Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Real Trust - no strings attached

It's around 1:00 a.m. and my 14 year old opens my bedroom door, waking me up.  A couple of her friends have asked if she can go drive around and listen to music with them.  I say yes.  I hear her head out the door a short time later and then I'm back to sleep.  I didn't hear her come back in, and when I woke up once during the wee hours I didn't go check her bed. 

I didn't ask for details, I didn't tell her what time to be home.  I did tell her to get $5 out of her dad's wallet in case they stopped for food, and suggested the 24 hour grocery store up the road.  She had a wonderful time.  She spent an hour and a half with three of her friends, ages 15, 17 and 20.   They drove to the friends' house to pick up a few things and then they drove the long way back to our house, while listening to music.  No deviant behavior.  No scary risk taking.  Friends, hanging out, enjoying each others company.  At least one of teens' moms knew what was going on because they were using her van, with permission.  My husband was aware of the request to go out, but he went back to sleep and didn't find out any of the details until morning.

Could that happen at your house?  Would your teen trust you enough to ask if she could go out in the middle of the night with friends?  Would your teen not ask and not go out, know that interrupting your sleep and making such a request would result in yelling, scolding, or worse?  Would your teen not bother to ask and slip out for a few hours without your knowledge?  Would your teen tell you which friends he was really going to be with?  Would she provide a fictitious plan for where she was going in order to get permission to get out of the house?

When your teen wants to do anything with their friends at any time of day or night do they have to negotiate?  Do you need to have control over where they are going, what they are doing and who they are with?  Do they have to be back at a certain time, arbitrarily set by you?  Do you wait up until they get home, pacing the floor, waiting to give them hell if they walk in the door one minute late?  Do you tell them they have to earn your trust and that if they get home late that shows they can't be trusted?

If the above describes what goes on in your house then your teen already knows that you don't trust him.  Your teen is fully aware that you need to be in control and that you don't trust her to make good choices or be responsible without considerable input and manipulation on your part.  I described the consequences of that lack of trust very clearly in my post "What can your teen tell you?"  Your teen does not need to earn your trust.  Trust is the natural result of a respectful relationship and your unconditional love.  Teens who have a trusting relationship with the adults in their lives are teens who do not need to lie or sneak around behind their parents' back.  Teens and parents who have this kind of relationship do not argue because they do not grapple for power and control.  When my daughter asked to go out I could say yes because I not only trusted her, but I also trusted her friends.  I knew that her friends would be respectful of her feelings and would do everything in their power to return her home safely after their adventures.  I have a relationship with her friends, too.  I like her friends!  We are friends on facebook and we all watch Glee together on Tuesday nights.       

In my blog post "Trust" I wrote about trust in our relationships with our children from infancy onward.

In "The other side of trust" I wrote about how our children need to be able to trust us.

If trust is not a natural part of your relationship with your teen, or your children no matter what their ages, take a moment to click on those links and read more.

7 comments:

  1. When your teen wants to do anything with their friends at any time of day or night do they have to negotiate? Do you need to have control over where they are going, what they are doing and who they are with? Do they have to be back at a certain time, arbitrarily set by you? Do you wait up until they get home, pacing the floor, waiting to give them hell if they walk in the door one minute late? Do you tell them they have to earn your trust and that if they get home late that shows they can't be trusted....

    Sounds of my childhood. So what did I do? Sneak out and lie, yeah real great but I had to survive. I couldn't wait to turn 18 and be out from under the *rule*

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  2. Wow. Best blog article I think I've ever read, Jenna. I do trust my teen, although we've never yet been in a position to have this conversation, based on where we currently live.

    I'd like to hope that given this situation, it would go just like this. Sadly, I am quite certain this would never happen at his dad's house, but I could be mistaken, and again, I'd like to hope that it could.

    What you've written here gives me much to think about for when this situation does come up in the future as it at some point surely will. As I said above, I want it to be just like this.

    Thanks so much for sharing your picture of the way a trusting relationship can really be.

    As for me, I just snuck out the window.. and was never caught (never have ever told, never will). I was so very fortunate that I never tried drugs or alcohol, in spite of the guys I hung out with, who were much older than me. And, I'm so very fortunate and thankful that I never got pregnant. I was 14, just like your teen is.

    Again, thank you for a wonderfully written post, and for sharing such a vivid picture of your own family life.

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  3. If I did say yes, I would be awake the whole time.I would likely just worry about tired drivers, distracted teens behind the wheel, other people leaving bars and driving, carjacking and a host of other scenarios that would sound to my teen like I was trying to be a killjoy. But there are things that are just more dangerous in the middle of the night. Not to mention the environmental impact of driving around in a gas-guzzling van for fun.
    It all seems like an unnecessary risk to me.

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  4. @Anonymous, Fear makes our world smaller, joy makes our world bigger. We can look at the world and cower from every possible danger or we can look at the world and embrace the opportunities.

    Perhaps reading my post "Fears - yours, not theirs" will give you a better understanding of my perspective :).

    My daughter is not a risk taker so I'm thrilled that she's having the opportunity for more adventures as she grows older!

    In this case the driver was 20 and is very responsible. It was a Sunday night, which is not a big night for drinking, and there were very few other cars out. Carjacking??

    3 of the 4 teens are long time vegetarians, they shop at second hand shops and Goodwill instead of at the mall, they have a limited number of techno gadgets, far fewer than the average teen. Both of our families only have one car. They have a van because they regularly transport 6 or 7 people places An hour and a half of driving so that friends can spend time together, we live 25 minutes away, is not going to cancel out all the good things our families do for the planet.

    What is unnecessary risk for one person is probably incredibly boring to another. If my teen is comfortable with a situation that's what matters. If she is ever not comfortable in a situation she knows I'll be there to support her, even if it means driving somewhere to pick her up in the middle of the night. :)

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  5. I find the thought of a carjacker being interested in my van hilarious. That's all. <3

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  6. It amuses me because my 18 yo and all of her 18 and 19 yo friends do not have licenses and have no interest in driving! BUT my kids go out and walk in the night. :) I love my teens!

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  7. I used to have a friend who didn't have a phone whose house I told my folks I stayed at... usually stayed at my boyfriend's house... (this was back when landline phones were the norm & pay phones were available)... also I was known to hang out right outside the door of our apartment until it was time for my curfew to end...meh!

    I love & trust my teens, tho we do have some issues since we live in a small town & there are nosy neighbors who have told our landlady that there are "teens walking the street at all hours"... I shared that info with them, not to be controlling, but so they knew... still not entirely sure how to handle this stuff...landlady suggested that they walk the other way if they're going to be out that late.. problem is, the other direction is not where various houses are! Oh well...

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