Young People Ask
Why Don’t My Parents Trust Me?
“I wish my parents would let me venture out a little. It’s not that I want to go explore the world. I’d just like to be able to visit my aunt, for example, without my mom worrying that I’m thinking about leaving home.”—Sarah, 18.*
“I’m always asking my parents why they don’t trust me when I want to go out with a group of friends. Often they tell me: ‘We trust you. We just don’t trust your friends.’ It really bothers me when they say that!”—Christine, 18.
TRUST is a lot like money. Earning it is hard, losing it is easy, and no matter how much you’re given, it never seems to be enough. “Whenever I want to go out,” says 16-year-old Iliana, “my parents bombard me with questions about where I’m going, the people I’m going with, what I’ll be doing, and when I’ll be back. I know they’re my parents, but it irritates me when they question me like that!”
Do you feel at times that your parents could trust you more? If so, what can you do about it? First, let’s look at why trust is such a hot-button topic between many parents and youths.
The Bible acknowledges that “a man will leave his father and his mother.” (Genesis 2:24) Of course, the same can be said of a woman. Whether you’re a boy or a girl, a vital objective of adolescence is to prepare you for adulthood—the time when you’ll be equipped to leave home and perhaps raise a family of your own.
However, the transition to adulthood isn’t like a door that you simply walk through when you reach a certain age. It’s more like a stairway that you climb, step by step, throughout your adolescence. Granted, you and your parents may have conflicting opinions as to just how far you’ve progressed up that stairway. “I’m 20 years old, and this is still an issue,” says Maria, who feels that she’s not trusted when it comes to her choice of friends. “My parents think that I wouldn’t have the strength to walk away from a bad situation. I’ve tried telling them that I have already walked away from bad situations, but that’s not good enough for them!”
As Maria’s comments reveal, the issue of trust can be a source of considerable tension between youths and parents. Is that true in your family? If so, how can you earn greater trust from your parents? And if you’ve lost their trust because of some unwise actions on your part, what can you do to repair the damage?
Prove Yourself Trustworthy
The apostle Paul wrote to first-century Christians: “Keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) True, he wasn’t primarily addressing adolescents. Still, the principle applies. The degree to which you’re accorded trust often matches the degree to which you prove yourself trustworthy. Not that you have to be perfect. After all, everyone makes mistakes. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Overall, though, does your pattern of behavior give your parents reason to withhold their trust?
For example, Paul wrote: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Ask yourself, ‘What kind of track record do I have when it comes to being up front with my parents about my whereabouts and activities?’ Consider the comments of a few youths who have had to take a hard look at themselves in this regard.
Lori: “I was secretly e-mailing a boy I liked. My parents found out about it and told me to stop. I promised that I would, but I didn’t. This went on for a year. I’d e-mail the boy, my parents would find out, I’d apologize and promise to stop, but then I’d do it again. It got to the point that my parents couldn’t trust me with anything!”
Why, do you think, did Lori’s parents withhold their trust, and how could Lori have behaved more responsibly after her parents first talked to her about the problem? Write your answer below.
Beverly: “My parents didn’t trust me when it came to boys, but now I can understand why. I was flirting with a couple of them who were two years older than I was. I was also spending long hours on the phone with them, and at gatherings I’d talk to them and almost no one else. My parents took away my phone for a month, and they wouldn’t let me go places where those boys would be.”
Why, do you think, did Beverly’s parents withhold their trust for a time, and what could she have done to repair the damage?
Annette: “When I was in middle school, a friend and I each took a beer home from a gathering—although we knew that our parents would not approve—and decided to drink it later just for fun. My friend’s beer can was discovered by her mother. Then it came out that I had one too. The worst part of it was the look of disappointment on my mother’s face!”
If Annette were your younger sister, what advice would you give her so that she could regain the trust of your mom?
What if, like the youths quoted above, your actions have contributed to your parents’ lack of trust? Even if that’s the case, be assured that you can turn the tide. But how?
Likely your parents will accord you greater trust as you build up a record of responsible behavior. To illustrate: Imagine a man who owes money to a bank. If he makes payments regularly, he’ll earn the bank’s trust and the bank may even extend more credit to him in the future. It’s similar at home. If you prove trustworthy—even in small things—your parents are likely to trust you more in the future.
Annette came to understand that fact. “When you’re younger,” she says, “you don’t fully appreciate the importance of being trusted. Now I feel more responsible, and I feel compelled to act in a way that will help me retain my parents’ trust.” The lesson? Rather than complain about your parents’ lack of trust in you, focus on building up a record of trustworthy behavior.
For example, are you dependable in the areas listed below? Check the box next to any traits you need to work on.
□ Keeping my curfew
□ Being punctual
□ Finishing chores
□ Keeping my room clean
□ Using the phone
□ Following through on my promises
□ Being financially responsible
□ Getting out of bed without prodding
□ Speaking the truth
□ Admitting mistakes and apologizing
□ Other ․․․․․
Why not make a personal resolve to prove yourself trustworthy in the areas you checked off? Follow the admonition found in the Bible: “Put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct.” (Ephesians 4:22) “Let your Yes mean Yes.” (James 5:12) “Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” (Ephesians 4:25) “Be obedient to your parents in everything.” (Colossians 3:20) In time, your advancement will be manifest to others, including your parents.—1 Timothy 4:15.
But what if you feel that despite your best efforts, your parents aren’t giving you the trust you deserve? Why not talk over the matter with them? Instead of complaining that they need to be more trusting, respectfully ask them what they think you need to do to earn their trust. Explain your goals clearly in this regard.
Don’t expect your parents to make concessions immediately. No doubt they’ll want to make sure that you’ll make good on your promises. Use this opportunity to prove yourself trustworthy. In time, your parents may well accord you greater trust. That was the case with Beverly, quoted earlier. “It’s much harder to gain trust than it is to lose it,” she says, adding, “I’m gaining trust right now, and it feels good!”
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Names in this article have been changed.
TO THINK ABOUT
▪ Why might your parents hesitate to accord you greater trust even when you work hard to prove yourself trustworthy?
▪ Why is communication with your parents vital if you are to earn greater trust?
[Blurb on page 29]
Focus on building up a record of trustworthy behavior
[Diagram/Picture on page 28]
The transition to being a trusted adult is like a stairway that you climb, step by step, throughout adolescence
(For fully formatted text, see publication)