The locked bedroom door. This singular piece of housing hardware can cause a great many fights within families. Quite often, the door-locking situation rears its ugly head when a child turns 12 or 13 years old. Suddenly, the door lock which has been on the door since they were 2, is now their favorite household appliance. And it can come as much of a surprise for an unsuspecting parent who suddenly finds a locked door where an open door used to be. The question for both teens and their parents, is should teenagers be able to lock their bedroom door in the first place?

This is a difficult question to answer. Many parents do not allow locked doors in their home because they immediately think that their child is participating in some sort of hazardous, illegal, or undesirable behavior simply because the door is locked.

In fact, parents can freak out at the locked door issue, making a mountain out of molehill by wondering what their child is doing in there that is so private that they feel the inclination to lock the door. Could it be drugs, indecent internet activity? And for teens, the door locking comes as a rite of passage into privacy, normally at an age when they feel defiantly pressured to somehow assert themselves as an individual. For the teen, it doesn’t always mean that they are engaged in some illicit behavior. It just means they want and are demanding a little privacy. Who knows, maybe they want to try on their clothes or watch themselves dance in the mirror.

Probably the best way to deal with this is to talk about it before it happens. In some households, no doors are ever closed or locked. These open door homes may not have a policy in place – but are just prone to openness. If the parents and kids don’t feel threatened and don’t feel that their privacy is invaded or compromised, doors will normally stay open. In other homes, doors are locked and shut every single night. There are millions of households where family members disappear to their own rooms upon coming home and stay there for the rest of the evening without communicating with one another.

As a parent, you should know which side of the issue you stand on. If you don’t want your child to lock his or her door, then you will at least have to get used to knocking on the door and being invited in before entering their room. Okay, so this is your child and your house – but empowering their sense of individuality and ensuring their privacy are very important parts of parenting well. A child shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because they want some privacy with their friends or while they are changing clothes. Truth is, everybody wants some privacy every once in a while. Sit down with your child and tell them that you will respect the closed-door policy, but that they shouldn’t lock the door.

Some parents are afraid of door locking because it doesn’t give them quick access to the room if something bad happens. What if the child got hurt, or didn’t respond? Plus, the door locking makes it easier for teens to do things that they are not supposed to be doing, such as sneaking out, drinking, or having members of the opposite sex in their room.

But before you go off the deep end about your child locking his or her door, you should wait and look for signs of a problem. Locking a bedroom door does not mean your child has crossed over to the dark side of life, and that they are suddenly some troubled teen. Rather than see a locked door as an indicator that there is a problem – look for other signs. Have they changed friends? Are they withdrawing emotionally? Have their grades dropped? Are they hiding things from you? Have they been in trouble lately?

The transition from a child to a teenager is not just rough for parents, but is so for teens as well. There is a generalized sense of teens pulling away from their parents as they grow up, which can be frightening for a parent. The locked door, may just be one way that they retain some sense of control over their own space. As long as you don’t suspect some devious activity going on behind the closed door, you should generally learn to not make a major deal out of it. If you are okay with a closed door, but not a locked one – explain your reasoning to your children so they understand.

Parenting teens is much like the ebb and flow of the tides. When you exhibit some negative behavior, you have to pull in as much as possible in order to keep things in balance. But, if you don’t see anything negative going on, you have to learn to let go and release. This lesson, is most often harder for the parents than for the teen – and comes with allowing certain things in your teen’s life, such as a locked door.

Since internet safety is on the minds of most parents today – one way to alleviate the worry that your child is involved in dangerous behavior online behind closed doors is to do the following. First, make sure that you have internet controls on all of your child’s computer, phones, and internet ready devices. And secondly, move the computer to another, more open and visible place in the home such as the living room or kitchen. This way, you continue to give them access to the internet, but force them to carry out their online business in a more public manner that enables you to keep an eye on them.

Additionally, as you transition to the changes of a closed/locked door household – make sure that your teen realizes it is a privilege. Not a right. If they somehow abuse the privilege, then as a parent you have every right to expect an open door policy – or remove the door altogether.

In the end, there are much worse things your teen could do then lock their door. While difficult to shoulder the feeling of being excluded from their life, it is essential for your teen to develop some sort of individuality.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Hi I’m a kid and this article is right. Sometimes I lock my door because: getting dressed, telling secrets to my friend, dancing or singing, and playing. Sometimes kids just need to be alone so they don’t blow up at anyone and sometimes we lock the door so we can cry.

  2. I’m a pre teen. I lock my door when: Im getting dressed, to tell my friend a secret, when talking on the phone, when dancing or singing, when I’m upset, or when my parents are fighting.

