Parenting Your Teenager: How to Build Trust

``Mom, can I go to the mall with my friend Jenny?''

``No, not after you came home late last night.''

``Well, everyone else gets to.''

``I don't care what everybody else gets to do; you can't.''

``You just don't trust me.''

``You've got to earn it.''

``I have.''

``No, you haven't.''

``Have, too.''

``Have not.''

SLAM! Etc.

If the above conversation sounds familiar, you're probably the parent of a teen-ager.

I especially like the ``everybody else gets to do it'' line. My parents' response was, ``If everyone else stood on their heads in the middle of the street at 3 a.m. in their underwear, would you?'' I probably would have.

I never understood what all that meant, but I do know that raising teen-agers can be an extremely challenging task. I have tremendous respect for the parents of the teens I work with in my practice.

Now don't get me wrong. Most teen-agers are OK people. The vast majority seem to stay out of the juvenile-justice system and eventually become adults.

It's just that most of the teen-agers I've worked with are 16 going on 26 and 16 going on 6, all at the same time.

Some families seem to go through the teen years with little or no struggle. Many others find these years one of the most challenging and, at times, maddening stages of family life.

Parents of teen-agers really try hard to navigate these difficult waters.

Trust or Bust

One of the areas that seems to be most difficult for them has to do with trust. Let's take a closer look at how trust operates in families with teen-agers, how it sometimes gets damaged and how it can be built back.

A few families seem to go along and never have any problems with, or damage done to, the trust between parents and kids. Others can really struggle with this issue.

Families sometimes get stuck because the parents see trust as an either/or situation. The teen lies, breaks curfew, experiments with drugs or does something that's damaging to trust. The parents feel they have lost all trust in their teen.

The problem, the sticking point, is: How do you rebuild trust from nothing? How can kids earn trust back?

The Way Back to Trust

Viewing trust as a matter of degree can help create a way back to a trusting relationship.

The first step is to think of a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least amount of trust, 10 the most. Let's say the teen has broken curfew by a few hours. Let's say that coming home late reduces the trust level from a 9 down to a 3. That's a gap of 6 trust levels.

Creating a plan to get back to a high trust level will be difficult if you try to go from a 3 to a 9 all at once. It's just too big a leap.

The next step is to talk about and agree on what changes and/or behaviors need to occur to go from a 3 to a 4, then from a 4 to a 5, a 5 to a 6 and so on.

In this way, several positive structures are set up: The parents have a way of monitoring their teen's progress and the teen has something to work toward. In addition, there's a built-in incentive for the teen.

In many families, trust is like a video game at the mall. In the video arcade, the more tokens you have, the more you can play. In much the same way, in families, the more trust you have, the more you can do.

At this stage, many parents will ask, ``How do I know things are really different, that I'm not getting fooled?''

That's an excellent question, and the best answer I can offer is: Simply watch and see if the behavior matches the words.

If it does, you're on the right track.

If the behavior doesn't match the words, then you know someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Leading parenting expert Jeff Herring is a teen and family therapist, parenting coach, speaker and syndicated parenting and relationship columnist. Jeff invites you to visit ParentingYourTeenager.com for 100's of tips and tools for parenting through the teenage years. You can also subscribe to his free weekly internet newsletter "ParentingYourTeenager."

In The News:

Allens puts parenting above profit in leave policy  The Australian Financial Review
How Children Evolved to Whine  The New York Times
Online advice on parenting  New Straits Times
Is Date Night a Scam?  The New York Times

Parents/Teens and Money ? 5 Ideas for Keeping the Peace

Children and teenagers are relentlessly bombarded with merchandise that entices.... Read More

Using Diet, Counseling, and Attend to Overcome ADHD

When it comes to the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity... Read More

Help Your Kids Learn More About Managing Their Personal Economy

Remember when cash was a tangible commodity in all of... Read More

Developing a Fantastic Relationship with Your Child

Here's a scene: A parent "might suddenly grab a happliy... Read More

Where to Look for Affordable Baby Clothes

Once the newness has worn off a little, you will... Read More

How Illiteracy Can Ruin Your Childs Life

It may seem obvious to many people why literacy is... Read More

Clean Slates and Fresh Starts

Hope, excitement and anxiety all wrapped up in fresh haircuts... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: 4 Dangerous Myths

MYTH: All teens have to rebel, and the teen years... Read More

Two Means Trouble

You have two kids who are 14 months apart. How... Read More

A Good Preschool Idea

The successful preschool idea behind many successful preschool learning centers... Read More

So, My Child Has Been Recommended for Testing - What Do I Do Now?

You've just received a call from your child's teacher. As... Read More

Fuzzy Names, Sweet Names

As with everything, names go through cycles of change with... Read More

Life Lessons Learned in My Underwear

For several years now, I've told the following story as... Read More

Organizing a Car Wash Fundraiser

The key to a successful car wash fundraiser event is... Read More

How To Entertain A Child While Working From A Home Office

There is no doubt that the benefits of being a... Read More

Top 25 Children Quotations

"You can learn many things from children. How much patience... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: Kids and Money

Most teens go into the work world ill-prepared to manage... Read More

How Fathers Can Step Up to Fathering

When our oldest son was 2, my wife went out... Read More

Guide To Choosing Educational Toys For Children

In the last few years, parents started getting more and... Read More

Encourage Your Children Potential By Your Modeling

All responsible parents would want to support their children, find... Read More

What You Can Learn About Life From Your Children

You can learn a lot from children.The best part of... Read More

Second Letter to My Daughter

Dear Camille,As I thumb through the photographs that I carry... Read More

Refresher Course on Diapering for Dads

It's among the top criticism wives have of their husbands:... Read More

Picky Eater Kid Nutritional Guidelines

Although many children are picky eaters at some stage in... Read More

Attaboy! Encouraging Phrases That Build Confidence

Home, home on the range, Where never is heard A... Read More