Every parent wants to have the teenage years go by smoothly and without a glitch. They envision the episodes of “Full House” where the children sit and talk openly to their parents about their problems and concerns, and visualize this loving bond between them and their teenager. But then there is reality–a teenager that is secretive, quiet, and seemingly angry at the world. How do you learn to trust your teenager, without becoming a controlling parent that ends up pushing their child away even more?
Before controlling your child, you need to learn to trust them. Until your teenagers make a mistake, they won’t learn a lesson. And while the last thing you want to end up dealing with is a pregnant teenager, you need to understand that little mistakes can lead to learning opportunities to help them avoid the bigger ones.
Building trust is essential. Even when your child is younger, you need to demonstrate to them that you are someone they can trust and come to with their problems. But you need to remember not to judge and make decisions for them. If your daughter comes up to you and tells you about a boy she likes, instead of saying, “you’re not dating at all until you’re 18!” or, “boys are trouble, stay away!” discuss why she likes him, what feelings she has for him, and give her some advice accordingly. After that, let her use her best judgment. Even if her “best judgment” isn’t *your* judgment, a little mistake such as picking the wrong boyfriend can be made into a lesson. Once your daughter knows that you will not judge her, control her, or make decisions for her, she will be more likely to come to you in the future. This is how you gain trust.
Once you have gained trust, you will not have to “control.” Controlling a child by telling them what they can and cannot do, no if’s, and’s, or but’s, just leads to trouble. We’ve all heard the horror stories, such as Romeo and Juliet. Trying to keep someone from something just makes them want it more.
Other parents hold this same mentality when it comes to activities such as drinking and sex. Some parents understand that no matter what they say or do, their teenagers may still end up drinking and having sexual intercourse. But when parents have a trusting relationship with their children, they know enough to at least talk to their kids about the consequences of both, and let them know that you appreciate responsibility. For example, if your child ends up at a friend’s house and starts drinking, and calls you asking for you to come get them for a ride home, it is essential that you do so. When you pick them up, tell them that you do not appreciate the fact that they were drinking, but you commend them for being responsible enough to turn to you for a safe ride home. After the tension has worn down, perhaps the next day or a few days later, then you need to take control and address the situation and the consequences when you’re in a calmer frame of mind. This kind of parenting helps with creating boundaries, while continuing to build trust and communication between the parent and child.
While everyone parents their children differently, this is a parenting technique to consider. While everyone wants to be their children’s best friend, they need to be the adult sometimes, too. But finding that perfect balance between trusting and controlling can make all the difference in the relationship that you have with your teenager today and into the future.