This article was written by Youth Advisory Board member Kerrivah Heard with contributions by fellow member Paul Burdett.
Build Trust by Being Responsible
Have you ever wanted to do something, but your parents wouldn’t let you because they didn’t trust you? How did you respond? Part of being a teen is about learning to manage life on our own. It is about increasing our independence and stretching in new directions. Parents are supposed to keep us safe and help us make smart decisions. This means they should be watching us. But it also means they should let us stretch, even if we make mistakes along the way.
So, what gives our parents the confidence to let us broaden our horizons and experience more of life independently? We have to build trust and show we are ready to handle life responsibly.
When we show our parents we are responsible, we prove ourselves worthy of increased privileges. We build trust. Read on for strategies to gain more freedom to do the things you want to do, while still respecting your parents and their rules.
Show You’re Responsible and Build Trust
It’s important that you respect rules and boundaries your parents put in place. If you’re given a curfew, be home on time. If you’re supposed to report to your after-school program after the final bell, do that. Being rebellious may force your parents to set more boundaries instead of increasing your independence. You may feel more independent in the short-term but rebellion can have long-term consequences.
When you ask your parents for permission to go somewhere, be prepared to provide details. Answer any questions they may ask about including the date, time, and location of the event. Share a bit of what you expect to be doing. This shows your parents you have thought through your plans.
Be Honest When Mistakes Happen:
No one’s perfect. We all lose things and make mistakes. We grow when we use mistakes as learning opportunities. Don’t be afraid to tell your parents that you made a mistake. Talk to them about what you learned. Tell them about what steps you will take in the future to avoid similar mistakes. For example, if you’re going to miss curfew, update your parents on why you’ll be home late. They might be frustrated, but they won’t worry that something bad might have happened. This will ultimately work in your favor because you took the time to let them know you’re safe. When you get home, be prepared to discuss an action plan for how to make sure you can get home by curfew next time.
Your parents won’t know what’s going on in your life unless you give them a glimpse into your world. If they ask, “How’s math class going?” offer more than, “Fine,” as a response. Tell them about reading, public speaking, and track practice as well. Over-communicating will leave your parents with fewer questions while letting you influence the depth of your relationship.
More Trust Means More Flexibility
Parents are not against you having a good time. They set boundaries out of concern for your well-being and out of a duty to help you grow. They may never stop caring about your safety but their confidence in your ability to manage yourself will develop over time. Be patient. This process takes time. The more they trust you, the more they’ll let you do. The more they let you do, the more prepared you’ll be for an adult life.
Thoughts From Members of the Youth Advisory Board
“Believe it or not, one way to get more privileges is by demonstrating responsibility. As hard as it can be to believe, your parents were once actually teens too! They know that teens make mistakes, and in general, their goal is to discipline rather than punish. But they also want to see that you treat the freedom you have with respect, and if you do, they’ll be much more willing to offer you more freedom if you ask.
Try this: When you want something, and your parents say you can’t handle it, go to them and show them you can handle it (if you actually can). Do keep in mind that this strategy can backfire, so don’t ask for something you can’t handle, because then it won’t work. Ask for the easier stuff you can handle and build trust upon it. Hopefully, if you follow this strategy, one day soon you’ll be able to say to your parents: ‘I showed you that I can handle (fill in the blank); now let me show you what else I can handle too.’”