One of the biggest challenges facing a parent is deciding how much to trust your children. Trust is an essential factor in any human relationship, and it’s what allows love and affection to flourish. The problem with trust is that it’s easy to overdo it. That’s why every parent should be focused on finding the proper balance.
If you don’t trust your teenager at all, then you’re sure to create a culture of resentment within the home. The child will take your wariness as a personal front, and they’ll stop thinking of you as someone they can turn to. If you trust your teen unconditionally, then you’re liable to be taken advantage of. Even good kids can be tempted to make poor choices, and a healthy amount of suspicion can help you identify developing issues before they get out of hand.
Ultimately, every parent needs to understand that trust must be earned. If your child consistently shows that they’re capable of carrying out certain tasks without issues, then give them the trust they deserve. If your kid lets you down, make them earn your trust back before you give it to them.
Someone can only abuse the level of trust we give them. By withholding trust until your teenager shows that they deserve it, you save yourself from needless emotional scars.
Different Levels of Trust
Trust isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many levels of trust that you could potentially give to your teenager. A total lack of trust will cause unnecessary problems in the child-parent relationship, while unconditional trust is nothing but naivety. Ultimately, it’s best to take a position somewhere in between these two extremes.
When a parent has zero trust for their child, it leads to an overbearing and dictatorial parenting style. Some parents never let their teenagers go out unsupervised. Others make a point of monitoring their kid as much as possible, reading text messages and checking belongings for drugs and alcohol. This complete lack of trust has a detrimental effect on the child and stunts their emotional development.
With transactional trust, two parties trust each other as long as both sides hold up their end of the bargain. Perhaps your child wants more freedom to go out with their friends in the neighborhood. You can trust them to do this as long as they act in good faith and don’t cause any trouble. This is a sound model for developing a positive relationship with your child.
With reciprocal trust, both parties cultivate confidence in the relationship by trusting each other. In the context of parenting, this means that you and your child will both expect the other to act properly. You’ll trust your kid to stay out of trouble, and your kid will trust you to respect their privacy and give them the benefit of the doubt. Reciprocal trust is important to the child-parent relationship, but you shouldn’t allow it to cloud your judgment or blind you to your teenager’s transgressions.
To trust someone unconditionally is to believe them even after they’ve let you down. This is almost always a recipe for disaster. Parents are meant to be loving and trusting, but they’re also authority figures. Teenagers are not yet fully developed, and they need their parents to enforce the rules. By giving your child unconditional trust, you’re inviting them to take advantage of you while limiting your ability to steer them in the right direction. The best bet is to allow teenagers to build and earn our trust rather than just unconditionally trust them.
Trusting in Different Areas
Parents should remember that trust can be applied differently in every aspect of a child’s life. If we don’t trust them in one area we still may trust them in another so it is important to not link all the trust under one criteria. Imagine that your kid gets into trouble after school but always completes their homework on time. In response, you should withhold trust when it comes to after-school behavior while maintaining confidence in your kid’s ability to keep up on their academics. This case-by-case approach allows you to give trust when necessary while withholding it when it could prove harmful.