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Parenting Your Teenager: The Trust Issue

Q. How do we decide what our teens should be able to do? How do they earn trust and responsibility?

A. Good questions. One way is to determine how much trust the teen-ager has earned.

To use a banking metaphor, if the teen-ager has made enough deposits in the ``trust bank,'' then he or she has earned the privilege of making a few withdrawals - that is, the teen has earned more responsibility and freedom.

Another way is what I call the ``enough rope to grow yourself'' approach. Teen-agers need room to grow, so that they and their parents can learn what they can handle.

Parents can follow this approach up by using what I call the six criteria for managing adolescents:

1) The parents are clearly in charge.

2) Teens, over time, learn and earn the ability to be more and more in charge of themselves.

3) There is a clear plan for continually building trust and responsibility.

4) The parents have a way to monitor the progress of teens.

5) There are clear consequences when a teen demonstrates that he or she cannot be in charge of him or herself (just like in the real world).

6) There is a plan for how to earn back trust and responsibility.

Using this method, parents don't let the teen move from little or no responsibility to complete freedom and responsibility.

Let's say, for example, the teen wants to go to the movies just with friends, with no adults, for the first time.

This can be structured so the teen leaves home right before the movie and come home right after, at least the first time.

If teens demonstrate they can handle that much trust and responsibility, then they get to go again, perhaps for a little longer next time.

But if they demonstrate they cannot handle this much freedom, then the parents pull back a bit. A teen would then have to earn back some trust by making a few more deposits in the trust bank.

By using these criteria for managing teen-agers, parents are able to make decisions based on trust and objectivity.

And that method's a whole lot better than going along with ``everyone else gets to do it. Why can't I?''

Visit ParentingYourTeenager.com for tips and tools for thriving during the teen years. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 5 day e-program on The Top 5 Things to Never Say to Your Teenager, from parenting coach and expert Jeff Herring .

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