Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
A lack of trust in a parent-child relationship is manifested through various behaviours. Whether it is stealing money, sneaking out at night, punching holes through walls, or not keeping promises, it is all a sign the level of trust in your relationship with your child can be improved.
Trust, of course, is a 2-way road and it’s difficult for one person to trust another if the other person is not behaviourally or verbally reliable. While your teen may trust that you will provide food, a home, and clothes the story does not end there. Teens also need to trust that mom and dad will be there and react compassionately when they make a mistake, they need mom and dad to spend quality time with them and not pass them over for work or other responsibilities, they need mom and dad to ask about what is going on in life and be genuinely interested, they need mom and dad to keep their word, they need to have family dinners together regularly where positive talk takes place and good stories are exchanged, they need mom and dad to provide a safe home without constant hostility or arguments, and they need mom and dad to discipline behaviour that is out of hand. All these things demonstrate care and as a result build trust.
Many times, when teens do not get adequate attention from one or both parents, they misinterpret the behaviour as a lack of care. In order to regain some of that attention they will then engage in questionable behaviour that often elicits a response from mom or dad (or both). After all, any kind of attention can be better than no attention.
Tips to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Teen
Having a trust is important; it is the major building block to any relationship. It solidifies the attachment between you and your child and it promotes compliance and reduces rebellion.
Recognizing this, here are simple tips to help improve the trust between you and your teen.
1. Make the initial move: When re-building trust, it is usually the job of the parent to make the first move. Some parents wait for teens to make the first move, thinking their teens have to show they are interested in change. As a parent you need to set the example first. When unsure of how to deal with the situation, teens may behave in a way that will worsen the situation.
2. Open lines of communication: Communication is an important step to many things and this includes building trust. It is difficult to enhance your trust if you are not communicating your perspectives and what is going on in each other’s lives.
3. Keep your promises: Many times both parents and teens will make promises and then cancel due to lack of time, misbehaviour, other more appealing social activities, etc. This is the easiest way to reduce trust in each other. Just as teens need to keep their promises to their parents, parents need to keep their promises to their teens.
4. Respect: Treating each other and speaking to each other (and about each other) with respect is important to building trust. It is difficult to develop a trusting relationship if you’re spoken to disrespectfully or if you overhear your parent (or your child) badmouthing you.
5. Patience: Building a trusting relationship happens over time. It is easy for wrong action to cancel out the last 7 good actions. At times you may feel like your relationship is progressing and at other times you may feel it is disintegrating. During these times, it is important you keep your positive and hopeful mentality and continue with your plan of building a trusting relationship. Your effort overtime will bring good results.
6. Consistency: For a trusting relationship to develop there must be consistency (or reliability) in the relationship. The more often each of you demonstrates that you can be trusted, the more likely you will be trusted. Consistency strengthens every relationship.
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto