Do You Trust Your Teen?


I am one lucky traveler. While many of my friends and colleagues got caught in the winter storms last week, I managed to fly into Toronto right after all the cancellations and also had no problems on the return. I was speaking in Mississauga to a group of terrific parents from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School District.

Speaking of travelling.  I will be in Ottawa  in early May.  If you would like to take advantage of my proximity, let me know and I would be thrilled to work with you and your staff.

 Spring Break is just around the corner and suddenly your teens are going to want to socialize every day and night.  And you will be worried. What are they getting up to?  Many parents are tempted to pry into their activities. You want to check the messages on their smartphones, read their email, and go through pockets and purses.

This is never a good idea. Trust your teens and they will prove worthy of your trust. When they know you don’t trust them, they are likely to prove you right.

You need to know where they are going, who they will be with, how and when they are getting home. Then relax and let them enjoy their break.

Do You Trust Your Teen?

 Trust is a huge issue between parents and teens. One the one hand they are our children and need rules and consequences. They need active parenting. On the other hand, they require increasing amounts of freedom and the chance to create their own identity and live their own lives.

It’s a constant conundrum and probably one of the major challenges to raising teens.

Teens need to know that they are trusted. We need to believe that we have raised them to know the difference between right and wrong and that we can let them go without constant surveillance. It is actually more difficult to trust our kids today because we have the technology to keep better track of them. But, we should not be using it.

The best way to let our kids know that we trust them is to tell them. Come right out and simply say the words.

When we let our teens make decisions for themselves they start to experience the independence they are working toward and will need if they are going to become capable young men and women. They need to separate from us. That need is so essential that if we don’t allow them to assert their independence they are likely to rebel. It simply makes more sense to allow our teen to choose her own CD and which movie to watch than to be dealing with a child who may rebel by using drugs or shoplifting.

When our children are going out for an evening it’s not a good idea to grill them on every little detail. But, we do need to know where they are going, whom they will be with and how they are getting home. Those three questions are basic. But when we continue with a barrage of questions about every little detail they become frustrated and angry and believe we don’t trust them at all.

The same is true when we grill them after they get home. Often it’s not about trust, it’s simple curiosity.  But it’s best to just welcome them home and let them decide what to tell you and what to withhold.

Allowing teens to make decisions is another way to demonstrate your trust. Let them determine when they will do their homework or when they are tired and ready for bed.

The more we demonstrate that we trust our teens the more they will be trustworthy because they won’t want to let us down.

I have heard parents say that their teens need to earn their trust. When you do that you are giving them the message that you believe that it is likely that they are fundamentally untrustworthy and they must prove themselves to you before you will trust them.

It should be the absolute opposite. Your teen needs to know with certainty that you trust him.

You let her know that you trust her, and you let her make more of her own decisions. You do not ask too many questions either before or after an event and you are not constantly checking up on her while she’s away.

As long as they come home on time and you have heard no reports of any trouble, trust that they are behaving in a way that is positive and trustworthy.

Everybody makes mistakes and teens are no exception. They may break the trust. The first step is to realize that this is not something they did to you – it’s not personal. It is simply an error and should be treated as such.

Deal with this situation, talk to him about why it is a problem and why there needs to be consequences.

But then life will go on and he will again be your trustworthy child.

Bottom line, teens who are trusted by caring parents generally behave in ways that are correct and appropriate.

Bringing Parenting Today to your event.

Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.

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2 Responses to Do You Trust Your Teen?

  1. As a pediatrician who has been taking care of teens for many years and as a father of 4, all grown and successful adults, I applaud!!! You are right! I would like to add that trust doesn’t start at age 13. It starts at 5 or 6 when you let your child walk next door to play with his friend and tell him to be home by dinner time, or when ever, and he comes home. It builds when he starts school and you give him an alarm clock, show him how to use it and then allow him to set it every night and get up and get dressed the next morning without your help! And you continue to trust when he becomes a teen. Trust is one of the tools for effective parenting!
    Your’s is a wonderful column; I am so glad I found this site! I will send people to it.

  2. Dan Maier says:

    I’m more in the camp of “trust but verify”. I worry that blind trust could potentially leave kids in a bad situation where they might make life-altering decisions. And not every parent has a strong open communications relationship with their child (especially as they get into their teens, or if they become depressed or start using drugs). One approach I recommend that helps to extend the circle of trust is to monitor your kid’s text messaging. My friends and I created an Android mobile phone app to do this (you can check out the details of why here: The app monitors a child’s texting, and sends an alert to parents if there are mentions of things like sex, alcohol, drugs, bullying, or texting while driving. And we don’t spy on our kids – we have told them that we monitor their texting, and when needed, we talk with them about what we’re seeing. In our business, we see a lot of families with very challenging relationships with their children – this is another approach or tool to help.

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