On Being Savvy, Not Sneaky
(page 78 Parenting in the Eye of the Storm: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Teen Years)
10. Be savvy, not sneaky. Sometimes parents think that their teen is up to something but can’t put their finger on exactly what it is. Or they know but they can’t prove it. In my experience you should trust your intuition because it’s usually correct. When you don’t address it, your adopted teen may perceive you as clueless and will respect you less. But you could bring it up in a respectful, but direct way, by saying something like, “I think you’ve been taking money out of my wallet. I can’t prove it, but that’s what I believe.” Or, “It just seems like there’s something you’re not telling me. I don’t know for sure but if there is something, you need to tell me right now.” When they deny it, which they probably will, you could just say, “I could be wrong.” Knowing that you’re onto them may result in a change in their behavior.
Being savvy is different than being sneaky, though. Parents tell me that they monitor their teen’s texts or Facebook profile or secretly search their room. Or parents ask their teen something to catch them in a lie. “I just wanted to see whether he would tell me,” they’ll say. But sneakiness is faulty role modeling. Your teen respects you less because you’re not being above board. Like you, they can also tell when you’re up to something. Being more upfront will prioritize integrity. For example, you could just tell them that their bedroom is fair game and will be searched periodically, or that there will be random checks of their cell phone to make sure everything is appropriate and within guidelines. Your teen may not love it, but they will appreciate it.