that comes their way as BIG....then when the chid is truly faced with a big deal issue, we as parents will be completly out of the loop, and it will be our own fault.

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  9. I am disgusted with the way you wrote about the mother. I do not agree with the mother reading her diaries, but do not agree with the way you wrote about her either. The world is full of dramas!

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    1. What exactly did I say about her that is disgusting?

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  10. I agree. My mom read my 16 year old sister's diary and they had a huge blow out with my sister moving out within hours to my dads house. Complete with my mom running after the car as it drove away. I was 8. My sister showed the diary to my dad that night per my moms instructions and he said (god love him) "I don't need to read it." Who do think my sister liked spending time with more and felt more loved by for most of her adult life?

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  11. Why would she do that? Take something away from her daughter that obviously meant so much? Why not ask for her daughter to write something specifically for her? It may not seem like much now, but writing was an important way for me to deal with things as a teen and it was important that i felt safe doing that.

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  12. :'( This literally made me cry. she specifically asked that no one read her diary. why does her mom need to "check up on her" when she's only five years old?? My mom lied, omitted and snooped for as long as I can remember and as much as I love ny mom, and as close as we are, I still can't trust her. I'm saddened at the support she received from other moms who just can't see the big picture here. Every person deserves to have a sacred place that they can write whatever they want without even suspecting that anyone will read or judge. I'm just so so sad about this :'(

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  13. I was even more frustrated by the comment you quoted from the website saying, "if you are close with your kids this isn't an issue, its called having a relationship with open communication. try it." This is not OPEN communication!!! Do I really even have to point that out?? OPEN communication would mean that the child came forward with her diary or thoughts and shared them with her mother. Her mother in turn has an honest conversation about the daughter's thoughts. Perhaps we could call this open(ing) communication by forcing your way in to thoughts you were not invited to share in.
    I could see the mom being curious. Even writing in curiosity..."what could my 5 year old possibly want to keep as a secret?" Maybe even worried that it's a secret that could be harmful or dangerous and want to make sure she shouldn't be intervening. What I would do is ask my daughter in a respectful way, "I'd love to see some of your writing. Do you think you would mind choosing something to share with me?" And if the answer is no then it's no. If you think there might be a dangerous situation going on then ask some pointed questions. There are ways to find out that information without reading a diary.
    {grumble} open communication, my ass!! {grumble}

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  14. My teen daughter keeps her journal on her bedside table. She's shown me some pages that she had gotten creative with, and others where she had written a poem or something lovely. But I have never, ever opened her journal to read anything else. If I want to know something, I ask her. She has a boyfriend, goes to the occasional party, and even has the occasional drink (gasp). She probably has a few secrets too, but they are NONE.OF.MY.BUSINESS!! Have I ever been tempted to read her journal? No! I wouldn't want her to read my private thoughts, so I won't read hers. However, it is my business to trust her, and if I am worried about anything, then it is within my right to talk to her about it. Snooping? Going behind her back? I wouldn't dream of it! I have always shown her the utmost respect, trusted her, and allowed her her privacy. It goes a long way.

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  15. Sigh. I am also highly bothered... but not surprised. Boundaries are something that is sadly lacking in our world today. We don't teach people what boundaries are, how to define them, how to maintain them or how to respect them. And then we get miffy when somebody steps over ours. It is sad. And in the end, causes such pain and distrust in people's lives.

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  16. I didn't even read the article - the headline alone was pissing me off. It's really sad and I think these mom that say it's totally ok - are only justifying to themselves their own helicopter parenting and trying to make their control and curiosity socially acceptable. the *ONLY* time I think it's ok - and even that it's a REALLY tough call and a REALLY fine line - is if you are seeing potentially dangerous signs in your teen, suicide risks from bullying etc... and even then you should be talking to them first - check the diary only if you can't get the responses you need to act to save them... but again - tough call and fine line... this whole thing just made me sad.

