As a teenager, I can say that in one way or another, most teen-parent altercations come down to trust. Whether it’s the violation of trust, the loss of trust, or the refusal to give trust, most parents and teens are forever battling over what this element of confidence means in their relationship toward one another.
Trust needs to be maintained by parents and teens on both sides of the parent-child relationship, and what is often overlooked is that teens need to be able to trust their parents, just as parents need to be able to trust their teenage children. As a result of this, my first tip is for parents:
Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Nothing is more insufferable than when your parents give you permission to go somewhere with your friends, only to take it back when you’re all dressed and ready to go…except, maybe, when they say no, you’ve resigned to their refusal, and then they suddenly decide that you can go, but by now it’s too late to get a ride or get to the movie on time or whatever your specific situation entails.
It seems silly, but your teen needs to be able to trust that whatever you say to them means exactly what it sounds like. If you’re constantly giving permission only to yank it away at the last minute, you end up with an irritable teen who is far more likely to sneak out of the house behind your back or lie about where he or she is going… thus breaking your trust. It’s a little tricky, but this is a perfect example of how a trustful relationship between parents and teens is give and take, because teens need to abide by this rule as well.
If you’re going to a party at A’s house…but also probably going to pick up B and C and then get a bite at McDonald’s afterwards, you have tell your parents that. Omission is lying, and lying is the number one way to break someone’s trust. If your parents entrust something to you (the house when they’re away for the weekend, the car after school…) or give you permission to something that you’re normally not allowed to do (stay out an hour past curfew, drive at night…), don’t abuse their kindness and do more than what you’ve let them know you’ll do. Have the few friends over that you told them about but don’t throw an all-out raging party. Make sure to leave a little early so you don’t get home past your already extended curfew. Do what you say you’ll do. Your parents will reward you for it by trusting you more!
Saying what you mean is important, but at the same time…
If your parent annoys you by repeatedly being hot and cold about letting you leave the house, don’t let that frustrate you until you start deliberately ignoring their rules and disobeying them. Approach each new situation as separate from the last one, and if this becomes a pattern, discuss with them why they’re doing this and perhaps you can come to a conclusion on how to avoid this problem.
The same is true for parents about their teens. If your child violates your trust by sneaking out or something of that sort, you owe it to them to allow them a free pass (or a few passes!). Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re going through adolescence. Rarely will your child do something just to disobey you. Talk to them about why that event was so important to him or her than he or she felt the need to act despite your permission, and you’ll probably be able to come to a reasonable conclusion between the two of you.
And last but certainly not least…
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
It seems logical to make someone work for your trust before giving it to them, but between the parent and child, this kind of thought can be counterproductive. Until your child violates your trust, give them all that you can. Your teen will see this as a gift and act accordingly—no one wants to waste something they’ve been given for free! This mentality is usually harder to instill in parents toward their children, as teens tend to grow up feeling trusting toward their parents. But if not, it is important for a healthy relationship to start it with the highest level of trust, not the lowest. It is a much more productive starting point for all.
Image via arikhanson.com
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