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There’s a certain segment of the population that seems to believe that our children are our property, to be treated with about as much respect as we give our cars.

The latest example of this unfortunate view? The mother who read her daughter’s diary and then posted pictures on the internet for everyone to see. This, despite the fact that her daughter locked it, kept the key on her wrist, and clearly told her mother not to look in it. But mom was just SO curious that she couldn’t help herself. And then, I guess, so desperate for something to post about that she had to complete her already disgusting invasion of privacy by letting the entire world join in.

Would you read your husband’s diary? Or your best friend’s? If not, then why on earth do you think it’s appropriate to read your child’s?

Reading through the comments on the original article, I see some of the justifications:

You’re responsible for your child, what if she was thinking about killing herself and by reading her diary you discovered that and saved her? I’m sorry, but if you can’t tell that your six year old (or even sixteen year old) child is suicidal without reading her private diary, you have much bigger parenting problems. If you have any kind of relationship at all with your child, you will have seen many other signs of any brewing problems.

It’s her room, but it’s in your house, therefore you have the “right” to look at anything in there. Let’s be perfectly clear here. If you think your daughter has weapons or drugs or something else that may pose a danger in her room, this might be a conversation. But it’s her DIARY. There is no “safety” reason for reading the diary – and certainly none that the mom in this case claimed. Just because you “can” doesn’t mean you should.

In an open and honest relationship, no one should have any secrets. This apparently applies to husbands and friends as well. I mean, I honestly saw people saying this. It’s hard to even respond to something so completely insane, but I’ll try. Trust does not mean that neither party deserves any privacy because they shouldn’t have anything to hide. It means that all of us have private aspects of our personalities, aspects that we don’t want anyone else to see. Not for any nefarious reason, but simply because it’s part of the human condition. Trust is allowing those you love to have privacy because you know that they wouldn’t use that privacy to harm you. Trust is letting your daughter keep a secret diary. NOT reading her diary.

But let’s stop beating around the bush. The primary justification for this complete and utter invasion of privacy seems to be that the daughter is only “almost six” and therefore not a complete person deserving of respect. Her diary was a list of the things she loves, so who cares if everyone sees it? She doesn’t have any serious or weighty concerns yet, so it’s just entertaining for all of us. I even saw comparisons of children to animals– neither of whom, apparently, have any rights.

Children are people from the moment they’re born, and they deserve all the respect that we give to all people. They are not your property, not your toy, not your little doll to mine for entertaining stories. They are not an inconvenience to be managed or a dog to train.

And if I need to get legal here, I will. Children absolutely have rights, separate and apart from their parents. The laws of our country recognize this, but some people, apparently, do not. You cannot beat your children. In a custody dispute, one parent cannot unilaterally kidnap a child. You cannot kill a child. Oh, and just to be clear, you can’t be cruel to your animals, either. Turns out, they have rights, too.

I understand what this mom was going through. I love to look at my daughter’s drawings, to see how her inner thoughts play themselves out on the page. I love to watch her play, listen to her talk to herself, witness the blossoming and flourishing of her personality. My daughter hasn’t started keeping a diary yet, but I can imagine the curiosity. I can imagine it might be almost painful to know that your daughter has secrets from you, that she has become so mature and separate that she doesn’t want to share everything with you anymore.

That’s normal and completely natural. A child’s job is to grow and, bit by bit, to separate from her parents. A parent’s job is to nurture her child and foster that independence. I get that it would be hard not to read the diary, but allowing your child to have privacy is part of parenting. Your child deserves that. You owe her that.