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    1. I agree with you. Unless there are warning signs and you have reason to believe your child is in danger and they won't talk to you, I don't think it's acceptable to even consider snooping in your child's diary no matter how old they are. What happened to a good oldfashioned chat with the child? Tell them they can come to you with anything, tell them you're always there for them if their in trouble.

      What upset me most were the snoop apologists that made references to mass shooting etc. Ugh...

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  17. There are definitely mothers who have different views of whether or not to look at your kids' diaries. But no matter what side you're on, I feel it totally inappropriate to be posting pages from it!

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  18. I am so tired of people who think they own their children.

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  19. My mom read my diary when I was 18. It was on my computer and she insisted that she had to have the password to every computer in the house, but promised not to snoop. I never forgave her and I think it's one of the things that opened my eyes to how controlling and abusive she was. I have no respect for someone who'd do that, no matter how young the child is or how sweet and adorable the thoughts written inside may be.

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    1. 8 years later I can't even bring myself to write out my thoughts because I don't trust anyone to not snoop if they have the chance. My hubby has tried to get me to do it because he thinks it'll help me work through some stuff, but I just can't. :/ She ruined my ability to trust my secret thoughts to stay secret.

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    2. I know exactly what you mean. It took me a long time to learn not to tell my mother things, because everything was always thrown back in my face. After a certain age (maybe 14/15) she would read my diary instead, until I (like you) stopped writing down my personal thoughts and feelings. As you say, it remains impossible to shake this betrayal of trust, even many years later - you are only eight years on, I am now 42 and still struggle daily with her control. manipulation and general mistrust. I set up a blog on-line and often sit with the page open an my hands poised over the keyboard...I bought a good quality, leather-bound journal and a fancy pen, with some purple ink (my favourite colour)...no, I've not yet managed to actually write anything down, or rather, I have, but have more or less immediately erased or removed it. I do agree with your husband though, it would be a healthy step towards working through our issues if we could do this, so I wish you luck for the future xx

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  20. I'm sickened by the fact that so many parents were ok with this. It is clearly a violation of the child's privacy. :( The only way in the world that I would ever read my child's diary is if I thought they were being sexually abused in someway, and first I would make sure that we talked about it and we sat down and then I would even ask if maybe she/he would like to write me a note about anything strange that has happened or something like that, I wouldn't just go right for the diary. I would only skim through the few dates that I had noticed a change in my child or something like that. I would feel sick about doing that tho...
    I just was trying to think of any reason to go through a child's personal thoughts and that's all I could come up with. :S

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  21. Thank you, Zen Mama, for your concern for my daughter. I understand that you have strong beliefs about privacy, and appreciate your passion for it.

    However, I would hope that you would reread my post, preferably on my blog where those who read it first were people who read it within the framework of the parent I am, of the relationship they are familiar with between my daughter and me. The reason there was nary a negative response from my regular readers is because they know I do not simply splash dirt about my kids all over the internet for "fame" or fortune. I share stories that are much-contemplated. I look for peace and understanding. I look for answers. I share my journey, and when I come across something that makes me a better mother, an "Aha!" moment of sorts, I share that for those who (like me) yearn for them as well.

    I knew before I talked to her about it that my daughter would be comfortable with my sharing those pages, because I know her better than anyone. I had unfounded worries because of my own past, not because of her present. What she wrote on those pages is something she is proud of, and the sentences themselves are things she tells anyone who will listen: a stranger behind us in line at the grocery store, a neighbor, a friend, me, anyone. She was so tickled by my writing the story, she borrowed my phone and even took additional photos of another diary, asking me to share them (I won't).

    I parent in a way that is communicative, open, and respectful. My kids know that our home and relationships are a safe place, so we will know everything. We won't judge, we won't harp, but we need to know. I will never apologize for checking in on my children to make sure they are happy and safe. That's my job. Will I ever share any diary pages again? Absolutely not. This was a singular situation that had an important message about love that I felt needed to get out there, and I also knew in good faith and from my child's mouth that it was okay to share.

