Trust is a changing scale. (Desiree Panlilio).
“What were you thinking!!!” I know as a parent each of us has thought that, perhaps said it out loud, and if we are honest in more than one situation. It is all about the next move that matters. Teens are trying to figure out who they are, and they will push the limits. After all, were you any different? What you can change is the response and how you and your teen work together to restore trust and the relationship. The challenge of parenting a teen is to allow them appropriate opportunities for exploration, to test their values, critical thinking, and susceptibility to peer influence while keeping them safe within the values you uphold as a parent and society at large. Wow, what a huge task, no wonder our parents were exhausted at the end of the day.
Our teen will stray beyond our rules, even when they know the consequences. Is your teen starting to push boundaries to test their independence? Depending on the impact of their actions, you should work with them to decide on appropriate consequences, which could range from a simple chat about your expectations, through to removal of privileges while they show that they can rebuild trust. Remember that as a parent, you’re the most important role model in your teen’s life, and it’s vital that you demonstrate honesty and trustworthiness, in order to teach your child how you expect them to behave. As a parent you want to make sure that your relationship with your teen remains strong, even when they have “messed up”. As a parent you never want your teen to feel that they have lost your respect or that you do not think they are a good person. The focus needs to be on the poor choice of behavior, not on the character of your teen. If we are being honest we all make bad choices throughout our life, but as we grow older we understand the consequences of our behavior and can decide if it is worth the risk? We have all been late to or skipped out on a meeting for many reasons but we evaluated the consequence and decided it was worth it. We were using the critical thinking skills our teens are building now and the ability to evaluate the cost and benefits of their choices. What can we do as parents?
Talk to them about the importance of honesty and trust, but also make sure it’s reflected in your actions. Discuss family values and behavior. Decide on consequences that are appropriate to the situation. Decide the consequences together, and explain the reasoning behind the consequence. I know parents want to call it discipline, grounding, being hard on them to teach a lesson or tough love. All may be necessary in specific circumstances, but all of your teens’ choices that end in them breaking trust with you as a parent need to be discussed. It is an opportunity to discuss the meaning of trust, how you build trust once it is broken. Trust is a sliding scale and it is important to know that your love for your teen is unconditional and what your teen needs to work on is rebuilding trust and making better choices when confronted with the next situation. As a parent of teen’s we are all aware that there will be a next time, it is all about your teen learning who they are, what they value, how to create and enforce boundaries and to have parents that love them but hold their behavior to the highest standard and expect growth and change after a lapse in judgment. If your child repeatedly breaks your trust without showing any signs of remorse, or if they show self-destructive behaviors, it might be time to seek help from a professional, such as a counselor or psychologist, as this could indicate other underlying issues.
Parents often ask what to say to your teen at the end of one of those conversations where trust is broken and consequences are handed down. I will share one ending conversation, but make it your own. ”My goal as your parent is for you to become the wonderful person I know you are destined to be. To get there, you will make mistakes as we all do. These mistakes do not define you or make me love you less. Privileges are earned with responsibility. You have temporarily lost a privilege because of your behavior. As we discussed, you will have to ____(fill in, e.g. be without the car for five days) as your consequence. After which we will discuss expectations so that I know you are ready for this privilege again.”