How Can I Earn More Freedom?
“I wish my parents would let me venture out a little.”—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.’”—Christine, 18.
LIKE Sarah and Christine, do you yearn for more freedom? To get it, you’ll need to gain the trust of your parents. But trust is a lot like money. Earning it is hard, losing it is easy, and no matter how much you’re given, it may never seem 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!”
What can you do to get your parents to trust you more and give you more freedom? Before answering that question, 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 male or a female, 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 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 freedom 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. After you’ve read their comments, answer the questions listed below.
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 where my parents couldn’t trust me with anything!”
Why, do you think, did Lori’s parents withhold their trust? ․․․․․
If you were Lori’s parent, what would you have done, and why? ․․․․․
How could Lori have behaved more responsibly after her parents first talked to her about the problem? ․․․․․
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.”
If you were Beverly’s parents, what would you have done, and why? ․․․․․
Do you think the restrictions that Beverly’s parents placed on her were unreasonable? If so, why? ․․․․․
What could Beverly have done to restore her parents’ trust? ․․․․․
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 and freedom as you build up a record of responsible behavior. Annette came to appreciate 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. You will likely earn more freedom.
For example, are you dependable in the areas listed below? Put a ✔ in the box next to any traits you need to work on.
□ Keeping my curfew
□ Following through on my promises
□ Being punctual
□ Being financially responsible
□ Finishing chores
□ Getting out of bed without prodding
□ Keeping my room clean
□ Speaking the truth
□ Using the phone or computer in a balanced way
□ Admitting mistakes and apologizing
□ Other ․․․․․
Why not make a personal resolve to prove yourself trustworthy in the areas you indicated? Follow the admonition of 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 freedom 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 and freedom. 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!”
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 2, CHAPTER 22
Have your parents divorced? How can you keep your balance when your world seems to have fallen apart?
For more information, see Chapter 7 of this book.
“You must not use your freedom as an excuse for doing wrong.”—1 Peter 2:16, Contemporary English Version.
Rather than compare your present restrictions with the freedom an older sibling may have, compare the restrictions you used to have when you were younger with the freedom you have now.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Unlimited freedom is not a sign of parental love but of parental neglect.
I will be more trustworthy in the following areas: ․․․․․
If I lose my parents’ trust, I will ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why might your parents hesitate to give you greater freedom even when you work hard to prove yourself trustworthy?
● How does your ability to communicate with your parents affect their willingness to give you more freedom?
[Blurb on page 24]
“When talking to my parents, I am open about my problems and concerns. I think this makes it easier for them to trust me.”—Dianna
[Diagram/Picture on page 23]
The transition to becoming a trusted adult is like a stairway that you climb, step-by-step, throughout adolescence
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