    I understand that there are a lot of parents out there splashing their kids names and photos and personal information all over the internet without thinking of the ramifications. That is not me. I wish those people would use more restraint, because you are right: Kids are people, too.

    I do hope you take the time to quiet the anger you have towards me and consider that maybe I made the decision to write my post out of love and respect, out of hope and peace, with permission and good intentions. That maybe - just maybe - my daughter lives in a happy home with parents who know her well and have, above all, her best interests at heart. Maybe the brevity of the post made you fear that the consideration was not done, but you can rest assured that it was. My child is happy, loved, and safe.

    Kindly,
    Kim Bongiorno
    LetMeStartBySaying

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  22. Kim, you say all this was with permission, but did you also not say this: "I did not tell her I looked. She's my kid, and I need to be able to check in on her - she's not even 6yo yet, so in my opinion, she can't have too much of a say here"?

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    1. Yes, I did. I will always check on my kids with and without warning. They know it, we're open about it, and it's about being held accountable for your behavior. I know how kids, tweens, teens act - I was one! :) So I will withhold judgement when they make certain mistakes, bad decisions, and that sort of thing, as long as no one is getting hurt. But I also want to be able to take my kids' emotional and nonverbal temperatures throughout their lives, whether it's on a hunch or Mother's Intuition or habit.

      Also: I know my kid better than anyone, and I knew she'd be okay with my sharing the pages, and when I talked to her about sharing it, she responded exactly as I knew she would. That's the relationship we have.

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    2. It appears we are at an impasse. You feel your kids are kids. I feel my kids are humans - just like me, so they will be given the same respect I would give another adult and expect in return.

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    3. I believe my kids are humans as well, and promise you they are in a loving, kind home.
      Namaste,
      Kim

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    4. I'm with Zen Parenting on this one. My relationship with my children (20,17, 11, 8 and 3) is incredibly close, and open, because I have always respected their ideas and their privacy. Your daughter may have been fine with you violating her privacy this time, but I doubt she will in 5 or 10 years, and what will you have then? If you want your children to be able to confide in you, and share, you must give them the right to choose when to do that. If you try and force transparency, you create an adversarial relationship, in which children are much more likely to keep secrets, especially big ones.

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  23. My mother actually read my diary once. It was an OLD entry venting how upset I was with her over something. So on my birthday, she came at me, angry, and I pushed back. "Well, it is my diary..." her reply, "I don't give a shit, it is under my roof." And she hit me...on my birthday...for an entry a couple of years old. For expressing myself privately. Never ever will I touch my daughter's. Even if I suspect she is troubled. NEVER.

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  24. Poor girl, I want my kids to be able to tell me things, if they want a private space to write, so be it, just as long as they talk to me as well. I know that I wish I had a diary when I was small, just to look back to know what I was thinking, how I thought, etc.

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  25. Posting a kid's diary on the Internet? Bad form. But saying you will NEVER read your kid's diary? A stupid and possible dangerous commitment. Why?

    Well, a couple of months ago, my cousin's 17 year old daughter killed herself. The distraught parents, looking for answers went through her things, and guess what they found? In the girl's journal, she was expressing her intent, and even wrote goodbye's to people in there.
    My cousin and his wife will spend the rest of their lives with this burden, wondering why, were they bad parents, is there something else they could have done? Terrible guilt to have to deal with.
    But the truth is, one of the things they could have done, knowing their daughter was having problems, is snooped. Would it have made a difference? We spend our days trying not to get buried by these 'what ifs'.
    So, if you're living in some fantasy world where your child's 'right to privacy' is paramount, and you think, 'my child would never harm themselves', well guess what, at least one of you reading this will get that call from the cops. But hey, your kid had her privacy, right?

