Within the parenting research literature there is a body of research literature called, "Parental Monitoring." In many of the articles written, "parental monitoring" is defined as an act or behavior of the parent. It is measured, however, as how much the parent knows about what their child/adolescent is doing.
Did you catch the mismatch? Define it one way and measure it another way. This mismatch has caused confusion and not a few false assumptions. It was assumed that parents came to know what their adolesent children were doing was mostly because of something that parents were doing. That was a big fat assumption.
What was missing for the longest time was HOW parents came to know things. Since the word "monitoring" was used in so many studies, it was assumed that parents came to know what their children (mainly adolescents) were doing. Parental knowledge came by way of something the parents did.
However, recent studies have said, "Hey, parental monitoring is one thing and parental knowledge is another. Let's measure knowledge and call it knowledge. And while we're at it, let's not assume parents know things because parents do things."
What has emerged is a terrific collection of studies that have found out something that is pretty dramaitc. Parental knowledge is more a function of what the adolesent does, not what the parent does. Parental knowledge comes from adolescent self-disclosure more than from any other source.
That is not just a major difference, it is a complete reversal from previous assumptions. The locus of control over information about the lives of adolescents rests with the adolescents, and not the parents. This research makes a whole lot of sense if you think about it. If an adolescent doesn't want to talk, that kid won't talk. If a teen wants to hide the truth, guess what? The truth will remain hid.
So, what power does a parent have if parental knowledge is in the hands of the child? Quite a bit actually. What the parent must do is create the kind of relationship wherein the adolescent would want to self-disclose. This relationship pattern should be begin before the child is an adolescent. It should begin at birth and continue on forever.
Parents have a whole lot of influence and power with their adolescent children, but it is not forced or imposed as much as parents might like believe (or how some research might imply).
What kind of relatinoship do you think results in adolescent self-disclosure?