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Searching a Child's Room

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Recently, my 15-year-old daughter's best friend's mother searched her daughter's room because she suspected her daughter was using drugs and stealing. She came up with a lighter, an unopened bottle of Visine (eye drops), and a diary -- but no drugs. She read the diary and found tons of information about other children and what they had been up to. She called a meeting with all the parents and told them about what she had found.

This has ruined relationships between her daughter and her daughter's friends. The two girls mentioned in the diary come from different homes. One girl is Mexican and the other is black. These two are the only non-white girls in the group. I think at the meetings the white parents are blaming the bad behavior on two kids. What advice can you give me to tell the other parents so this unnecessary drama can end?

A: What an unfortunate situation - all caused by a mother's violation of her daughter's trust and privacy. If anyone should receive condemnation for her actions, it's this mother. She "stole" her daughter's private thoughts and snooped in her room. Then she further betrayed her daughter and the girls mentioned in the diary by revealing her daughter's diary entries to their parents. Now it seems that all the "good" parents are getting together to discuss how the only girls who don't fit into their lily-white, upper middle class world corrupted their kids. I find this parental behavior to be morally bankrupt, self-serving and damaging to all the girls concerned, the two who have apparently become convenient scapegoats.

The tone of your letter and some of your opinions about this group of parents suggests that you do not wholly support their actions or motives. I won't tell you what to do about your further involvement with this group. I think that you know in your heart what you should do and why you should do it. I would follow your heart in this case and learn from this experience about the importance of not betraying trust and the ugliness of a "lynch mob" mentality. Thanks for trying to do what's right and kind.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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