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Helping parents raise healthy and responsible kids.

Chapter Six Excerpt : It’s Not About NOT Trusting Them

Chapter Six: It’s Not About NotTrusting Them, It’s Just About Doing Your Job

It’s hard to say “no.” It’s hard to feel old. It’s hard to sound like your parents. And who knows, maybe you really have ruined their last chance at a social life. Is it really worth all the drama we’re going to have to deal with? Ultimately the decision is up to you. The structure I place around my kids reflects my values, my level of anxiety, my best assessment of my kids maturity, and—to be perfectly honest—the amount of time I have to put into the job at any given moment. The structure you develop will reflect your values and the maturity level of your child. As we try to implement the structure, it helps to remind ourselves that not only are they are not going to agree with us, they’re not supposed to agree. And it is not our job to convince them. Too many teens have been led to believe that their agreement is a prerequisite to having to follow the guidelines we’ve given them. The confusion that follows is exhausting.

Nicole’s Mom came to see me looking for strategies in parenting her very popular daughter. “Nicole has already started pitching me about going to the legendary ‘after-semi’ party in May. The most popular kids are having a boy/girl sleepover given at someone’s house.” Nicole is 16; her Mom has a decision to make.

“She knows I don’t approve of the boy/girl thing, which is why she’s already started to give me all the ‘rational’ reasons why I should let her go. She’s a good kid. I don’t know, there is so much prestige involved with being asked, it’s like I’m ruining her life if I say ‘no’.”

Mom has a lot to consider: Is letting Nicole go to this party helping her become a healthy, responsible adult with values she can be proud of? At eighteen, Nicole will have to be able to handle a situation like this; at sixteen does she have the maturity to handle the kind of decisions she might have to make?

As parents, once we’ve decided what to do, we let our teen know what our values are and how seriously we take our job. And then stop. Here’s a synopsis of how the conversation between Nicole and her mom unfolded:

MOM: “I’ve given this a great deal of thought because I know how important it is to you. In the end, it’s my job to make sure you become a responsible, independent adult with values you can be proud of. This party is not in alignment with my values so I’m sorry but you will not be able to go.”

NICOLE: “But Mom, how am I going to learn to be independent if you never let me do anything on my own?”

MOM: “Figuring out what level of independence you’re ready for, is my job. I’m sorry you don’t like my decision. I love you and respect you, but when I go to bed tonight I have to know I did the best job I could.”

NICOLE: “If you trusted me you would let me go to the party. It’s not like I’m going to do anything wrong.”

MOM: “I’m glad to hear you have confidence in your ability to hold onto your values and I do trust you. But I will not put you in a situation that does not support my values. I’m sorry you’re upset about this but I am not going to change my mind.”


This is the point where Mom needs to remember that Nicole is not supposed to agree. Often we explain and re-explain our decisions hoping our kids will finally see the light. This has just the opposite effect, confusing the teen and making them angrier. From their perspective, it’s bad enough they’re not getting what they want; they shouldn’t have to act like they agree with us.

Remembering that our job is to launch them, we continuously assess their ability to handle independence, structure their opportunities to demonstrate responsibility, and do our best to stay connected. Parenting is an enormous job that takes time and support.

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