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  26. In my opinion there are a couple reasons why reading someones diary might be necessary, but this was not one of them. i know kids and if it were my child, if i really wanted to know, then i would share a page of my diary and tell them its our little secret and then maybe she would share one back, but even then you shouldn't go sharing private thoughts (no matter how innocent they are) with everyone on the friggen internet. Yeah maybe shes proud of her daughter, but if she wants to continue being proud she had better start setting a better example. We all mess up but this one just seems like a lack of common sense.

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  27. I agree with you...that so many mothers agreed with this woman in the entirety of her actions disgusts me. Now I feel that if there were warning signs that something might be wrong with my child, I admit that I would read their diary. (AKA, what if I suspected something as horrible as molestation, etc and reading it would enable me to know the truth and protect/help them?) But under NO circumstances would I post it online, sweet or otherwise!! Unless I feel there was a threat to my child I would NEVER violate their privacy or trust. That is sacrosanct for every human being no matter their size. How disrespectful and ignorant. People like that make me feel very little hope for the human race *sigh*

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  28. Oh dear, this makes me very sad. And Kim Bongiorno's reply here doesn't do her any favours in my opinion. No arguing with the fact that she is a loving parent but by pointing that out here she misses the point entirely. She wouldn't have done this if her daughter was 16 (I would hope) - why does age determine the level of respect deserved? My diary was read when I was a young adolescent and I felt violated. Like many commented here I will NEVER read my daughters diary. If I want to find something out I will ASK her and if she doesn't want to tell me I will respect that!

    I have just visited Kim's blog for the first and last time. Not the sort of parenting that aligns with mine. I respect all parents but we only follow what we believe in don't we? The post about a list of things she wants her kids to do like holding the door open for people... how about instead of writing a list of orders you just demonstrate through YOUR BEHAVIOUR how a person should behave? Kids imitate behaviour far more affectively than follow meaningless rules.

    ZEN I love reading your blog and finding I am not alone in my parenting beliefs and ideals.

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  29. I think you're wrong about one thing. You say that people are not affording kids the same respect they would show an adult, I think they are. Many people would have no problem reading an adult's diary if they were reasonably sure they wouldn't get caught. Respect for the privacy of others is in short supply. I had a friend get mad because my husband (naively) indicated he knew why my BIL was getting a divorce. None of her business but she got raging mad at him for not trusting her enough to spill his brother's intimate life details as gossip. She never saw any problem with her position.

    With that said, I suspect that I would read my child's diary against his or her wishes if I suspected abuse. I know all too well that children will often keep quiet about those things and if I see warning signs but cannot get my child to open up I would use whatever other means I had to find the truth and get my child help. I'd just have to deal with whatever loss of trust came with it because my child's health is more important.

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  30. "The daughter is 5 -6 yrs old for goodness sake, what soul shattering secrets could she be writing about."
    what utter bullshit.

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  31. As a person whose own mother often disrespected my privacy, even after I moved out of her house, I can say that it has turned me into a very secretive and private person who very rarely goes to anyone, especially my mother, with problems I have now as an adult. She always told me "never write down something you don't want someone to find out" as if it were a normal occurrence for people to go through your things, greedy for your secrets. Maybe it seems harmless at the time, but a parent who invades their child's private space is creating a situation where the child will not go to them with anything because they do not trust them, and do not want them to know. If you use the excuses about ownership and "living under your roof" you may find that once that child is on their own, they don't care much to even visit under your roof.

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    1. I had a private diary and blog that was between me and my closest friends. First my mother looked at the notebook one, and then years later my father snooped on my computer and looked on the other one. Both times they got angry at me for having thoughts and feelings. I might look at my daughter's diary if I think something is troubling her and she will not tell me (even if she trusts me, she might be reluctant to say something for a bunch of reasons depending on the situation.) but even then I would be tactful and try to confront her in a general way and still try and get her to open up on her own....too many parents see their children as possessions.

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