A teen’s bedroom: door locks and more-River City Counseling

In my last entry, “Get out of my room,” I shared my thoughts on teens’ need for time alone in their rooms.  I encouraged parents to support this, while at the same time having expectations that their kids participate in family activities.

Readers shared their thoughts on what can happen when kids spend too much time in their room, particularly behind locked doors. In part two of my series on, I’ll discuss the topic of locks on doors and parents’ overall right to know what goes on in their kids’ rooms.

Without a doubt, teens have a need for privacy in their rooms and need to know that they can do things like change their clothes without annoying little brothers barging in.  And if locked doors are necessary to ensure this, I’m OK with it.  But aside from this, I’m not a big fan of locks being utilized on teens’ doors.

The reason is simple:  locked doors provide way too much privacy, which provides fertile ground for all sorts of unsavory behavior, such as using/storing drugs.  Of course, parents want to do all they can to discourage this sort of behavior.  With this in mind, many parents wonder if it’s acceptable/appropriate to search their kids’ rooms (and other personal items, such as cars,) when they suspect drug use.

Many parents believe that going through their kids’ things is a huge violation and shouldn’t be done.  And if you have no reason to believe that your child is doing anything she shouldn’t, it doesn’t make sense to do a search.  It can lead to a huge breach in trust and further pulling away.

However, if you notice significant changes in your teen and you worry about his health and well-being, it’s a step worth considering.  Maybe his eyes are frequently red and his personality seems different. Maybe her eating and sleeping habits have changed drastically. Perhaps his friends have changed, and his grades have fallen dramatically. Or maybe something in your “gut” tells you that something isn’t right with your teen.  What you find will guide your response.

Should you find drugs and/or drug paraphernalia, alcohol or other unacceptable objects a number of consequences are appropriate (e.g. loss of cell phone/car privileges, “grounding”, etc.)  It’s also worth considering modifications to his room.  Taking locks off doors is common, and in some extreme situations, parents take doors off the hinges.

As expected, consequences will lead, at least initially, to increased conflict.  However, as with cars and cell phones, teens will usually make more appropriate choices, if it leads to trust being rebuilt and privileges being reinstated.

In part three of my series, I’ll look at media in the bedroom and how clean is clean enough.  As before, I welcome your feedback and questions.




6 Responses to A teen’s bedroom: door locks and more-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    February 21, 2013 | 4:41 pm

    Sensible article. However, if your child needs to have their door removed it seems like the family is in big trouble and needs some major intervention.

  2. Christina
    February 21, 2013 | 7:30 pm

    Great article, Steve! You know, it never occurred to me that the locks on my teens’ doors could provide them with too much privacy. I’m going to remove the locks this week though I don’t think I’ll search their rooms unless one of the red flags you mention occurs. Thanks for your expert guidance–it really helps those of us who are raising teens!

  3. TJ
    February 24, 2013 | 11:24 pm

    I look forward to the media portion.

    I do not mind closed doors, but, how much time alone is healthy, and, not?

    • shery french
      February 25, 2013 | 2:31 am

      Let’s hope the family is creating an environment that kids want to be around.
      As for the drugs, I know a family who did random drug testing on their four teenagers. The kids knew to expect it occasionally, and several of them told me in confidence that they liked it, as it was an easy way to “just say no.”
      And clean rooms? With four kids, I just closed the doors and picked bigger battles. Today, all four are excellent housekeepers. Go figure.

      • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
        February 25, 2013 | 6:55 pm

        Shery, thanks for your response. Your point about random drug testing is well-taken. As you’ve pointed out, some teens don’t mind it and actually like it. My guess is that these kids were already “well-parented,” and had parents who set firm, fair, consistent boundaries. Drug testing was just one more boundary. My guess is that this family had a number of conversations about it ahead of time. That is, the kids were prepped, as opposed to having the random testing dropped on them. Regarding clear rooms, I’m with you. I’ll going to discuss it in my next blog, so keep your eyes open. I’ve found it’s about 50/50 regarding clean rooms. Some just shut the doors and others really worry about it.

  4. Chuck
    February 25, 2013 | 6:07 pm

    Using drugs is not “unsavory behavior”, it’s illegal. People (teens, adults, children) need privacy to change clothes, use the bathroom, study. Illegal activity occurring in a home falls on the parents and everybody gets to go to jail (at least). Good luck keeping or finding a job with a criminal record.
    Children and teens need to continually realize their boundaries and learn that they can’t do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it. They don’t get to make the rules, only abide by them. This is how life works. It’s no different than traffic laws, truancy laws, etc.
    Teens are becoming way too empowered. They record everything on their cell phones, then bring lawsuits against their teachers and instructors when their feelings are hurt.

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