  3. I’m a 17 year old boy and I completely agree with this article. When my brother left for college, I was excited. I would be the only child with the second biggest room (behind my parents) in my house! The door also had a lock. My parents have recently been griping me about this issue and one day when I was not present, my parents removed my door handle completely. My advice for other parents: do not do this. I took that as a stab of bitterness, simply because I wasn’t there when this event happened. It is true, as a teenager I would like my privacy. When my parents took total control, it made me feel as if they didn’t care how I felt. I plan to speak with them accordingly after reading this article. I send my thank to the author, this piece was spot on through-and-through.

  4. I don’t do anything ridiculous in my room, or anything bad, so I should have every right to lock my door. I also have loads of homework from school, and also not only that, I don’t like it when people open my door without closing it whenever they’re done talking to me. I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT WHEN THEY DON’T SHUT MY FREAKING DOOR. I need a lock for that matter, so I can get ultra privacy which I need, let them (my family) knock first, and tell me what they need, before I open the door, and be energized when i’m not socializing with anyone. I get my energy that way, when i’m alone, and unbothered. I can’t breathe when other people are in the room. I also can’t breathe when they (my family) are breathing down my neck about every house hold chore that needs to be done. Like GOSH OH SWEET BABY JESUS I GET IT I NEED TO DO ALL THE HOUSECHORES WHEN I GET HOME I HEAR IT ONE TIME AND I GET IT. UGH. I WANT TO RIP OUT ALL MY REAL HAIR ATM AND JUST GET A WEAVE. FML. AND ON TOP OF OF ALL THIS, I HAVE MUSICAL PRACTICE (FOR THE BROADWAY MUSICAL VERSION OF CINDERELLA) AT MY SCHOOL OFTEN, AND IT’S AFTERSCHOOL AFTER A LONG SCHOOL DAY. SO I NEED TO BREATHE IN MY ROOM, WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS ONCE I GET HOME. THATS WHY I VALUE MY DOOR LOCK SO MUCH. IT MEANS MY WHOLE LIFE TO ME. I LOVE IT WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING.

  5. I’m a parent and in many occasions found cannabis in my sons room. The room which was never locked but is now. He demands privacy….. so what do I do?

  6. I’m what you’d call a rebellious teen, but when I lock my door- I honestly just want some privacy. My parents already pull out the router everyday at 9:30 p.m. making it hard to have some leg room to do late-night homework especially with all the extra-curricular activities I participate in, they already regulate my diet with healthy crap that gives me nauseating stomachaches or headaches, they already keep a fixed location for my phone so they know where I am, they already buy educational books and tutors for me, they already destroyed all my social connections to withered states of snapping, so is locking a door for some privacy really too much? Or are my parents doing the total right thing by keeping a firm grip on my life in their own fantasy vision?

  7. I’m a Preteen, and guess what? I lock the bathroom door when I’m taking a shower. For a simple reason, I do not want my mother to walk in on me taking a shower. She says that she’ll respect the fact that I have the door closed. But in reality she doesn’t! So, this night I was getting dressed in the bathroom after my shower, my Mother tried to turn the doorknob, and when she came to the realization that the door was locked she flipped a switch and started screaming at me. “OF COURSE IT’S LOCKED, OF COURSE WHY DON’T YOU LEAVE IT UNLOCKED!” I would just stand there hoping she doesn’t get mad enough to hit me. (Which she rarely does) Then I made up some stupid lie when I walked into my room I said, “You know mom, I only locked it when I started getting dresses.” In reality I kept it locked through my entire shower, Like damn, can’t a girl have a little privacy?!

  8. Discovered my kid’s friends store their alcohol, drugs, and drug paraphernalia in my kid’s room, in my house. The first time I found a stash, I warned that that if it happened again, I would remove the door. I also told young people visiting about our no alcohol/drug policy. I am responsible for illegal activity in my house. I am the parent. The door has now been removed and I will be looking for a counselor. I am also willing to negotiate the door’s return. My kid is the youngest of her peers, but in the end, I don’t care if the stuff is my child’s or held for a friend – it’s not legal and I don’t want it in my house.

  9. One quick thing to mention: please be consistent with your rules and parenting. As an adult, I know how busy life commitments can be even without children, and I can’t begin to imagine how hectic things are with children in the picture. But cycling between authoritarian punishments and uninvolved parenting would be one of the worst methods. Children would begin to see their parents and life in general as unpredictable, and difficult to trust, and trust is one of the most important things about family, and close relationships in general. To build trust, get to known your children well, value their opinions, try to understand them without judging, praise their accomplishments, help them solve and move forward from problems and downfalls, and always let them know that you’ll love them no matter what.

    I know all of this is lip-service considering I don’t have children of my own. But growing up with loving but flawed parents taught me a lot. My mom, battling Type II bipolar disorder for much of my late elementary to middle school days along with physical health problems that required surgeries, did her best with an authoritative style, but frequently slipped into authoritarian/uninvolved styles on her bad days or just days where she was too busy. Even now, I find trouble telling her about some things in my life. I love her and I know she did her best, but I still find it hard to be as close to her as some mother-daughters are. My dad, like many dads, listened to my mom and let her do most of the childrearing. He was a kind dad who loved me, but he was permissive to a fault. By the time I graduated high school, I had many problems, including eating and internet addictions.

    In the end, most of the tips in my comment are things I wish my parents had done with me when I was young, and things I plan to do with any future kids I have. It’s a mixture of hindsight bias (I preferred my dad’s permissive parenting back when I was a teen) and biased opinions in general from not having children, but perhaps my outsider point of view has some value, as neither a teenager nor a parent.

    Given that you are seeking this article for help, I know you are trying hard for your kids and want what’s best for them, so please try a little harder to understand them. For the adolescents reading this, please try seeing things from your parents’ POV as well. I wish all of you and your families well.

  10. I’m an adult without any children, but young enough to remember being an adolescent.

    My first reaction coming across this article was “if I ever have children, I’m not even going to let them get used to the concept of locked doors. A ‘door lock which has been on the door since they were 2’? Hah.”

    However, I’m a big advocate for the “authoritative not authoritarian” style of parenting. And I still remember being a teen and moving to a new house, fighting with my parents while watching my dad replace the lock that came with my new room. (I took apart the lock on their door, one that was more complicated than the one my own, to the point where even my dad couldn’t piece it together since he didn’t see how it was taken apart. Of course, I had to put it all back together, and only got a grounding for my trouble.)

    I was livid, angry enough to “run away” (i.e. hide in the park for a few hours). But I got over it. Humans can adapt, and not having a lock on the door doesn’t even register on the scale of bad conditions.

    But I can’t understate the importance of giving your children independence and the feeling of control. Take a brief look into the etiology of any abnormal psychology textbook. Over-controlling parents and feeling like one has no control throughout early life is a common risk factor to many psychological disorders, including mood and anxiety disorders, and increases their likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder following a major stressor or trauma.

    That being said, permissive or uninvolved parenting is never the solution. That’s associated with a whole other slew of mental disorders, including many personality disorders. It’s also linked to aggressive, including risk-seeking, behavior, insecurity, and lower achievement.

    So should teenagers be allowed to lock their doors? Suffice to say, it depends on the teen. My opinion is that having a lock on their door is a right all teens should have, so that they can find themselves and grow into the independent adults they will soon be. However, that point rests on the assumption that the teen does not take advantage of the lock, realizes their responsibilities, and will not be doing anything dangerous or illegal.

    Some of these comments honestly terrify me. If you know your kid is doing something that is detrimental to their continued physical and mental health, of course you should do something about it. If your child has an addiction or exhibits addictive behaviors – be it substance use, internet/phone addictions (as in it takes up a substantial amount of their time, is affecting their grades, health, or personal and social relationships), gaming addictions, or whatever – a locked door will be doing no one any favors.

    But here is the important thing: explain to your teen why their right to a lock is temporarily revoked and talk them through your point of view as a parent or guardian who only wants them to be healthy, happy, and safe. Let them know that you will reinstall the lock once they have shown you that they are able to keep up the responsibilities that come with the right.

    All of this varies case by case, and perhaps for internet/social media/gaming addictions, removal of the door lock is not necessary. You can ask your child to do their homework somewhere you can keep an eye on them, and to finish their chores, and get some exercise before returning to their room. Call them out once in a while to help you with something, or for a evening walk, or other family activity to make sure they aren’t sitting in front of a screen all the time, and help them develop hobbies to replace their addiction (e.g. signing them up for sports, volunteering, a musical instrument, anything they are interested in.)

    One quick thing to mention: please be consistent with your rules and parenting. As an adult, I know how busy life commitments can be even without children, and I can’t begin to imagine how hectic things are with children in the picture. But cycling between authoritarian punishments and uninvolved parenting would be one of the worst methods. Children would begin to see their parents and life in general as unpredictable, and difficult to trust, and trust is one of the most important things about family, and close relationships in general. To build trust, get to known your children well, value their opinions, try to understand them without judging, praise their accomplishments, help them solve and move forward from problems and downfalls, and always let them know that you’ll love them no matter what.

  11. IM JUST A TEEN WHO WANTS TO HAVE A WANK WITHOUT THE PARANOIA OF BEING WALKED IN ON OKAY? IM NOT DOING DRUGS, AND IF I WAS I WOULD FIND A NEW WAY TO BLOCK THE DOOR ANYWAY. I just want privacy man….

  12. I just want to know:
    I’ve lied to my mum (I’m Aussie) once with in a month and she took away my:PlayStation,tv and my door ⬅️
    ⬆️
    What do I do???

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